Introduction: Refurbishing an Old Pergola

About: My name is Aaron Massey and I'm the DIY guy/ handyman behind I focus on making fun DIY project and Home Improvement videos for a digital audience.

For this project I was contacted by some friends of mine to give some new life to their old pergola. They would like to update it to make it not only look nicer, but also make it more structurally sound. Check out the video to follow along.

If you like this project, be sure to check out some of my other work at my website

Step 1: Preparations and Planning

The original pergola is a bit under built. It uses 4x4 posts with larger beams on top, which inevitably makes the whole structure pretty top heavy. Rather than tearing everything down and starting from scratch, I'm going to be adding some additional support legs to carry the existing and additional weight I'm adding. I'm also going to give it a more latticed look up the legs, and some shade slats along the top. I took some measurements of the previous pergola and then designed a new plan in Sketchup.

Step 2: Adding New Footings

To add the new legs, I needed to dig some holes to set footings for the new posts, then fill them with concrete to set the brackets in. To set our hole locations I strung a line around the base of the existing pergola so I knew where the holes needed to fall.

These footings are only 12" deep because that is the code minimum here and we don't have a frost line to worry about. The ground is also a mixture of sandstone so it's really difficult to dig in.

Step 3: Adding the New Legs

With the brackets installed, I set the new legs in place. This process is relatively simple since I was just duplicating the previous legs. All the lumber I'm using in this project is Redwood to help prevent rot and insect damage in the future. I cut new 4x4 posts, installed them, and then I could use the new posts to carry the weight so I could replace the old posts with new ones as well.

Step 4: Building Out the Shade Canopy

The next step was adding the new rafters across the top and cleaning up the old beams. The new 2x6 rafters are spaced 16” on center across the top, and then I added some additional 2x2 shade slats across the top in the other direction to give this thing some nice shade coverage.

For the ends of the rafters, I made a quick jig to add a little different profile to the rafters that I’ll then match on the re-purposed beams later on. With all of this taken care of, the majority of the construction was done, but I also needed to make some knee braces for the upper corners in my shop.

To do that, I glue laminated 2 - 2x8 pieces together. Then I added a little contour to the middle of the braces to make them more decorative, and then cut the shape on the bandsaw and cleaned them up with a sander. To attach them I’m countersinking some holes and using 4 1/2” headlok screws which give it a nice finished look.

Step 5: Staining and Final Touches

The homeowner decided they wanted to stain the pergola a color called Badlands Red so I used my Graco Paint Sprayers to stain the whole thing which worked out really well! I do want to give a quick shout out to Trimaco for providing the plastics, protective floorshell, and tapes we used to contain all the over-spray on this project. They were awesome and made our lives so much easier. In particular, the red poly tape we used for taping up plastics worked incredibly well, so I’d highly recommend it.

Step 6: Finished!

And here is the finished product! This was a lot of work, but I had a lot of fun giving this old pergola new life, and my friends are really happy with the results.

As always, thanks for stopping by to take a look at this project, and if you liked it, I've got many more projects you can check out. Here are some good places to start!

An Idiot's Guide to Wood Finishing

How to Restore Old Hand Planes

I hope you enjoyed this project and I hope it inspired you to tackle your own DIY outdoor project!

Thanks again for reading, and I'll see you next time!

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