Saturday, April 30, 2011

How to build a pergola in 417 easy steps!

What's that? You wanted to know how to build a pergola in "3" easy steps? For that you should try youtube - which oddly enough actually has how-to-build videos on dang near everything.

I know because I've watched about 37 of them on the topic of outdoor shade structures.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my goal was to build a dog wall and while I was at it, I thought I should also use those same wall posts to create some people pleasing areas...and I love hammocks.

Dear friends of ours who moved to Maryland gave us their two person hammock as a going away gift. I had planned to string it between two trees at the cabin until a combination of bark beetles and ice storms felled the hammock hanging trees.

I've since replanted those trees but they are still babies and would have trouble supporting a hammock for hummingbirds.

But a pergola is a perfect spot to hang a hammock...

Do you remember the Energizer Bunny ads? My friend Diane shares a similar source of boundless energy. Right after the jack-hammer party she asked me if I had the posts and concrete handy.
Here's Diane and her sweet dog Shyanne taking a rare break.

When I said yes, she declared that we should set them in the ground immediately...and a man made redwood forest of posts was born.

We were moving so fast to put in posts and pour concrete before dark that I didn't have time to take process pictures.

The next day, everyone except me went flying over the desert so I built all the dog walls by myself. Everything was down low and accessible so by the time I made it to the last wall, I had a system finally figured out for leveling the dang things. The ground of course is not level and is graded away from the house...which I knew intellectually but forgot about as I was building the walls and watching the space underneath get bigger and bigger...

I also developed a system for de-sapping myself. Personally I think the reason they named the wood Douglas Fir was that some guy named Douglas ended up covered in fur when fuzz stuck to all the sap he got on himself chopping down the tree. Yes, I am making that up - I'm Canadian by birth - lumberjack fantasies are part of my heritage.
Goo Gone is the secret ingredient for sap removal...that and rubbing off your skin.

The next morning, Jay and Diane (who are both taller than me) and Shyanne (who isn't) came back to help me do the high-up construction aspects of this project.

We started with the gate tops. I had envisioned a mock trellis to frame the gate opening on either side of the courtyard. I also envisioned that we'd use the post from one side of the gate to help support the pergolas...unfortunately I didn't communicate that design plan very well and we accidentally cut the post too short.

You can't see the cut post because Dave is blocking it qith his head. We are stappling the bamboo roof on the new tiki hut shelter.

When you operate at my skill level, flexibility is the key to prevent crying so we quickly regrouped and decided a slanted roof would make a more visually interesting structure anyway.

Then we decided to through some bamboo fencing on top and the whole thing took on a Gilligan's Island sort of feel. Now hadn't planned to go Hawaiian - in fact, I think I was trying for a desert southwest feel but who am I to stand in the way of tiki ones that actually flicker! They're so cool!

Back to the pergola construction...the second gate opening went up quickly and we were all on the same page for post height this time. We cut the trellis post ends to match the cross-beam style and were finished in no time! It was the perfect spot for my hammock. I could lay back and look at the lake...well actually I couldn't quite see the lake because once I was laying down, the edge of our hill blocked my view dang it!

A perfect spot for a hammock!

So I decided to carve away the hill. It seemed like such a simple idea at the time...move a few rocks, shovel away some dirt (screening out the rocks so I could use it to plant in) and presto! Unobstructed view!

Can you tell that this dirt is really as hard as concrete?

So 17,365 tablespoons of dirt later (I say tablespoons rather than shovel-fulls because the hill is made of concrete-like dirt and so many rocks that each time I slammed in my shovel, I got about a tablespoon of dirt). I was able to lower the hill by 18 inches and increase the walkway by 2 feet before my chiropractic bills prevented me from continuing further.

I mention the 18 inch drop and the 2 feet walkway gain because if I don't, it's quite likely you would never notice the change...Dave didn't and he is still sleeping on the couch.

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