How to Build a Screened Pergola

With the help of a buddy, a few tools and a weekend, you can build a beautiful, screened-in pergola that you and your family can enjoy for years to come.

A simple pergola can add a romantic touch to your backyard.A simple pergola can add a romantic touch to your backyard.
Even if you are not experienced with construction, if you follow these simple steps, you can construct a pergola that is sure to be an enticing lawn feature. What better way to make use of that empty corner of the backyard than with a beautiful pergola? Whether it's breakfast with your family or an evening with friends, your new pergola will accentuate the good times.

Drive a stake into the ground where one corner post of the pergola will be. Measure from the stake 7 feet 4 inches over to the center of the next post and drive a stake. Repeat this for the remaining two corners. The dimension center-to-center of each hole should be exactly 7 feet 4 inches. This will make a square pergola. You will know the pergola is truly square (the same dimension on all sides) if you measure from the center of one stake diagonally across to the farthest stake: This diagonal dimension should be 10 feet 3/8 inch. Both diagonals should be the same dimension.

Dig the postholes with your posthole diggers or with a small shovel. Make sure the holes are about 10 inches deep. Cut open and pour one bag of concrete mix into your wheelbarrow. Add just enough water with a hose or bucket until you are able to mix up a thick but pourable consistency with your garden hoe. Pour the first hole full of mix until it is about 2 inches from the top.

Insert a 4x4 post into the hole, twisting it slightly until it is seated at the bottom of the hole. It is helpful to tap the top of the post down with your hammer. Hammer a nail into two adjacent sides of the post about eye level. Hammer two wooden stakes into the ground on the same sides as the post nails. The stakes should be about 6 feet out from the base of the post.

Tie the end of a length of twine onto one nail, and then tie the free end of the twine onto the stake that is on the same side of the post as the nail. Repeat this for the other nail. These will secure the post, keeping it plumb (straight up and down) from two directions until the concrete mix fully cures. Using your level, check to make sure the post is plumb on two adjacent sides, and adjust twine and retie as necessary. Repeat for the other three posts. Temporarily nail a 2x2 pole across each side of the four posts. This will keep them square with each other for framing together later. Allow concrete to harden overnight.

Remove the 2x2 temporary poles, nails and twine from the posts. Decide which side you will leave open for entry/exit, as you will frame and screen the remaining three sides. Nail one end of a 2x2 cross pole onto the side of a post, flush with the top of the post. Get a buddy to help you by holding the level on top of the 2x2 while you adjust the free end until it is level. Nail the free end onto the face of the opposite post, making sure it is flush with the top.

Nail five more 2x2s down the first side of the pergola at 1 foot on center (1 foot from center of one pole to the center of the next pole). Repeat this for the remaining two sides, being mindful to leave your entry/exit side clear.

Using the ladder, climb up and fasten the 2x2 roof poles to the highest 2x2 cross poles. Begin at one end, and place the first 2x2 roof pole onto the 2x2 cross pole and center it lengthwise. Looking straight down at one end of the roof pole, it should be directly over the center of the 4x4 posts. Check that the other end is likewise. Nail it down. Place the next 2x2 roof pole over about 8 inches from the first pole and nail down. Repeat for the other eight square poles.

Unroll screen and cut to a length of 8 feet. Staple from left to right along the top side of the highest 2x2 cross pole. Work your way to the right until reaching the end of the 2x2, and then begin at the left end of the next 2x2 down. Staple along the front side of the 2x2's, continuing to work from left to right. Cut more lengths of screen and staple until one side is complete. Trim off excess screen at ends. Repeat for remaining two sides.

Optional: For particularly sunny, hot locations, you might also want to staple screen along the top of the pergola, thereby greatly reducing the amount of sun reaching you and your family during use. This is especially helpful if anyone tends to sunburn quickly. Stapling screen to the top will also extend the enjoyable use longer into the summer because it will be shadier and cooler.

Things You Will Need

  • Tape measure
  • Posthole diggers or small shovel
  • Roll of twine
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Garden hoe
  • (3) 80# bags concrete mix
  • Level
  • Hammer
  • 10d nails
  • Pressure -treated wood:
  • (8) small stakes
  • (4) posts, 4 inches x 4 inches x 8 feet
  • (28) poles, 2 inches x 2 inches x 8 feet
  • Ladder
  • Staple gun
  • Staples
  • Rolls of screen (60 feet total)
  • Scissors


  • Using a chalk line can speed up construction considerably. A chalk line can be purchased at any hardware store for a few dollars. Have a friend measure, then place the chalk line down, similar to a tape measure. Holding the line taut, pinch it between your fingers and lift and release it. The resulting chalk line will help you see level lines so that you can rapidly place the wood to be nailed without measuring over and over.


  • Always take care to avoid hammering your thumbs and fingers.
  • Wear safety goggles at all times when nailing nails.
  • Use sunscreen when working in any amount of sun.

About the Author

John Sauls began writing professionally in 2000, focusing on technical process-oriented content which is enhanced by his experience working in the industrial technology sector for two decades. He is completing a degree in English literature at the University of Memphis.