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DIY Pergola Installation or Professional Installation, Which Is Right For You?

When considering an outdoor structure like a pergola, are you up to the task of installing the structure yourself, or are you looking for the skills of a professional? There are many factors to consider before deciding to tackle an outdoor structure project on your own.

DIY Pergola Installation

Some pergola installations are easier than others. Some pergolas come as a kit with all parts and pieces accounted for and ready to assemble. Others require raw materials and a custom build. The latter will be a bigger challenge for a DIYer as they will need to acquire both structurally sound plans, as well as all the raw materials to not only design the structure, but then build it as well.

Heartland Pergola kits are made with DIYers in mind. We have detailed instructions available in multiple ways. A written manual is included in your kit and is also available online as a pdf download.

We also offer video installation guides that show you each step visually as well as the tools used. This gives you more context to the written instructions and whether you learn best by reading or learn by watching, we have you covered. Both options are online and available 24/7!

And if you still have questions, one of our best resources for DIYers is the ability to call and talk to a real human who can help you with the process! Our customer support team is here to help you, beginning with the planning stages and all the way through your installation steps. You are not alone in the process!

DIY pergola being installed in a courtyard

So how easy is it for a DIYer?

For a Heartland Pergola, the process is pretty smooth. But keep a few things in mind before tackling the process on your own.

First consideration would be if you are comfortable with the steps in the unloading process? If you havenít watched our How it Ships video, itís crucial to understand how your pergola will arrive at your home. A pergola is a large structure that doesnít get folded neatly in a little box. All pergolas (except for our eyebrow pergolas) will come on a large pallet and are shipped LTL Ė which is a box or semi-truck. Part of the process involves unloading the pieces from the truck when it arrives at your home. This sounds more daunting than it really is, no single piece is over 50lbs and two able bodied adults should have no trouble getting the pieces unloaded in 10-15 minutes.

Second consideration would be your comfort around using some basic tools. If you have experience using drills and saws to some extent, you should be able to cut, trim and fasten all the pieces of the pergola system without issue.

The tools required are as follows:

  • Drill(s)
  • Miter or Circular Saw with carbide blade (cut slowly)
  • 5/8" Drill Bit
  • 3/8" Magnetic Driver(s)
  • 6" Drill Extension(s)
  • 12" Drill Extension (2x8 option only)
  • Phillips bit for Drill
  • Level
  • Hammer
  • Tape Measure
  • String Line
  • Hammer Drill if necessary for concrete or footing mounts
  • Wrench for Anchors on post
  • Composite shims
  • Sawhorses
  • Quick Clamp(s)
  • Step Drill Bit (Vari ĖBitģ) Ė For reaming holes in aluminum
  • PVC Pipe de-burring tool (optional)

The tools needed if creating a concrete footing:

  • Hand diggers/Auger
  • crap Lumber (for making forms)
  • Concrete stakes (for holding forms)
  • Wheel barrow or small concrete mixer
  • Shovel
  • Trowel

Third consideration is having a helping hand. One person could potentially do the job themselves (the use of several quick clamps would be useful to have on hand if thatís the case) but having a helping hand or two will make a big difference and speed up the process!

Fourth consideration is your comfort level working on ladders. Much of the work of a pergola needs to be done overhead and working 8í-14í in the air (perhaps much higher if working on a raised deck) and this can be daunting to some. The steps are relatively easy but doing them up on a ladder does increase the complexity.

How much time should I expect for installing a pergola on my own? Your skill level and the number of helpers you have (or donít have) will play into this, but itís typical for the average homeowner to spend 1-2 days installing their pergola.

When to Hire A Professional

The first reason is the easiest, because you donít want to do it!
You work hard day after day and the thought of another project added to your to-do list over the weekend is just a no-go for you! Whether you are a parent in the depths of running kids to every event across town, a busy professional or a retiree with a hefty schedule of R&R Ė hiring someone to complete the project for you is completely understandable!

You know your limitations as a DIYer.
You may excel in many areas of your life but know that hands-on construction projects arenít one of them. Itís okay, and SMART to recognize that construction skills just arenít your forte before spending a bunch of money on tools, materials and time!

Limited time.
Though pergolas are an easier structure to build, if you have never done one before, itís still a new skill to you, which means a greater potential for longer timelines and costly mistakes that will delay your project getting completed. If you know you are up against a hard deadline, you may want to seek a professional to get the job done. However, this still requires leaving a lot of time to plan for the installation. In many parts of the country, contractor schedules fill up quickly in the spring making the turnaround times to get jobs complete longer the later in the year you try to hire someone. However, a quality contractor will be able to install a pergola in half the time it will take a first time DIYer. With access to more/better tools, materials and know-how, they can complete your project quickly and with high quality results.

