Pergola As Shady Wonder Hut | Steve McCratic

This time last year it was too damn hot to go outside, so what did we do? Stayed inside, of course. Duh.
We live in Arkansas. “Land of humidity.” Well, our state motto used to be “Land of Opportunity” until the entire state agreed that wasn’t true and changed it to the “Natural State.”

This year Steve and I decided we would not hide inside all summer long. But we couldn’t agree on how this problem should be handled.

I thought we should move out of this town. He persisted that a shade structure was a more reasonable solution. I argued that I could tolerate the heat better if we didn’t live in THIS town. He argued that a pergola was less expensive than a move. I was firm. He won.

It turns out a pergola is quite nice and has been one of the best investments we’ve made in a long time. I asked Steve to write about his experience building this shady wonder hut, so in his words…

Pergola built from free online pergola plans from the easy gardener
Our Shady Wonder Hut (a.k.a. the Pergola)

For those of you that don’t know, and I have to admit that it wasn’t that long ago that I was among you, it’s called a pergola. Pergolas generally have a series of slats that cross the top of them to provide different levels of shade throughout the day.

Ours, thanks to the outdoor fabric canopy from the fine folks at Easy Gardener, provides nice, cool shade all day long.

I say cool, it’s at least cooler than it would normally be in Arkansas during the summer. One of the nicest things about our pergola is the cost. After it was all said and done, I think we have less than $400 invested in this beauty. We live pretty frugally, so this was actually a pretty hefty investment.

I can honestly say that it was a sound investment, as the family time that we have shared beneath it has been worth every dime. Other than the few rainy days, we haven’t missed an opportunity to eat outside since it’s completion.

Both the idea and the decision came from my wife. She had just returned from P. Allen Smith‘s Garden2Blog event in Little Rock where Easy Gardener was a sponsor.

We had tossed around the idea of a pergola before, but were unsure of just how to finish the canopy. After speaking to one of their reps, she called me and pointed me to their Sun Screen fabric. (Full disclosure, they ended up providing us with enough material to cover our pergola and create the roll-up shades).

Father In Law Roger helps build the pergola, easy gardener pergola, free online pergola plans
Steve’s dad Roger helping build the Shady Wonder Hut Pergola.


Steve’s dad Roger helping build the Shady Wonder Hut Pergola.

It took us a few trips to the big box home-improvement store to round up all of our supplies, and we had to retain the services of my father to help us out. He’s not a carpenter, but compared to me, he’s a regular Bob Villa.
One of the things that the free online pergola plans didn’t tell us was how to fasten the supports to our existing patio. I didn’t want to dig through the patio, and I didn’t want to fasten the thing directly to our house either.
The only other option was to drill into the patio, use some lag bolts to fasten 4×4 mounts to the concrete and then bolt the uprights to the patio. (see below)
Concrete fasteners, attach 4x4 to concrete patio, concrete 4x4 bracket
Concrete fastener thingy
After we framed up the support beams, and set them in concrete for a couple of nights, thing progressed pretty quickly. Between the easy instructions, the hard work, and a little internet magic, you see that we were finished in no time at all.
4x4 post fastened to concrete patio
4×4 wood post fastened to concrete patio

Seriously, if we hadn’t had to wait for the concrete to set up, we would have finished in one day.

finished pergola with sun screen fabric, do it yourself pergola, free online pergola plans
Seriously, this pergola provides an amazing amount of shade.

The hardest part was either cutting and fitting the 2×4 braces that fit in-between every 2×6 at exact, square, level intervals, or making straight cuts on the sun-shade material with rusty box-knife that I couldn’t remember to pick up blades for.

Personally, I think the finished product turned out pretty well. More importantly, my wife seems to love it, and that makes me truly happy. (If you’re looking for more detailed instructions, they can be found here.)

Steve McCratic,, daddy in training, evolved mommy husbandSteve is a dad that’s still learning the ropes of fatherhood. He’s a tech addict, a fledgling organic farmer, and a guy that loves to build stuff, but has to borrow tools. You can read his Daddy in Training blog or follow him on Twitter @scratic.

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