Introduction: Garage Door Pergola

About: I'm a husband, dad, contractor, woodworker, tinkerer and all around busy dude. That said, I put projects out when I can. A weekly basis is a dream that one day I hope to attain. I love making things, buildin…

This can be called a pergola, an arbor, or a trellis. Today we're going to call it a pergola. It's a structure designed to allow climbing plants to grow over your garage door. It adds a custom look and a whole lot of curb appeal to the front of your home.

We all know the importance of curb appeal. It increases the value of our homes and our overall quality of life. Being surrounded by beautiful things is something that's important to me, and that's why I love doing projects like this one. Especially on my own home. I was asked to dress up the front of our house, and an over the garage door pergola for vines to grow on was one of the ideas thrown around. So, this is what I came up with, and this is how I made it.

Step 1: The Plans and What You'll Need.

Above is a set of drawings I put together for this project. Each garage door opening is going to be different, so each pergola is going to be a little different. But these drawings should give you a clear idea of how I made mine. Don't hesitate to ask in the comments if you have any questions.

The Tools I Used:

These are the tools I used to make this pergola, in order of appearance.

  • Bandsaw
  • Miter Saw
  • Jack Plane
  • Palm Sander
  • Cordless Drill
  • Impact Driver
  • Masking Tape
  • Pencil
  • Combination Square
  • Drill Press
  • 3/8" Forstner Bit
  • Router
  • Pattern Router Bit
  • Table Saw
  • Table Saw Sled
  • Mallet
  • Paint Brush
  • Hand Saw

The Materials I Used:

And these are the materials I used to make this garage door pergola.

  • Redwood (From the plans and your specific opening, you should be able to come up with your own lumber takeoff.)
  • Wood glue (Something waterproof or resistant.)
  • Exterior Clear Coat Finish
  • Screws (To fasten the pergola.)

And now, let's make this over the garage door pergola!

Step 2: Resaw Everything on the Band Saw.

First I resawed everything on the bandsaw. Sometimes when you cut standard dimensional lumber down to custom sizes it looks really good. People are used to seeing 4x4's and 2x4's, but different sizes always look more interesting in my experience. So that's why I resawed some of the parts to custom sizes. I also like to scale and proportion my parts so they are more pleasing to the eye. And the plans show the proportions I came up with on this one.

Step 3: Cut Everything to Length, and Miter Your Knee Braces.

Then I cut everything to length on the miter saw and mitered my knee braces. The knee braces are mitered at 45 degrees, and they are the angled pieces that connect the back to the top piece. The mitered knee braces with the floating tenons I am going to use are very strong, and it would take a lot more weight than some climbing plants to make them collapse on themselves. Of course you could use pocket screws or butt joints, but what's the fun in that?

Step 4: Smooth Everything Out.

Then I smoothed everything out and hit what I had to with a palm sander. A plane puts such a nice surface on your workpiece, but sometimes you have to sand. So I mixed the two accordingly. When I did sand, I started out with 150 grit and worked my way down to 220 grit.

Step 5: Make a Drill Press Jig.

I needed a way to drill into the 45-degree miters while they were sitting at 45-degrees. So I made a makeshift jig that would hold the knee braces at a 45-degree angle while I hogged out most of the mortises. Sometimes you have to come up with something on the fly, and this is what I had in the scrap bin to make the operation happen.

Step 6: Lay Out the Mortises, and Hog Them Out.

The jig worked really well. It let me hold the knee braces at 45-degrees. Lay them out, and hog out most of the mortise waste on the drill press. I made sure to not go outside of my finished mortise with the drill press so that when I hit them with the router and pattern bit next the pockets were really clean.

Step 7: Finish Up the Mortise With the Router.

Then I finished up the mortises with a template, the router, and a pattern router bit. I attached the pattern to the moxon vise with screws. And then tightened the pieces into the moxon vise under the template. Then all I had to do was drop the router in and finish out my mortises. They came out really clean.

Step 8: Make Your Floating Tenons.

Then I ripped down some of the scraps I had from the resaw into my floating tenons. These were 2" long, 1-1/2" wide, and 3/4" thick. I made sure they fit snug into the mortises before I finished them.

After they were ripped to width on the table saw, I cut them to length on the table saw sled. Make sure you cut them a little bit shorter than the depths of your mortises. You don't want a gap! And sometimes the glue stops them from going all the way in, so do a couple test fits before you go at it.

Step 9: Glue Everything Together.

Then after gluing up each floating tenon, I smacked all the corbels together with a carvers mallet. Wood on wood contact like this lessons the marks that would have been left by a hammer.

I cut the tenons a little tight, so I didn't need to apply clamping pressure because the tenons held everything in place. I was really happy with how this glue up went.

Step 10: Apply an Exterior Finish.

Then I applied three coats of an exterior finish. Letting the workpieces dry in between each coat. This is a General Finishes brand exterior finish, and I don't think I'll be using it again.

Maybe the can was old, but it didn't go on evenly. You can't really see it because the pergola is pretty high up there, but I wasn't happy with the finish at all.

Step 11: Attach the Corbels Above the Garage Door.

Then I attached all of the corbels above the garage door with screws. Making sure to get the screws into backing behind the siding.

There are two layers of siding and one layer of plywood behind that above this garage door. So that's more than 1-1/2" of grab the screws could get into. If yours isn't so thick, you might want to think about adding some 2X backing in between the studs behind your corbels. This would give you something solid to sink screws into. But in this case, I didn't have to do that.

Step 12: Install the Long 2x3's.

Then I raised up my 2x3's, and installed them with countersunk screws.These were just 2x4's that I ripped to 1-1/2" x 2-1/2" and finished like the rest of the redwood. Again, those custom dimensions always look more interesting.

To attach them, I predrilled and countersunk screws from the top of the stringers down into the corbels. I put two 3-1/2" screws in each joint. If you're worried about water getting on the screw heads, you can always sink dowels and flush cut them. I wasn't worried about it.

Step 13: Cut Off the Ends of the Stringers at a 45.

Then I used a hand saw to cut a 45-degree angle at the ends of the stringers. I felt like this would make the pergola look a little better. And it did. It gave it a perfect little finishing touch, and I was done!

Step 14: Enjoy!

And now the front of your house has a custom look for everyone to enjoy!

Thanks for checking this out. I really appreciate it. Comments and shares are always cool, too!

I'll see ya on the next one,

— Adam