Your project requires lots of customizations.
Not all pergola projects are created equal. Highly custom pergolas may require a deeper knowledge of materials, design and craftsmanship than an intermediate DIYer can handle. Installing a simple rectangle or square pergola is one thing, but triangular pergolas, pergolas with irregular shapes, curved ends, unique structural attachment, or pergolas that require running electricity or unfamiliar surface mounting all may require a professional that is seasoned to deal with the complexities your project calls for!

It's part of a larger project.
Pergolas can also be tied into larger outdoor projects like an outdoor kitchen or pool installation which requires a lot of planning and expert installation to make it all come together seamlessly.

Professional Pergola Installer installing a pergola on a patio

The downside to DIY:

  • Need to have some level of experience with tools and building knowledge.
  • Speaking of tools, you may end up needing to buy additional tools or equipment to complete your job if you donít already own them.
  • If you make a mistake, you may cost yourself more money in trying to fix it or in the worst-case scenario, paying someone else to come do it Ďrightí which means spending a lot more money than you would have if you had just initially hired a professional!
  • Finding good help. While itís possible to do much of the work on your own, there may be parts of the project that require another set of hands to efficiently do the work. Needing to count on a friend, family member or neighbor to be around when you need them might not always work out as you planned. And we have all heard stories about home projects causing a strain on relationships.
  • Planning logistics. Not only will you need to oversee the build itself, but you also become the one in charge of prep work, measuring, ordering, transporting and clean up.

The downside to hiring a contractor:

  • Finding someone you trust. We have all heard about bad contractors - there is always someone ready to do a project for a lower price than the other guys. Ask people you know for recommendations, check to make sure they are licensed and insured, and make sure that your expectations are in line and match up with the scope of work they intend to do Ė prep work, materials, quality, timeline and clean up!
  • Cost. The bottom line is that it will cost more to hire a professional than to just do it yourself. Good contractors arenít cheap for a reason! They have business costs to cover, they have invested in years of training and experience, they have invested in the right tools, they provide a more polished end product than someone with little experience. And they need to make enough money on top of all that to make it profitable and worth their time. A good contractor is definitely worth the cost, but for some that may not be in the budget.
  • Timeliness. Once you find a contractor you are comfortable working with, you are at the mercy of when they have time to complete your job. As mentioned earlier, a contractorís schedule can book up months in advance. Delays from weather or other unforeseen issues on your job or the jobs prior to yours, can push your timeline later than anticipated.

Tips on starting your pergola building process:

  1. Decide on what your needs are and what the vision is; How will use the space? When will you use it? What features do you want to have? Where is the location for the structure? What is the budget for your project? These are all important questions to answer to create the space you want!
  2. Know what type of materials you want to use. Different pergola materials will make a difference depending on where you install your structure, how long it will last and what upkeep is necessary to maintain your pergola.
  3. Understand what kind of surface your pergola structure will be going on, is it a concrete patio, stone pavers, a wood or composite deck, or sitting in a garden area? You want to know what is safe to use for your space and how it needs to be anchored so that it doesnít become an airborne object that can cause damage or injury.
  4. Decide what features of your pergola are most important; looks, shade, rain protection, lighting options, stability, longevity, ceiling fans, tv mounts, privacy walls or curtains, heaters or misters. Some pergolas can be ordered or made to include some of those things, some pergolas will need additional parts, hardware or structural components to accommodate.
  5. Visit a pergola display via friends & family or at an outdoor builder or landscaping company to get a feel for the size and space you need for your outdoor area. Itís hard to know what a 14x14 pergola space will feel like unless you are under one. And I donít think anyone has ever regretted making their structure larger when debating on size!
  6. Consider if your pergola should be attached to your existing structure like your house or garage, or if it needs to be free standing.
  7. If you do decide to hire a pergola installer, you can look to the following for help; landscape professionals / hardscape professionals, fence & deck companies, handyman services, or outdoor contractors.

You are never in it alone!

Whether you choose to DIY your pergola install or hire a professional, you are never in it alone! Our team is here to help you or your hired contractor with any questions and with all stages of your pergola build. From design stages, customizations, ordering, installation and any follow up after!

Where to next?

If you can’t find what you’re looking for please give us a quick call at 563-345-6745 or use our chat box in the bottom left corner of your screen!