Preparing To Build A Pergola – [5 KEY PREPS]

blueprint, plan your build

Taking time to make a plan, will save you time!

How many times have you had to rebuild something because you didn’t think it through beforehand? If you’re anything like me, then probably quite a few!

After many rebuilds, one day I finally put together a few key preparation techniques that stopped my rebuild problem.

There’s plenty of things people often overlook before constructing their new pergola but don’t let yourself be one of them.

We’ve put together the essential tips to help you avoid having to rebuild it, check out our SWELL guide below.


Sunlight is key to making the most of the evening under a pergola, do you want to watch the sunset as you wind down for the night?

Or perhaps you don’t want anything to do with it and would prefer to be out the sun completely.

Always remember that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so bear this in mind as the surrounding buildings can have an impact on when it will actually be useful for taking the edge off the sun.

panoramic shot of sunset

Ideally, you want it on a north-facing wall if you are building it against another structure, this will ensure the surrounding architecture will not completely block out the sun.

On the flip side, if you’re wanting your surrounding architecture to provide additional cover then face it on a wall that’s either east/west facing dependant on the time you want the additional shade.

windows casting shadows

Pergolas can cast shadows similar to these…

W is for Windows

If you plan on building it next to your home or an outhouse then consider where your windows already are.

The reason for this is that the pergola will likely darken the room with the affected windows, a disastrous problem to realise once you’ve already built it.

There is a bonus to having it block a window, it will help keep that room cool – so if your room is practically a greenhouse in summer then you could build your pergola next to it. Otherwise, an awning could be the solution for you!

E is for Electricity

Are you planning on having lights around the edges? Do they need a socket? Or perhaps you want an outdoor heater?

Planning ahead for this is another key tip as there have been a few times where our extension cables just wouldn’t reach so we ended up having to move everything (it was just a pop-up canopy though, so that was much less of a problem!).

light bulb and plug socket

Do you need an electrical socket?

So here are a few quick things to take note of whilst planning where you want to set it up:

  1. Electricity Source
  2. Distance to pergola
  3. Extension Lead Length
  4. Safety Hazards (Trip over the wire, children etc)
  5. Long term plan

The reason for including the last one, do you really want to be winding out an extension lead every time you want to relax under your pergola? Or have a bunch of wires trailing over your property…

L is for Lighting

Outdoor lights

What mood do you want to set?

For most summer evenings lighting will not be a problem but towards the end of the season or if you plan on using it outside of the summer months then lighting is going to be essential for your event to be successful.

Often heaters are a source of light so that’s two birds with one stone there but if you don’t want to fork out the cash for an outdoor heater then there are alternatives such as solar-powered lighting.

Ideally, your light needs to be placed in the centre of your pergola to provide maximum coverage and ensure everything is well lit.

Lighting is also key to setting the mood, with the colouring also having the ability to offer a warming effect, naturally causing people to come closer together at your event.

My typical set up is a standing light in each corner, angled towards the roof, it creates a nice, cosy ambience that my guests seem to love.

L is for Land


Avoid uneven and soft-land!

Plenty of things need to be considered for your build to be a success but if you’ve got all the above ticked off then the final yet most important thing to consider is the actual land your pergola will be constructed on.

Without a sturdy, flat plot there’s little chance for success with your build.

Following these steps will help determine if the land is suitable:

  1. Large, clear area
  2. Flat
  3. Anchor points (e.g can you dig a hole or screw it down)
  4. Can support heavy loads
  5. Optional: No surrounding buildings

My name is Shaun Bird and I've been writing about and reviewing outdoor products (mainly tents and gazebos) for over 4 years now. If you're looking for advice before you buy then read my posts or contact me via the about us page.