I'm happy to report that the pergola is done! Well, I still want to stain it but it's basically done. Several people have commented that they were thinking of building one of these bad boys, so I thought I'd post a summary of the project including all the crap you'll need to know if you decide to try this yourself.
Size - I'm happy with the size of the pergola. My posts are placed 12 feet apart and the top boards have a 2 foot overhang which makes the total size about 16x14.
Cost - 940.00
DIY or Professional?
If you can afford it or if you are not handy and have no handy friends, you should definitely order up a professional pergola. Professionals are in and out, they clean up after themselves and they are really good at leveling and spacing and all that stuff that you think is easy but is really a pain in the ass. If you are in the Chicagoland area, my recommendation is Thomas Landscaping. He's been great to work with and I have no doubt that he would have done as great a job on the pergola as he did on the paver patio. But, if you are on a tight budget like me and you really really want a pergola so bad that it's all you can think about, then I'd say it's a good DIY project.
Find your inspiration photo - I found a great Pergola picture in one of my gardening magazines and kept this with me during the entire project. It really came in handy while shopping for supplies. It was particularly useful to show to salesmen when I was shopping for supplies like hardware because I could show them exactly what I was doing rather than trying to explain it to them. My inspiration photo was a pergola that was much larger than mine but I loved the style of it and the way it was connected.
Draw your plan - we laughed about Pie Guys "official Pergola plan" but when it came right down to it, this thing was very helpful. We taped it up in our work area, made notes on it and referred to it frequently during the project.
Get organized - keep all your crap in a folder that you carry with you everywhere you go until the project is finished. Keep receipts, inspiration photos, drawings, patterns for your pergola cuts, menus for lunch and anything else you can think of.
Make end cut patterns - I waited until right before it was time to make the cuts in order to make my pattern and that time could have been spent doing other work had I created my patterns ahead of time. It took longer than I expected to make something I liked. The pattern is pretty easy to create. Just cut a piece of cardboard that is the same size as the end of your board, draw your pattern with a pencil and cut along the pencil line with a box cutter. Be sure to save your patterns forever in case you ever need to replace a board on your pergola. Great tip, GB!
Practice on extra boards - you'll need a couple of extra 2x4's to practice end cuts with the jig saw and to make spacer boards and other random stuff like that.
Make a schedule - With weekend projects, time is a huge factor. More than likely you're trying to do way too much in the time you've allowed yourself so, if you have a set amount of time to finish your project, create a timeline. This will help you stay on schedule. Be specific about what you need to get accomplished by when. Share your schedule with your team.
Shop around for lumber - I was really surprised at the different prices for lumber between Menards, HD, Lowes and Hines Lumber. Since I had my heart set on Cedar, which is more expensive than treated wood, I needed to get it at the best price possible. The variation in the total price of the lumber was almost $300! I purchased my lumber from Menards.
Get extra wood if you are having your supplies delivered - if you can afford it, order a few extra pieces of the sizes that you buy. You can always return the unused ones. For some stupid reason, when they pick the lumber they don't look at the quality of it. As a result, they delivered me 5 boards that were just awful and needed to be replaced. I was able to throw a fit and get them to replace the wood the next day but I was very lucky and if they hadn't done that, my project would have been delayed.
Borrow equipment - if I'd had to buy all the stuff I needed for this project but didn't have, the price would have been significantly higher. My great friends not only helped by providing the brains and the muscle behind the project, they also brought all sorts of equipment like ladders, drills, ratchets (I finally learned what that was!), levels etc. So, make an equipment list then start begging!
Call the professionals when you need to - at some point in the project it's better to cut your losses and reach out to the professionals to help you with the really hard stuff like digging holes with big scary machines, cutting off posts that are already mounted in concrete (what a bloody mess that could have been) and replacing the bricks around the posts (I still don't know how they cut those things to fit - it's like magic!) I spent around 250.00 on extra labor but I think it was well worth it. Here's the pergola dudes who helped me. Thanks, pergola dudes!
It's hard to say how much money I saved because, even though my project cost 60% less than the estimate I got, there were some big differences in the estimate I got and the project I did.
- Professional Pergola makers usually use way bigger wood than I did. For example, my corner posts were 4x4's and a professional would have used at least 6x6 which cost 3 times as much in Cedar. Similarly, my 2x6 would have been 2x10 with a professional and my 2x4 would have been 2x6 or 2x8. I simply could not afford that lumber but if you can, buy it! Your pergola will be bad ass! Trust me!
- The estimate I got was for pressure treated pine which is much less expensive than Cedar. If you are not picky about that sort of thing then you can really save the big bucks by using treated wood. Personally, I hate that stuff because of the required maintenance. Wanna get fancy and you've got the cash? Try composite wood. It lasts forever! And its a green product.
I feel pretty good about the pergola project. It was very hard work but I had a great time doing it and I would totally do it again. I think it turned out really nice, don't you?