The Deck & Pergola Project, Part I

So last Sunday The Husband and I built a pergola. Well, we almost built a pergola. There’s about 9 top stringers standing between us and the sweet, sweet taste of victory. Why you ask? Well, we ran out of time and daylight last night and it’s been nothing but rain all day today.

And technically, this whole project started LAST year, about 5 months after be bought this place…

Because when we first looked at it, there were a lot of things we loved about the back yard. It was small, but fenced there would still be a lot of room for our dog to run around, and there was a perfect spot to add 3 raised garden beds. There wouldn’t be a huge amount of lawn we would have to mow. There was a huge shady tree that helped with the oppressive Tennessee summer sun.

But there was also a ton of things we didn’t like: our yard was mostly weeds. There were clearly drainage issues, compounded (we think) by some not-so-considerate drain pipes installed some time ago by a neighbor up the hill.

And, oh yes, our yard is on a hill. As in, significant slope-age down to the right of our house.

As in, if we got snow in the winter, it would be awesome for loading our dog on a tiny sled and pushing her down the hill; the fence would stop her when she got to the bottom!

But since we hardly get much snow, the hill sucks.

Before we put the fence in, we actually priced out how much it would cost to have a retaining wall put in and the ground leveled. Unfortunately, it was WAY more than we willing to spend for our budget house.

So spring of last year, the fence went in! Unfortunately, if you are standing at any of the high points in the yard, you can see clear across into neighbors yards. And more importantly, we still had a large area of the yard that wasn’t exceptionally usable since it was on a such a slope.


But by the time last summer rolled around… we had come up with a plan. We decided to fix part of the usability issue by installing a 10×10 deck above the lowest grade in our back yard. Just to give you an idea how much our back yard drops off, see how the front of the deck is almost level with the ground, but the back is raised by 3-4 feet?

The new deck instantly created usable space where there was none (some chairs and a fire pit perhaps?), and gave us a nice focal point around which to put plants that will eventually help disguise the hill even better (and whose roots will hopefully help suck up all the water that makes our ground squishy).

… The deck looks a little lonely there, doesn’t it? The Husband thought so too, and as soon as it was up started talking about adding a pergola above it. I also wanted to add some trees or bamboo behind it, too, to help hide the dip in the fence and create a sense of privacy. But alas, it got too warm last summer to do anything and we left our deck pretty much looking like that all through the winter (although we did manage to edge out some garden beds, as you’ll see in a minute).

So fast forward to this past weekend, when we finally put a winter’s worth of debating and planning into play. We had drawn out a rough idea of what we wanted for the pergola (based on a huge one we saw outside of Home Depot earlier), and were ready to hit the store to pick up materials and supplies.

The whole almost building-a-pergola-in-a-day project is for part 2 of the post though, so for right now, here’s a sneak peek of our work:

Check back soon for our run-down on how we built the whole thing and some final pics of how amazing it looks!