There’s nothing quite like kicking back on your own
Patio—until the sun starts cooking you or the rain
begins to fall. But you can easily double your time in
the great outdoors with this beautiful pavilion. Just
think—no more rainouts during your next barbecue!
And with a roof, you can relax on dry, clean, comfortable, padded
furniture, which just can’t stand up to the elements on an open
patio. All in all, you can give your patio the feel and function of an
outdoor living room. But the best part is, this pavilion will add
real beauty and value to your home by dressing up that lonely,
While this design may look complicated to the novice carpenter,
don’t be intimidated. If you have the basic hand power tools, can
handle a circular saw and have a bit of remodeling experience,
you have the moxie to pull off this project. We’ll show you some
scribe-it, nail-it-up and cut-it-in-place techniques that greatly
simplify the tough spots and speed up the project. In fact, another carpenter and I built the basic structure in three leisurely
days and spent a fourth day finishing the decorative column
skirts. Give yourself and a helper about twice as
long and you may finish faster than you think.
Besides a carpenter’s apron outfitted with the basic
hand tools, all you need are a 4-ft. level, a circular saw, a
jigsaw and posthole digging tools. But consider renting a
power nailer for a day to save time and effort for
the massive job of nailing down the roof decking.
Comparing the before and after photos, you can see
that in addition to building the pavilion, we did some
major stonework and planting. Those improvements
aside, our total materials bill was roughly $4,000.
Note: A complete Materials List is available as a pdf in Additional Information below.
Figure A: Roof Assembly
This front view shows the basics of the patio roof. Make a scale drawing of the structure adapted to your own house before applying for a building permit.
Figure A is also available as a pdf in Additional Information below.
Sandwich framing and 2x6 tongue-and-groove decking construction
The design of this roof resembles traditional post-and-beam
construction, but without the headaches of working
with heavy, expensive timber and the tricky joinery
that goes with it. The posts, beams, rafters and ceiling
ties (see Figs. A and B) are built-in-place sandwiches of
common 2x4, 2x6, 2x8 and 2x10 smooth cedar lumber.
The center board of each sandwich is 2 in. narrower than
the outer ones, which lends attractive shadow lines and
architectural “heft” to the building.
This triple-thick assembly method makes
the framing members very strong, which
allows for longer spans and wider spacing
between members. This technique allows you
to overlap and lock all the pieces together for
a very strong framework, easier nailing and
tighter joints. And, by assembling beams in
layers, they’re lighter to lift. Since the rafters
are so beefy, you can space them 32 in. apart.
But those wide spans call for a roof decking
that can handle those spans. Tongue-and-groove
2x6 decking (Photo 18) fills the bill
nicely because it’s very strong, reasonably
priced and easy to install. It also looks great
on the inside. You can let butt ends of the
roof decking fall randomly throughout the
roof; it’s not important that they splice over
framing members. But the seams will look
more polished if you use a block plane to carve a little
chamfer on decking ends where two boards meet.
Figure B: Pilaster Assembly
Figure B: Pilaster Assembly
The pilaster assembly is designed to float around the piers, allowing for movement due to freezing and thawing.
The cedar base trim will last longer
and look better over time if you
hold it an inch or so above patios
to keep the wood dry.
Figure B is also available as a pdf in Additional Information below.
This flexible design is easy to customize
We give the basic measurements for the structure in
Fig. A, but don’t treat them as a cutting list, because
you’ll most likely have to adjust them to fit your own
home. Adjusting sizes is easy. First you get the beams and posts laid out and in position, then you simply measure
or scribe the rest of the elements for exact lengths or
angles before cutting them to length and installing the
parts. On your site, you may need to widen or deepen
the structure to miss windows or doors on the house or
bridge over existing
You can “grow”
the length or width
of the roof as much
as 2 ft. without
compromising structural integrity and shrink it as much
as you want. The roof lines can also be altered to miss
wall obstructions. We had to steepen the roof slope on
one side to miss the bay window you see in Photo 2. Under that window, the roof has a 7/12 slope (7 in.
of vertical drop for every 12 in. of horizontal distance),
while the other side has a 6/12 slope. At a minimum, you
should try to have a 4/12 slope if you live in a snowy
area. Ask your building inspector for minimum slopes
for your area when you pick up the building permit. But
remember that steeper pitches may call for longer rafters
and more decking. You can figure out required material
lengths when you go through the layout exercise we
show in Photos 1 and 2.
The easy way to determine the shape and slope of your
roof is to first lay out the “footprint” of the posts and
beams using the dimensions we give you (Photo 1).
