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Pergolas are a fantastic way to bring elevation and vertical lines into any garden space. These elegant structures can be used to provide added shade as well as growing scented or fruiting vines.
They can be rustic, traditional or contemporary; in fact pergolas can literally fit into any garden design or theme. Most of the time people assume pergolas are simply too difficult build yourself. However in essence they are really simple to put together.
With a little bit of time, preparation and the correct tools you can create your own perfect pergola in no time.
Hence we have created an informative list of the best tools to build a pergola. We have described the specific functionality of each tool in pergola construction so you can start your project today.
20 Tools for building a garden pergola
Wherever in the garden you position your new pergola you will most typically need a spade. These primarily are utilised to start excavating the holes to secure vertical posts. Spades can also be effective at clearing vegetation from the new pergola area.
When excavating holes for your posts you want holes to be deep and narrow with consistent edges. Spades will only allow you dig so far into the soft top layer of topsoil. Posts for pergolas should be about 600mm or 2 feet deep. The best way to break up deeper, more compacted ground is with a graft.
3. Post diggers
When digging deeply for post holes, loose, excavated soil falls to the bottom of the hole. This is can be rather challenging to extract especially on thick, clay soils. The best tool to collect and lift out loose subsoil is post diggers. These scissor like spades can be thrust into the base of the pit and remove any loose spoil with ease.
Shovels are not thought of as typical pergola building tools but they always come in handy. Shovels can be utilised to shovel ballast when mixing concrete for post holes and keeping the site tidy. For general shovelling I find long handled shovels are easier on the lower back.
5. Cement mixer
Cement mixers are not essential tools for building pergolas but are great for concreting in vertical posts. If you are paving or concreting under your new pergola cement mixers can become an even greater asset.
It is easy to underestimate the utility wheelbarrows bring to any garden build project. Wheelbarrows enable you to wheel in heavy materials such as concrete and excavated soil. Wheelbarrows can also provide timber rests for light handsaw cutting.
7. Spirit level
Spirit levels really are an essential tool for building pergolas. Levels allow you to accurately plumb vertical posts and level bracings and joist work. It is surprising just how noticeable unlevel timberwork is to the naked eye especially from a distance. For pergola work it is beneficial to have both small, boat levels and long levels to flush up joists.
8. Folding set square
One of the most important elements of building pergolas is setting out the project correctly. If posts are not square to each other bracings will not connect properly and joists will look skewed. Folding set squares are perfect for setting out right angles over larger distances. This makes them an important tool for building any garden pergola.
9. String line
String lines are perfect for aligning timbers over distance and crucial for lining up multiple posts. This is particularly important for long pergolas and those which provide corridor framing to pathways. String lines can also be used to check if timbers are too bowed to be installed as joists.
10. Carpenters square
The most fundamental equipment for building pergolas is carpentry tools. One of the most crucial of these is a carpenter’s square. These enable you to mark out and cut at perfect right angles so timbers can connect tightly.
11. Carpenters pencil
When working with timber there is a continuous need to mark out cutting lines. Pencils with their dark, grey, graphite are perfect for this but not just any pencils. These carpenters’ pencils are robust enough to withstand the rigours of the building site. They also have thick centres of graphite for bold marking and which reduce fractures.
12. Claw hammer
Claw hammers are the friend of any carpenter or wood working landscaper. When building a pergola these can be used to nail in supports and knock joists into position. Their curved heads make them easy to access from belts and joists as you work.
13. Chisel set
Some of the most elaborate pergolas have neat joisting and precise notching work. This requires a fair amount of skill but also the correct tools. A professional set of timber working chisels can neatly cut out perfect joins to notching work.
Handsaws are always a valuable commodity when carrying out any type of timber construction. These are perfect for general cutting and cuts which require bespoke attention.
15. Circular saw
Circular saws are effective power tools for multiple, precise cuts quickly. These can make short work of pergola joists and brace work. Many circular saws now come with laser guided cutting for perfect cuts every time.
16. Jig saw
Jigsaws can be great for cutting intricate cuts or even decorate patterns into timberwork. For pergolas these are great for cutting curves to joist ends and routing out the centre of notches.
Planers are not always essential for pergola construction but are very useful to have to hand. This is especially the case if you need to shave the slightest thickness off a timber to fit tight joins together.
18. Belt sander
Belt sanders are a fast and easy way to smooth down finishes to timber. They are very effective for rounding off edges to joists for a more quirky, forest, finish.
19. Cordless drill
Cordless drills are perfect for fixing pergola elements together tightly. These provide light weight and nimble fixing even when balancing on top of structures. By having combi cordless drills to hand you can both drill and screw without leaving the ladder.
20. Power drill
Power drills are always good to have around when building a robust garden pergola. These provide that little extra power and thrust for thick timber and bolting work. They are also efficient at attaching timber frames to the facades of buildings. Power drills with hammer functions are perfect for drilling masonry holes for timber fixing.
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Paul Nicolaides has over 30 years of recreational gardening and 20 years of professional landscaping experience. He has worked for landscape contractors including design and build practices across London and the South East. In 2006 he qualified with a BA Hons degree and post graduate diploma in Landscape Architecture. In 2009 he founded Ecospaces an ecological landscaping practice which aims to improve social cohesion and reduce climate change through landscaping. In 2016 he founded Buckinghamshire Landscape Gardeners which designs and builds gardens across Buckinghamshire and the South East. This blog aims to provide easy problem solving information to its audience and encourage others to take up the joy of landscaping and gardening.