A timber pergola can transform your garden into a serene outdoor retreat, providing shade, style, and a cosy space to relax or entertain. The term 'pergola' comes from the Italian word for a timber frame on which fragrant, climbing plants grow, offering dappled shade for a seating area. Pergolas have a rich history, dating back to around 800 BC, and were originally used in hotter countries to provide shelter from the sun. Today, they are a popular choice for larger gardens and courtyards, serving as a delightful spot for relaxing in the shade or enjoying al fresco dining.

Pergolas are typically made from wood or stone and feature an open roof design. This allows climbing plants, such as vines, to grow and create a naturally shaded area that is both attractive and functional. Whether you're looking to enhance your garden's aesthetic appeal, create a peaceful retreat, or add value to your property, building a timber pergola is an excellent summer project. This blog will guide you through the steps to create your own beautiful timber pergola.

Planning Your Pergola Project

The first step in your pergola project is deciding on the perfect location. If the area isn’t already paved or decked, it’s advisable to complete that groundwork first to ensure a stable foundation. The space you choose will influence the size, shape, and style of your pergola, so it's essential to get this step right before you start measuring and purchasing materials. Relocating a pergola once it's built is more challenging than it seems.

When selecting the spot, avoid areas with major tree roots or underground utilities. This will prevent potential damage and ensure the stability of your pergola.

Find Your Perfect Design

After selecting the location, it’s time to choose a design that suits your needs and preferences. Consider the following before making your decision:

  • Roof Style: Do you prefer a slatted roof that allows some sunlight through or a completely covered one for full shade?
  • Climbing Plants: Will you grow climbing plants on your pergola? If so, plan for incorporating planters at the base.
  • Structure Type: Will it be a freestanding pergola or one that leans against a wall?

Sketch or Use a Plan

If you're purchasing individual timber pieces rather than a pre-made kit, it’s crucial to have a detailed plan before you buy any materials. Sketching out your design or using a comprehensive plan ensures you have everything you need and helps prevent mistakes.

Your chosen location will also determine the method of securing your posts. You can either dig holes for them or use base anchors. While base anchors are quicker to install, your terrain and the pergola’s position should ultimately guide this decision.

Choosing the Right Timber for Your Pergola

Selecting the right wood is crucial for a durable and attractive pergola. For a classic timber pergola, consider using spruce, Douglas fir, or larch. These types of wood are known for their strength and resistance to the elements. Treated timber is always a good option.  Alternatively, you can find ready-to-assemble pergola kits at DIY stores, though these might not always specify the type of wood used. Some suppliers offer softwood in either 'rough sawn' or 'planed and chamfered' finishes, allowing you to choose based on the aesthetic you prefer.

To help you get started, here are some high-quality timber products that are available on our website:

For a more rustic aesthetic, consider these options:

When constructing a pergola that stands between 2.2 and 2.5 metres high, ensure your posts and beams are sturdy enough to support the weight of plants and any snow that may accumulate in winter. Ideally, beams with a diameter of 12 cm provide excellent support. The spacing between beams will vary based on the overall size and height of your pergola, but generally, the cross beams for the roof should be spaced 1.5 to 3 metres apart. Longitudinal beams can be mounted onto these cross beams, and lattice trellises with mesh sizes between 30 cm and 50 cm can be attached to provide additional support for climbing plants.

Step-by-Step Guide To Building Your Timber Pergola

Step 1: Preparing the Site

Start by clearing the area where your pergola will stand. Mark out the layout using string and stakes, and ensure the ground is level. This preparation is key to a stable and aligned structure.

Step 2: Installing Your Posts

The method of installing your posts depends on your chosen location. This may involve digging post holes or using base anchors.

Digging Post Holes:

  • Before you start digging, contact local utility companies to ensure you won’t disturb any underground services. 
  • Mark the locations of your posts with stakes and verify their accuracy by measuring diagonally from corner to corner; the measurements should be identical. 
  • Dig the holes using a Fencers Grafting Tool, Power Auger, or Post Hole Digger. The depth of the holes should be approximately a quarter of the post's height.
  • Place the posts in the holes and temporarily brace them with stakes set at a 45-degree angle to keep them steady while the concrete sets.

Using Post-Base Anchors:

  • Lay out the positions of the base anchors and measure diagonally to ensure accuracy.
  • Bore holes with a hammer drill and fix the bases in place with screws or expanding bolts.
  • Secure each post in the base anchors by holding it plumb and driving nails through the anchors.

Step 3: Adding the Crossbeams and Rafters

Once the concrete has set around your posts or the base anchors are firmly in place, you can start assembling the crossbeams.


  • Sandwich each corner post between two timbers sized according to your specified plan at your desired height. Remember, the rafters will add additional height.
  • If your crossbeams are not long enough, you might need a centre splice for added length.
  • Use a circular saw to measure and mark the positions, ensuring that the posts are level.
  • Temporarily secure each beam to the top outside face of the post with two 100mm screws. Once all beams are in position, secure them with 200mm galvanised bolts for stability.


  • Attach your rafters, spacing them approximately 300mm apart or grouping them in pairs or trios, according to your design.
  • For a decorative touch, cut the ends of the rafters before installation.
  • Permanently secure the beams and posts with 200mm galvanised bolts once everything is correctly positioned.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

Sand any rough edges to avoid splinters. Apply a wood treatment or paint to protect the timber from the elements and enhance its appearance.

To make your pergola uniquely yours, consider adding climbing plants like wisteria or jasmine for natural shade. Incorporate string lights or lanterns to create a magical evening ambiance. For added privacy, you can hang curtains or outdoor screens.

Maintenance and Care

To keep your timber pergola in top condition, regular maintenance is essential. Begin by routinely clearing away leaves, dust, and debris with a soft broom or leaf blower, and occasionally wash the structure with a mild detergent and water solution. Inspect the pergola for any signs of wear, such as cracks, splits, or warping, and ensure all screws, bolts, and nails are secure and not rusting. Annually apply a wood preservative or sealant to protect against moisture, UV rays, and insects, and repaint or stain the pergola every few years as needed.

During winter, remove any heavy snow to prevent excessive weight on the structure, and ensure proper drainage to avoid water pooling at the base of the posts. Regularly prune climbing plants to manage their weight and promote healthy growth, and adjust their supports as necessary. Lastly, be vigilant for any signs of pests and take action promptly to prevent damage.


A timber pergola is a fantastic addition to any garden, offering beauty and functionality. By following this guide, you can create a stunning outdoor space to enjoy for years to come. Start your summer project today and transform your garden into a perfect retreat. You can view our extensive range of timber for all of your DIY projects here.