A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

What Started as a Fairly Simple Project…

…has turned into my PERGOLA!

As you may remember, last fall we removed the last of our Smooth Sumac trees next to our flagstone patio because they were too invasive and sent underground suckers all over our (and our neighbor’s) yard. We are still digging up roots that are trying to grow new sumac trees but I’m confident we will eventually win that battle.

That left us with a very exposed patio, with no shade or privacy at all.


After contemplating it a bit, I thought if we set a couple of posts in concrete, we could attach a shade sail to the posts at one end and to the brick on the side of our house at the other end. My stepdaughter has a couple of the Coolaroo triangular shade sails at her house and it seems to work out well. According to measurements I thought the 11’10” square sail in Desert Sand would work well for us, and I found it on Amazon for a little more than $100. Then later on, in Phase II, the posts would become part of the permanent pergola.

After our long, cold spring we finally started on it in mid-May once I could transplant the other (non-invasive) plants left in that area and move them to other spots in the garden.

Setting the posts was actually much easier than I anticipated (of course I didn’t dig the post holes, but still!). We decided to go with treated lumber instead of cedar, which would have been about double the cost. I’ll probably stain the wood once it’s finished, especially since we have almost a full gallon of stain left from our upstairs exterior window trim installation. Anyway, after we mixed and poured the concrete we braced the posts with the lumber that would form the framing from the house to the posts.


Once the concrete cured, we were ready to build the framing. With the help of our friend Rod, a few ladders and nylon straps to keep the boards in place, we attached a ledger board to the brick on the side of the house and attached the joists to the posts with lag bolts.


Once that was done we were ready to attach the shade sail. I don’t have photos of that because as we were attaching it I was liking it less and less—it just didn’t seem to be working out because you’re supposed to make the four corners hyperbolic, with two opposing corners at high points and the other two at lower points to aid in rain water drainage. It looks great in some situations, but it was making our patio seem claustrophobic. Back to Amazon it went, and really for about the same cost as the sail we were able to add the beams to form the “ceiling”.

We also started adding a privacy screen, and we might plant some vines to crawl up the side. We will be adding more 2x2s on the side facing us, which will give us more privacy, and I plan on planting some smaller shrubs below it.


Of course a pergola doesn’t provide full shade like a shade sail would and we still have to add more wood to filter the sunlight better, but it makes the patio feel much more like an outdoor room.

Hopefully we’ll have this finished up over the next few days. We are also in the process of extending the flagstone up to the posts and edging it with the brick pavers. Along with lots and lots of mulch (finally!) and more plants, the yard is improving by leaps and bounds. More photos to come.

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