The completed hilliside pergola..all that is left is to give it a few coats of stain!
The completed hillside pergola..all that is left is to give it a few coats of stain!

So what to do when you have some old left over wooden windows, a pile of reclaimed brick and a hillside area that needs a focal point?  Build a hillside pergola of course!

Actually, as we spoke of a few weeks back – Mary and I have both always wanted to create a seating area in the middle of the hill we have planted full of grapes. Ever since posting an initial picture a few weeks back of the start of the hillside pergola – we have been  getting quite a few emails asking about the progress.

 So, we thought for today’s Sunday update – we would do just that with an update on the entire building process.  

Surprisingly enough, we’ve been able to finish up the structure and surrounding landscape in between the soaking rains we’ve had the last few weeks.  All that remains now is to put on a few coats of stain – something we hope to do later today if it actually stays dry!

Carving Out A Flat Surface:

We dug out the curved back and then used limestone dust to level out for the brick
We dug out the curved back and then used limestone dust to level out for the brick

Since a large portion of the entire farm is on sloped land – we actually have building out flat surfaces down to a science.  One thing we have learned from previous “hillside digs” is the importance of knowing what to do with the dirt that we dig out to create the flat area.  

There is nothing more depressing than finishing up a building project and still having to move large piles of dirt for the second time.  Since we knew we wanted flower beds all around – we just created them from the dirt as we dug it out.  A huge time saver!

The project started halfway up the  middle of the hill – right in the middle of the vineyard overlooking the barn and garden below.  

The framework for the pergola that will sit in the middle of the vineyard and overlook the farm.

For those that are looking to build their own – we do have complete downloadable plans in our etsy shop – DIY Pergola Plans

Using a tape measure and a few wooden stakes – we roped out a 16 x 12′ area for the pergola.  We wanted the back of the space to have a slight curve and appear to come out of the hillside – so for that we used an old garden hose and played around various sizes of arcs until we came up with the final curve.

After that – good old manual labor took over.  Using a spade shovel – we started from the back curve and dug out 12″ of soil – placing all of the dirt at the front and around the edges for the future flowerbeds.  We used a straight 2×4 board and a level from there to dig out to the front section – digging less and less as we moved forward to create the flat area.  

The entire digging process went fairly quick – taking about an hour or so from start to finish to have the flat area carved out.

We then squared out and marked off an area for the four holes for the posts – digging them down to a depth of 24″ inches.  We set the four posts with packed earth – and then leveled in and attached the double header beams to keep the structure straight while we finished the floor and flowerbeds.

We used simple and inexpensive limestone dust to create a sub base for the brick floor.  It packs down perfect and at $5.00 a ton – it’s the perfect “cheap” answer to creating a great base for the brick.  After we tamped down the base – we hauled up some of  the left over brick from my dads old barn and laid in the floor.

 To eliminate a lot of extra work and cutting brick – we laid the border and edges first to make sure we ended on full bricks – and then laid  in the rest to complete.  We knew we would have stone covering the back curved edge – so for that we just used full brick to the back.

We are fortunate to have a quarry about 10 minutes from the house – so the old farm truck got a workout taking a few trips to bring back the limestone dust about 4 ton of boulders for the edging and stone wall.

Once the edging was all complete – we cut out the top board with double notches and a curved edge and slipped them over the double beams.  We added a top layer of flat stringer boards, and then screwed them down to secure.

Adding A Little Flair:

Old windows added to the back of the pergola.
Old windows added to the back of the pergola.

To add a little “extra” to the structure – we used some old wooden windows which had been given to us by my sister from a remodel.  We attached them on the back of the structure with a few screws on top of a simple double 2×4 beam.

All in all, it took us about 8 hours of work to complete – if only the wine making process from planting to tasting could be so quick!  Oh well, someday…..

Happy Gardening! – Mary and Jim

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Building A Hillside Vineyard Pergola – A Place To Enjoy The Outdoors
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