A pergola is a landscaping structure that creates a partially covered outdoor space. Pergolas are built using columns that support a grid of beams and rafters creating a latticework roof. A pergola’s roof may be completely covered or left as an open trellis. Pergolas are similar to gazebos and arbors because they provide shade and support climbing plants. Pergolas can be freestanding or attached to the side of a home, and they are often built next to pools, hot tubs, fire pits, and barbecues to provide a partially protected outdoor living space.\nTraditional pergolas are simple structures primarily built out of wood. Today, many kinds of materials are used to build professional pergolas including concrete, steel, aluminum, and PVC. However, there are a few materials that are often used by people who want to build their own pergolas at home. \n\n1. __Pressure-treated wood__: Pressure-treated wood is easy to stain and paint, and is a relatively affordable option when it comes to building your own pergola. It is also far lighter and more simple to maneuver than steel or aluminum, making it easier to work with at home if you’re a novice. \n2. __Vinyl__: Lightweight vinyl is one of the most popular options when it comes to making a DIY pergola. It comes in a variety of colors to complement your home’s exterior and backyard, and it is completely resistant to mold, termites, and rot.\n3. __Cedar__: A red cedar pergola is naturally resistant to bugs and rot and has an attractive natural color.\nSome of the common elements of a pergola include: \n\n1. __Columns__: In-ground pergolas are supported by a series of columns. Freestanding models typically have four columns. An attached pergola will have two columns holding one side of the roof up, with the other side supported by the home with the help of a ledger board. \n2. __Beams__: The beams of a pergola are the long planks that connect the columns to each other and support the rafters of the pergola. \n3. __Rafters__: The rafters of a pergola are long planks placed on top of the beams that run perpendicular to them. These form the first part of the roof’s latticework. \n4. __Stringers__: Stringers are thinner than beams and rafters. They are placed on top of the pergola’s rafters and run perpendicular to them to provide shade and finish the latticework of the pergola.\nPergolas can come in all shapes and sizes. Here are just a few style ideas when considering your pergola design.\n\n1. __Traditional pergola__: The traditional design for a pergola has a gridded roof that lets in sun and provides partial shade. The beams and rafters usually have scrolled ends, with the rafters evenly spaced above the beams and the stringers placed on top of that. These can be freestanding or attached to an existing structure. \n2. __Modern box pergola__: Box frame pergolas look more contemporary than traditional pergolas. They may have gridded roofs, but the beams, rafters, and columns are usually squared off to create the look of a box. \n3. __Freestanding pergola__: A freestanding pergola is a pergola that is not directly attached to your home. These are usually set up to create an outdoor resting area near to a pool or garden. \n4. __Attached pergola__: An attached pergola usually has two columns instead of four, with the side of the house supporting one end of the pergola’s roof. You can add an attached pergola over your [home’s patio](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/diy-concrete-patio-guide) to create partial shading over an outdoor kitchen or outdoor dining area. \n5. __Pergola with curtains__: For added privacy and protection from the fun, you can attach curtains to the open sides of your pergola. These can be traditional curtains or mechanical curtains that you can retract.\nFollow these simple step-by-step instructions to build a traditional wood pergola for your backyard. \n\n1. __Choose your location__. Choose a spot for your pergola depending on how you want to use it. If you want vining plants to climb up it, build near your garden. Build it near a pool if you’d like a shady area to lounge. Choose a spot with soil that you can easily dig into with plenty of drainage. Once you've decided where you want to build your pergola, mark out the area to your measurements using a tape measure. \n2. __Level your building site__. Clear your build site and level the area so you have a flat ground surface to work with. You don’t want your pergola to be lopsided. Mark out where you plan to place the four (or more) supporting columns. If you are building a rectangular pergola, consider using six columns in total to support the length of each of your beams. If you have a square pergola, mark four places for columns. \n3. __Dig the holes for your columns__. Using your column markers as a guide, dig the holes where you will place the columns to support the roof of your pergola. \n4. __Pour concrete into your post holes__. Mix water and concrete according to the bag’s instructions in a wheelbarrow. Fill each of the support holes with concrete and let them dry completely.\n5. __Prepare the posts for your columns__. Using a circular saw, cut your wooden columns to your desired height. At the top of each post, create a ledge that you can secure your beams with. \n6. __Secure your columns in the concrete holes__. Drill a hole in each of your concrete footers and place a post anchor into each of the drilled holes. Use a level to make sure that your columns are vertical. Then, drill your posts into the post anchors with decking screws. Support your beams with short wood posts until the concrete dries. \n7. __Add your beams__. Once your columns are in place, you can secure the adjoining beams to the posts by resting them into the prepared ledges at the top of your posts. You will only need two beams along the length of your pergola structure. Drill the beams and posts together to secure the structure.\n8. __Add your rafters__. With your basic frame assembled, you can now add the rafters to complete the pergola frame. Mark out where your slats will sit evenly on top of your beams, allowing them to overhang on the sides for a traditional look. You can also pre-cut the ends of your rafters to add a decorative flair, such as scrolling.\n9. __Paint or treat your wood__. Paint or stain the wood to your desired color. You are now ready to decorate your pergola with climbing plants, hanging plants, outdoor furniture, curtains, or a porch swing.\nGet the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com) for exclusive access to video lessons taught by the world’s best, including Kelly Wearstler, Ron Finley, Bobbi Brown, RuPaul, and more.\nA DIY pergola project is a simple way to add some style, charm, and function to your outdoor space.