After a heavy, wet snowfall crushed our test gazebo last winter, we decided to come up with a more permanent outdoor sitting area with some protection from the late afternoon, i.e. Happy Hour sunshine. After considering (and costing out) a raised deck with screened in porch area, we settled on a pergola with some configuration of shadecloth and a paving stone floor that ended up not requiring a building permit to install.
I designed the 12′ x 16′ pergola around standard sizes of CedarTone pressure-treated lumber from Menards, supported by four 12″ diameter concrete piers sunk below the local frost level. For the patio surface, we chose Uniblock WestPort Beechwood concrete pavers that come in a mixture of three sizes. On sailcloth advice from Emily and Lucas, we contracted with Jackson Canvas Co. to fabricate strips of Sunbrella material that would eventually be woven between the joists of the pergola to provide overhead shade and a fun shadow pattern on the barn wall. Completing the sun protection, I installed a 10′ wide Coolaroo roller shade that we picked up off the shelf from Lowe’s.
With invaluable help from Jess, Al, Kyle and Linda that will always be more appreciated than I can ever express to these very special people, this summer-long project finally came together in the middle of October. Perfect timing, as the weather was cool but comfortable, especially for laying the pavers, which was, after all of the foundational preparations, a back-breaking and satisfying week’s worth of work.
The photos and captions below will illustrate the steps and progression of our Pergola Paver Patio project!
A mock-up of the new outdoor sitting area on the west end of the barn.
Excavation area marked in orange with pier locations indicated with rebar.
Borrowed TopCon rotary laser level was used in several steps of this project.
Jess brought his excavator and loader and saved me a summer’s worth of hand digging!
Stripping the topsoil in the excavation area.
Excavation continues, transferring soil directly to the loader bucket for removal.
Due to the slope of the area, the excavation was deeper on the north end.
The original slope can be seen in the witness line on the block barn foundation.
Rotary laser receiver mounted on a graduated grade rod.
A hydraulic auger attachment on Jess’s Bobcat made short work of drilling for the concrete piers.
Twelve inch diameter holes about four feet deep.
Jess inspects his hydraulic auger handiwork.
Four foot Quick-Tubes cut in half to form the top portion of the concrete piers.
Pier forms with bracing attached.
Five thousand PSI concrete mix, pea gravel and wooden stakes to cast the four concrete piers.
As a brand new Schnauzer puppy, Jake was eager to “help” with the project!
High strength concrete, all mixed by hand in a wheelbarrow, for the concrete piers.
It took two days of steady work to mix and lay all of the concrete for all four piers.
Another trip to Menards for CedarTone 4x4s to form a retaining wall around three sides of the excavated area.
Retaining wall “kit” all loaded up!
HeadLOK timber fasteners and 3/8″ rebar to construct and fix the retaining walls.
Concrete piers curing and retaining wall lumber in place.
Al, fresh off the plane from Colorado, dug right in and was a great help in putting the retaining walls together in one day!
A fellow mechanical engineer, Al knew the importance of getting the retaining wall base courses level and true.
Al hammers giant rebar “nails” through predrilled holes to stake the retaining walls in place.
Retaining walls completed just in time for a light evening rainshower.
Once the retaining walls were complete, Jess brought highly compactible paver base from his own stockpile.
Al eyeballs the paver base in preparation for rough leveling with the rotary laser and come along.
With the piers, retaining walls and paver base in place, it was time to build the base pergola structure.
Another big box trip for all the galvanized and stainless steel hardware that would hold the pressure-treated pergola components together.
Enlarging the mounting holes in the Simpson StrongTie adjustable post bases.
After calculating compensation for the final pier locations, post bases were marked for installation.
A rotary hammer drill made short work of drilling the pilot holes for the 5/16″ Tapcon concrete screws.
My impact driver easily drove the Tapcon screws into the predrilled pilot holes in the concrete.
Piers and post bases ready for 8″ x 8″ post installation.
The Moffett truck-mounted forklift made short work of unloading the pergola lumber, including several 16′ long 2x8s.
CedarTone lumber bundle staged in the turnaround area of the driveway.
Two multi-position ladders would provide overhead access for assembling the pergola cross beams.
Kyle sets the first 8×8 CedarTone post in its galvanized steel post base.
A wry grin signals two posts in place and two to go!
