Pergola Installation Advice Main Ring Beam and Posts

Perspective on Pergola Installation

Pergola Installation Advice for Main Ring Beam and Posts

Pergolas are often referred to as Gazebos and arbours. Whatever you decide to call them they are a fantastic addition to any garden. Here I try to give some Pergola Installation Advice for the installation of the Posts and Main Ring Beam.

I absolutely adore our pergolas. In my opinion, you will struggle to find a similar product at the prices and quality we offer.

All of our pergolas are impregnated and pressure treated tanalised timber or our superb Larch Douglas timber. This page shows our range of pergolas.

When we purchase any product, the cost is always a big factor.  However, when looking at out Pergolas, I highly recommend you look at our Larch Douglas range. It is a bit more expensive, however, the benefits far outway the additional cost.

This Pergola Installation article is advice about the installation of Pergolas/Gazebos, other folk installing these structures may have a different method that works well for them. This is our Pergola Installation Advice.

Pergola Installation Plans

A set of plans is supplied with every pergola we supply.  This picture links to a set of plans for the ever so popular Grande Gazebo.

Personally, I’ve always found the plans to be pretty good and never really had a problem understanding them, this also applies to our log cabin plans.

Some customers that are not that used to reading plans and find instruction manuals difficult have asked for a little extra assistance.  So, I have written this article on Pergola installation.

One perspective on building a Pergola

Perspective on Pergola Installation

Our Pergola Installation plans are clear and simple and due to the fact we use easy to follow diagrams and numbers are, pretty much multi-lingual. They identify exactly where all the bits and pieces should go.

Our Pergolas are a full and complete structure, and it is nigh-on impossible to address every possible instructional detail on how to install them, a little patience, common sense, DIY skill and perception needs to be used.

One of the things I enjoy most when I am carrying out an install is the being able to alter and modify the sum of the parts to what my customer desires.

Here are some tips gained from my experience. (A slight deviation from the plans supplied)

It’s up to you to decide:

  • Should I follow the plans
  • Should I follow this pergola installation advice or,
  • Should I completely ignore everything and just do it my own way.

This is YOUR Pergola and it’s up to you how you want to perform the build.

How does my Pegola Arrive

More or less like this…

On a big pallet with everything, you need (except for the tools) to carry out the installation.

How does my Pergola Arrive
Pergola pallet, on top of this will be the final roof covering you have chosen. For example roofing felt, Easy Roof Membrane or IKO roofing shingles.

The Unpacking of the Palet

NOTE WELL:  It will NOT be labelled and it really doesn’t need to be.

It is very easy to see and identify what boards are for the roof and what posts make up the structure.

When I start the unpacking, I sort out the different sections as I come across them. It is important to note that we keep all our Tanalised and treated timber outdoors so occasionally the pallets can be wet. So if you find your Pergola is wet when you unpack it, please don’t be concerned as it is, of course, designed and treated to be outside in all weathers for the next 20+ years and more if it is maintained well.

When I separate the roofing boards, I place them in the sections of the roof I am expecting to build. For square roofs, each of the four sides will be equal. For a rectangular roof, I know that I am looking for two triangle roofs and two elongated triangles. It’s so much simpler to do this as you are unpacking.

Unpacking Pergola
Two sets of end roof boards laid on top of each other. For a square building you will have four sets.
Unpacking Pergola
Extended triangle roof boards, two sets for both sides in the case of a rectangular pergola.

During the unpacking, I also identify, separate and lay out the other pieces, posts and ring beams are really simple to recognize.

Layout the ring beam
Layout the ring beam as you go. Place it into its approximate final position.
Pergola Posts
It’s pretty simple to identify the posts. On a rectangular pergola there will be two types. Four for the corners and two for the long edges.
Corner Braces
Corner Braces
Pergola Kingpins
Kingpins are used where the rafters connect at the points. A rectangular pyramid roof will have two.
The Pergola corner rafters are easily recognised by their length and by the birdsmouth notch which sits over the corner of the ring beam. Note well - the rafters that make up the sides are not notched.
The Pergola fitting kit. It’s really quite easy to understand. The long nails are for the thickest bits of wood - the rafters. The medium sized nails for the ring beams, supporting legs and the corner supports and the really short ones are be used for the lateral bracing slats of which there are two in a rectangular roofed pergola. Nails are supplied for the roofing boards. Felt tack nails are supplied for your final roof covering.

Fitting Advice

Use the plans to check that you are using the correct parts in the correct places.

You will need two people to carry out the installation.

  • It is easier to find the EXACT location of where post holders should be fitted while accounting for timber not being an exact product to work with.
  • It is safer, stronger and quicker.
  • No strain is placed on any joints, some plans will show building the gazebo on its side and then lifting into position, I have found this method very hard to do and can put strain on the joints.