Then use a 4-ft. level and a straight board to draw the
beam locations on the walls. The height of the bottom
of the beams should be at least 6 ft. 8 in. for “headbanging”
clearance (Photo 2). Tack 4-1/2 x 9-1/4 in.
beam templates cut from plywood to the wall to simulate
beams. Then lay out the roof lines with two 2x6s
tacked through the siding to be sure:
- The rafter tails have a minimum of 6 ft. 8 in. of head
- The roof has at least a 4/12 slope.
- The windows, bays or other wall projections are
spaced at least 5 in. above the rafters to leave room
This is the time to make final adjustments to the roof
slope and the post-and-beam locations. If everything seems OK, you can start digging your footings (Photo 3).
Foundation-grade posts and floating base skirts
Use .60 foundation-grade treated
2x4s and 2x6s for the lower post
sections and the footings (Fig. B). You may have to special-order
them, but the added longevity
is worth the money and trouble. For
the above-ground base skirt framing
and sheathing, standard .40
treated material will work just fine.
The base skirts are designed to
“float,” that is, slide up and down
the fixed posts that they encase.
That’s especially important when
they rest on a slab or stone surface
in cold regions where frost can lift
patios when the ground freezes. The
skirts can move up and down during
freeze/thaw cycles, but the posts,
which extend below frost depth,
stay put—without lifting the entire
structure. So when you frame and
trim the pilaster base skirts, make
sure everything fits loosely.
If the posts have to penetrate a
concrete or stone surface, cut a 20-
in. square hole for digging the footings
(Photo 3). Use a circular saw
with a diamond blade and don’t
worry about making it pretty; the
skirt will cover the hole. To prevent
settling, just be sure to pack the soil well as you backfill around the posts.
Bracing as you build
We show a fail-safe method of positioning your posts so
they’re square and spaced perfectly from the house and
each other. The trick is to use a jig made from the framing
materials (called a “footprint template” in Photo 1).
Initially tack the posts to the jig (Photo 3, inset) and
then later to each other (Photo 9). Constantly check the
posts throughout the construction to keep everything
square and plumb and you’ll make your life easier as you
assemble the upper parts.
The ridge assembly is especially tricky to center and
support before the rafters are in place. Use the rafter
mockup (Photo 2) to determine the height of the bottom
of the ridge and tack a temporary 2x6 support against
the house to support that end of the ridge (Photo 9). The
temporary brace that supports the yard end of the ridge
will most likely be taller to accommodate any drainage
slope on the patio. Cut that support a few inches longer,
tack it in place and use a long, straight board and level
from the top of the house-mounted support to mark the
length. Then cut it to length and use existing and additional
supports to hold it in place before you set the
ridge. A couple of 2x4s nailed to the outside and a couple
of braces will keep the ridge from slipping off the
support while you’re installing the rafters. We assembled
the ridge sandwich on the ground and lifted it into place,
but it was a struggle for the two of us! It’d be much easier
to lift the boards separately and nail them together once
After the ridge is assembled, measure from the ridge
edges to the beams on each wall. To center the ridge perfectly,
adjust the ridge until the right and left measurements
are the same. Note that if you have to build an offset
roof as we did, the ridge will no longer be exactly centered,
but you still have to make it parallel to the beams.
Back to Top
Whichever wood types you decide on, think ahead and
prefinish the wood whenever possible—especially if the
roof decking sports a different finish than the framing.
We put two coats of exterior latex stain on the decking
before installing it. That saved tons of time over
painstakingly cutting in cleanly around the framing. For
the same reason, it pays to apply an exterior sealer on
the cedar after the structure is up and before installing
the decking. If you’re staining or painting standard
framing lumber, we suggest applying the finish before
erecting the structure and then touching up nail holes
and end cuts after construction. You’ll get a better, faster
paint job and the wood surfaces that are buried inside
sandwiches will be better protected from moisture.
Selecting the Wood
We used smooth dimensional cedar for all of the
exposed framing for this pavilion. However, we
decided on stained spruce tongue-and-groove
2x6s for the roof decking because cedar decking
cost nearly twice as much. You can save about
even more by using standard framing material for the
entire structure—a smart move if you intend to
paint or stain everything to match the house.
Even though the structural elements are
exposed, you don’t need flawless lumber for your
pavilion for a clean, handsome look. Simply
select the lumber with the best faces for the
edges and sides that will show. We had all the
lumber delivered (in other words, we just got random
picks from the lumberyard) and had no
problem finding enough good-looking sides and
edges. If you’re dissatisfied with the look of any
of the lumber, you can always exchange it.