Building a Cedar Pergola

The original plan was to simply replace the treated decking on the existing rear deck.

The homeowner wanted the new deck railing to have tapered posts that matched the style of these columns on her front porch.

The author used a CAD program (Realtime Landscaping Architect) to create 3D renderings of his pergola proposal, which helped sell the idea to his client.

CAD-generated 3D renderings showing the pergola from different directions helped the client visualize it.

Fastening the treated rail posts directly to the framing created a collection zone where water and organic material were trapped, causing the adjacent wood to rot.

The stair posts, which had been buried in the ground, had also rotted.

To provide a drying airspace around the posts, the author attaches them to the horizontal framing with post brackets.

The bracket’s 3/4-inch-diameter saddle bolt must be securely fastened with a nut and washer on each side of the joist. Another post bracket (not visible in the photos) attached to a concrete pier keeps each post from contacting the ground.

Blocking around the post bases holds the bottom of the column in place and helps keep it square.

Tapered 2x2s at each corner provide support for the MDO panels that will form the face of the tapered columns.

To conceal the rough edges of the panels, 1-by trim is nailed into a bed of caulk at each of the corners.

4x4 posts bearing directly on the wall plate support the pergola beam located above the roof.

The pergola rafter tails feature a reversed-curve profile. First, the author makes a 45-degree cut at the corner of each rafter to quickly remove excess material.

A simple plywood jig makes cutting the rafter tails easier.

Using his jig as a guide, the author roughs out the curve with a 10-inch circular saw.

After smoothing the profile with a sander, the author eases the edges with a round-over bit mounted in a router.

The painted rail posts, balusters, and tapered pergola columns contrast nicely with the composite decking and naturally-finished cedar pergola beams and rafters.

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