Tools required for Installing a Pergola

You will only really need basic standard tools for fitting your pergola.

  • 2 Sets of Ladders
  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • Hammer
  • Pliers
  • Square
  • Two battery hand drills really help to save time.
  • Clamps are really important to carry out a good job. (We use them a lot in building all our garden furniture and log cabins)
Tools Needed: 2 Sets of Ladders, Tape Measure, Pencil, Hammer, Pliers, Square, Two battery hand drills, Clamps

Ring Beam of the Pergola

After laying out the main ring beam parts in the location that it will be built, I carefully check all the measurements against the plans.

Please note that with square roofs there will be two longer pieces and two shorter pieces allowing it to create a square.

Main Ring Beam Sizes
Carefully check all the measurements against the plans.

ALWAYS drill a pilot hole!

It doesn’t matter what I am building, I always use pilot drill holes every time a screw is used.

This is particularly important when working with Larch. ALWAYS drill a pilot hole!

Always drill a pilot hole
Always drill a pilot hole! Every time a screw is going to be used, it creates a tighter joint and stops screw heads burring adding for a better quality finish and it is easier to dismantle. It makes life so much easier!
Screw the main ring beam together.
Screw the main ring beam together. Use the medium size screws, two for each joint. For square roofs all of them will be joined. For the rectangular roof this is not possible until the center post is installed.

Square the ring beam

Using clamps we will temporarily fix the center joint together. Using a tape measure we check they are the same distance apart using the end beam as a reference. We then make sure the ring beam is 100% square.

Square the ring beam
Measure and square the main ring beam. The center joint is held with clamps.
Measure the diagonals
Ensure the diagonal measurements are the same and the ring beam is square and in the final position for installation. Note: For a more accurate measurement, we use a block in the middle to stop the measuring tape from sagging.

Posts and Post Holders

With the main ring beam of the pergola squared and in its final position, we can now mark exactly where the legs will be. This saves a lot of unnecessary measuring and takes into account that timber is not always millimetre perfect.

Putting the post in upside down in their finished location we can then mark the post position giving us the exact position of the posts in relation to the ring beam.

Marking the location of the corner posts
Marking the location of the corner posts
marking middle post position
For rectangular pergolas and gazebos, you need to mark the location of the centre posts.

With the marks in place, you can now position your post holders in the correct positions.

correct post holder location
The post holder positions can be marked for exact location according to the position of the main pergola ring beam.
secure post holders in correct position
Post holders can now be secured with the knowledge that they are 100% accurate.

We have several types of post holders available for use in both hard and soft ground.

It is crucial to secure the posts and the holders to help with this. Without securing the posts if they are badly knocked during their lifetime you could have some issues.

Like any of our buildings it is imperative that the pergola is held square and 100% straight in both the X & Y axis. Post holders are also very useful if the overall area is not exactly level.

If you don’t like the look of the post holders you can box them in, it looks so much nicer.

Box in the post holders
If you don’t like the look of the post holders you can box them in, it looks so much nicer.

Using the clamps, we fit two posts into the corner of a section of the main ring beam.

Clamp the post into one end of the ring beam.
Clamp the post into one end of the ring beam.
The post is Clamped
The post is Clamped
screw into the posts through the main ring beam.
Using the medium size screws, screw into the posts through the main ring beam.
The post is now screwed into position.
The post is now screwed into position. For additional Strength, I use more screws than the plans may show.

Next, clamp the centre post to hold it in position. At this point, it’s easier to take the second part of the ring beam apart again clamping and fitting each section as you go.

Clamping the center posts
The center posts which supports the joints of the two pieces making up the main ring beam in a rectangular pergola.
Clamping the center posts
Clamp and fit each post as you go.
Still using the medium size screws, fix the center posts.
Posts and main ring beam pieces all clamped and the after drilling the pilot holes they are all screwed together.
Clamps are incredibly useful in the installation of a ny pergola, gazebo or log cabin.

Gazebo Corner Braces

Okay, now the posts and main ring beam are all installed, we now add the support bracing to the corners.

Here you have a choice, you can position the braces under the ring beam and against the post or you can position the braces inside the Main Ring Beam and against the post.  You Choose!

You can position the braces under the ring beam and against the post
You can position the braces inside the Main Ring Beam and against the post.

Preparation always makes things quicker so consider pre-drilling all the braces before installing them all together.

Corner Brace Preparation
Corner Brace Preparation

It is advisable to brace the centre section until the roof is being fitted and whilst you are fixing the corner braces, it keeps everything nice and tight and straight.

brace the centre section
Brace the centre section

The Pergola and Main Ring Beam are now complete

Pergola Roof Installation

I’ve decided to do the roof installation in a separate blog post as much of it is relevant to our log cabins.

So, watch this space…

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