Creating reliable Pergola Footings is probably one of the most important parts of pergola construction - and there is no more solid a method than to cement the footings into the ground for a really strong and stable garden structure.
If you are buildinga pergola over a deck you may want to use hardware fixtures for a deck surface connection - one of the main reasons why hardware surface anchors are becoming more popular is that they are quick and easy to use...
But consider this - this method is not accepted to code everywhere - AND - these post anchors screw down onto the deck surface board and down into the stronger deck understructure joist below - so what if you have a problem with your deck boards! are you going to dismantle your pergola to replace a couple of planks of wood?...
It's more work to dig post holes for pergola footings just beyond an existing deck design but it is the best way to connect your pergola and decking while still maintaining them both as independant structures - we always prefer a solid cemented in installation.
Underground Pipes and Cables
The very first rule, even before you start to carefully measure out the size of your proposed structure from post to post and checked the diagonal measurements to make sure that everything is square - is to find out where any underground pipes and cables are leading to and from your home - to make sure that you DON'T dig for pergola footings anywhere near one.
Post Holes & Building Regs
You may have heard from some sources that you should dig post holes of 1 foot wide and 3 feet deep, other information you may have read is that a full quarter of the length of each post should be cemented in below the ground level...
Post holes in pergola construction do need to be deep - but you don't have to rely only on your spade, it's quicker and easier on the back to dig deep narrow holes into the ground when you use a hand Auger and a Clamshell Digger -
- see if you can hire useful equipment like this locally for a day or a weekend!
With such a wide variance in weather and terrain conditions, the best way to really make sure that you are digging to the right depth for your soil and height of construction is to ask the people who know your area.
You will have to visit your local building office anyway - before you buy your pergola lumber or pergola kit - to
make sure that the pergola construction you want to build complies with building regulations for your home and neighborhood... and this provides the perfect opportunity to find out your local requirements for pergola post holes.
Depending on where you live, if you have cold winters, you will want to know how deep the "frost level" is for your area - it is important to cement your posts in below the frost level so that your garden structure does not start to move to the rhythm of top soil which moves as it freezes and then thaws.
Digging your Pergola Footings
After carefuly measuring out the ground for the size of your pergola construction - make sure that the land is level - if not you will have to compensate for the difference with the height of your posts.
It's important that each post is deep enough into the ground but they also have to extend up to the same height - it's harder to get up to trim to a new level on a post once it is in place.
Once you have all of your holes prepared - it's advisable to take the time to test the height of the posts two by two - if you have some friends round they can help you by placing and maintaining two posts while you check to see how level they are to each other by using a cross piece that spans the two posts.
If the holes for your pegola footings measure out right - lets get those posts in before it decides to rain!
Bedding in your Pergola Footings
Once you have found out how deep you should dig your pergola footings - don't forget to include that to the required length of the posts that you order - to ensure that your structure is high enough.
When you cement your pergola posts into the ground you are not only providing solid stability to all the legs of your garden structure - you are also encasing the part of the post that enters into the ground in cement - to help protect it from bugs and moisture - so that the strength and durability of the lumber is least compromised as possible over time.
You can go a step further and throw some gravel into the bottom of your hole to make sure that all rain and ground water drains down into the ground and away from your cement encased post.
Your first lot of concrete goes into the bottom of the hole on top of the gravel - get it well settled in before you put in the post - (use the same amount of base concrete for each hole)
(standard cement mix is 3 parts gravel, 2 parts sand and 1 part cement - this is mixed with water till you get a nice stiff consistency - it's going to take a couple of days to really go off (set) - ALSO you now have the option of using quick dry cement instead which sets in hours as per the instructions on the bag.)
Check that each post is placed plumb by using a spirit level - either take advantage of an extra pair of hands to keep the post in position or brace it with off cut timber while you fill up all sides equally with cement ...
- again, test the height of the posts by using a cross piece that spans the two posts - keep checking to making sure that you have maintained the post in plumb position to each other - reposition and re-brace if necessary - it's your last chance before the cement hardens.
How long it will take to cement in your pergola footings will depend on how many hands you have available... this is a quicker and easier project for two people.
Preparing Pergola Footings is not the favourite stage of pergola construction but what remains is much more fun - placing the beams and cross rafters - with the assurance that you have created a solid garden structure.
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