Simple Shade Structure Tames the Sun
Create a handsome pergola with rough-sawn cedar and readily available hardware.
Synopsis: This article describes the construction of a simple pergola from rough-sawn western red-cedar timbers on a deck in Colorado with mountain views. Photo: Andy Engel
As a contractor who lives at the foot of the Rockies, I spend my days outside building decks and shade structures to help my customers enjoy our great climate. In spring, summer, and fall, the weather and the views call us to be outdoors. Even when it’s hot, our low humidity makes being outside a good proposition — if you can find some shade.
This home has a great view of the Front Range, but along with that view comes the western sun. Until it would lower behind a stand of cottonwoods, the mid-afternoon sun used to beat down on the deck and the kitchen just inside, making the spaces too hot to use. When the owners hired me to build a new deck, adding shade was a key part of the project.
Whenever I design a pergola, a lot of factors come into consideration. The more shade desired, for example, the more purlins (the uppermost members) are needed. I don’t have a strict formula for determining their size and spacing, but this deck’s 2×4 purlins are spaced on 12-in. centers, which is a typical layout I use. If there’s any doubt, I place the purlins without fastening them and see how my customer likes the layout.
By spacing the purlins this close together, snow and wind loads become a concern. This is Colorado, and we get a lot of snow, plus the winds coming down from the Rockies can be fierce. Because of these concerns, my engineer designed the pergola for the same loads as a roof. Made from rough-sawn western red-cedar timbers, this pergola fit together attractively in a simple,…