Tightening down the nut on one of many 1/2-13 x 10″ galvanized carriage bolts holding the structure together.
Marking a consistent location to drill for the next carriage bolt.
The multi-position ladders handled the different in ground height with ease.
Using a sight jig for plumb and square, Kyle match drills through two 2x8s and one 8×8 with an eighteen-inch long auger bit.
Four posts and four east-west beams in place, plumbed and braced.
The basic form of the pergola, without needing to make a single cut to any of the standard-length components.
Attaching post to post base with special Simpson StrongTie screws.
Angle bracing cut from CedarTone 4x4s and ready to install.
Through bolted at the top, the lower end of the eight angle braces was attached with two long TimberLOK wood screws.
Angle bracing on two levels.
During a pause to work on a different project, we took advantage of the seating area and to test out some shadecloth configurations.
Happy Hour in the new seating area.
Jake spent a fair amount of time in his big playpen under the temporary shade of the pergola area.
Another jig spaces seven sets of joist hangers on 24″ centers
The multi-position ladders came in handy cutting and setting the joists by myself.
View from below, showing the newly installed joists.
A 12′ x 16′ shadecloth tarp gave us shade and some ideas for a more permanent solution.
The west end of the temporary shadecloth, attached to the two multi-position ladders (not shown).
Installation of the Coolaroo 10′ wide roller shade.
For a reasonable price, the Coolaroo roller shade provides protection from the low angle evening sun coming directly in from the west.
Using a jig to predrill for threaded inserts to attach one end of the Sunbrella fabric strips.
Quarter-inch by 1″ long zinc plated threaded inserts.
Stainless steel screws and fender washers through grommets clamp one end of the Sunbrella shadecloth strips as they are woven between the joists in an alternating pattern.
Sunbrella strips during initial installation.
Shade configuration completed, the Sunbrella strips will be removed and stored during the cold season.
A tensioning method for the excess length end of the Sunbrella strips will work for a while, but a more elegant solution is needed.
Sunbrella strips tensioned and fixed in place.
Fun diamond shadow pattern from the alternating weave of the Sunbrella strips.
Two strings of LED solar lights provide a surprising amount of illumination at night.
Nearly 10,000 pounds of UniLock concrete pavers, delivered and staged in Jess’s construction yard next door.
Paver base ready for final leveling and plate compaction.
Several passes with the plate compactor firmed up the paver base gravel considerably.
Paver bundles delivered from the construction yard and ready to be installed.
Two yards of bedding sand delivered from 8 Point Supply in Ann Arbor, approximately eight thousand pounds worth.
A borrowed electric concrete saw made short work of the pavers that had to be trimmed around the piers.
Using a recommended random pattern (that’s an oxymoron, right?), the location of each individual paving block was predetermined in the SketchUp model.
The first paver is set against the block barn foundation and south of the pattern centerline.
Three-quarter PVC pipe has very close to a 1″ outer diameter, and served as the guides to screed 1″ of bedding sand over the compacted paver base.
With Linda directing the location of each block and checking them off on the design, efficiency of completing the pattern was greatly enhanced.
On-the-fly trimming of blocks provided a decent “fit” around the concrete piers.
When she wasn’t directing paver placements, Linda picked up a shovel and helped level the bedding sand layer.
A few taps with a rubber mallet helped settle each paver into the bedding sand below.
The predetermined margin between the paver pattern and retaining walls worked out almost perfectly.
Kyle and Linda teamed up to set more of the pavers on a chilly, overcast Saturday.
Except for trimming around the piers, only four pavers had to be cut to finish the overall pattern.
Main body of pavers completed, with only cutting and filling in around the piers to go … or so I thought.
Turns out that I had installed the plastic edging backwards. Fortunately, it only took a couple of hours to pull up and re-set the edge blocks and install the edging correctly.
Correctly installed edging, ready for river pebbles to fill in the gap between pavers and retaining wall.
Closeup of properly installed plastic edging.
River pebbles, the last of the heavy stuff to install.
River pebbles finish the gaps with a permeable, attractive material.
Closeup of the installed river pebbles.
The Pergola Paver Patio complete, wetted down for a little shine!
We love the textured WestPort Beechwood pavers from UniLock.
Pergola Paver Patio complete before the snow flies! 😉