How to Build a Chinese Pergola

An eye-catching architectural element for any Chinese-inspired garden is a 6-by-4-foot Chinese pergola. While many different styles can be found to represent a Chinese pergola, an open-lattice work roof is often its most distinctive feature. While a Japanese garden is known for stark minimalism and simplicity, the Chinese garden is dense with a wide variety of plantings, ornamentation and water features. This Chinese pergola has lines to complement any Chinese garden.

All types of lattice are seen in Chinese pergolas.
  1. Stake off and rope the 6-by-4-foot area you have selected for your pergola. Ensure that the ground is level. Use a level against the ropes. Use a shovel and/or rake to add or remove dirt as needed.

  2. Dig four holes that are 10 inches deep for your colonnades with a post digger. Use your tape measure to be certain they are positioned to form a 6-by-4-foot pergola.

  3. Mix mortar in a 5-gallon bucket. Fill each hole halfway with mortar.

  4. Position a colonnade into each hole, and use your shovel to fill the remaining space with dirt. Firmly pack down the dirt. Use the level to be certain the colonnades are straight. Let the mortar set.

  5. Put on safety goggles and gloves.

  6. Cut lap joints into cross rafters and girders using the sliding compound meter saw. On the cross rafters, put a 1-by-1.5-inch notch at each end, with 1-by-1.5-inch cutouts every 11 inches. On the girders, put a 1-by-1.5-inch notch at each end, with 1-by-1.5-inch cutouts every 11 inches. The cross rafters and girders should slide together perfectly squared when the joints are complete.

  7. Apply wood glue to each joint using a small paintbrush. Assemble the roof on the ground. Use bar clamps to hold the joints together until the glue dries. Nail all end joints with a nail gun.

  8. Attach the roof to the colonnades, using a nail gun.

  9. Use a stain or sealer specified for outdoor use to protect the pergola's wood.


  • You will need a helper to assemble your pergola.