Decorative Structures (DIY Small Buildings)

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Some small buildings might have practical uses, but they mainly are intended to be decorative features in a yard, garden, or park. In some cases, it's the foliage growing on or around them that forms the main decoration. The building might be as much a support for climbing trees, creepers, vines, and other foliage, as it's a practical building for storage or just sitting in. Sometimes, what you build is enveloped by natural growth, for which its only function is to provide support. Of course, many functional buildings are decorative in themselves and , even when they are plain, the foliage covering them and around them can provide charm to the general scene. Plants and flowers in pots and boxes can add decoration to what is otherwise a rather austere building.

A decorative building might be a complete structure with walls, door, and roof, particularly if you intend to use it as a storage place. You can build other decorative buildings without a door and they even could be without some or all of the walls and roof. In that case, the woodwork might be there mainly to support frees or bushes chosen for their ability to form a close covering of tightly- packed branches, twigs, leaves, and flowers. What you build is a skeleton on which the growing things fill in to just be decorative or to make a natural wall and roof.

Many names are used for these structures—pergola, gazebo, arbor, summer house, or sun shelter. It is important to remember that if the structure is mainly there to support foliage, it might become engulfed with branches and foliage in years to come, so it has to be durable. Replacement or repairs might be impossible without wrecking the years of growth that it has to support. Use a wood with a good resistance to rot, or a wood which is thoroughly impregnated with preservative, which will not have an adverse effect on anything growing near it.


One of the simplest structures to erect is a framework for roses or other plants to climb and cover. Such a framework on posts is called a pergola, if the assembly is more than a single-line screen. Parallel posts might be alongside a path and you could include an arch. The framework on top allows the climbers to spread and make a roof of foliage, providing an attractive arrangement, shelter from the sun, and an impenetrable shelter from rain. Besides making a floral cover over a path, a pergola can act as a shelter for seats and would make a good division in a garden, possibly between the vegetable plot and a flower and grass arrangement.

Ill. 6-1. A pergola supports foliage, so that grows to form a roof.

As shown in Ill. 6-1, the pergola is arranged with parallel posts, with a bay on each side of a raised part that can form an arch over a walkway. In the other direction, there could be a narrow path or the area might be taken up by the plants that produce the foliage. This design is offered as a specimen of a pergola, but you could modify the layout to suit your available space or to suit a particular garden or yard layout. It might take a few years for the foliage on a pergola to reach perfection, and you need to visualize how it will look in relation to other features. It is quite large and will form a background to a large floral display, or it might form a screen for a less attractive part of the view. It might also serve as a windbreak when the foliage is in leaf and bloom. In the winter, however, it will be more of a skeleton through which wind might blow with little hindrance, although its appearance still might be regarded as attractive.

Because of its size and the effects of wind, as well as the dead weight of what is growing on it, you should build a strong pergola. Parts cross squarely. It would be unusual to include wind bracing. Secure mounting of the posts and strong joints should provide adequate stiffness. As with other buildings, squareness is important. The ground probably will not be level. It would be a mistake to use the ground as a datum, as parts which are not vertical or horizontal will be very obvious to an observer, especially if you can see parts at different angles. Check levels and plumbs throughout the assembly. See that posts are upright, from every viewpoint. Check the levels of horizontal parts, not only with a level, but by sighting across. When you have one piece known to be level, sight across the other parts and see that they are parallel.

If the ground is not level in different areas under the pergola, it might be advisable to bring it nearer level before starting to build. A difference of 6 inches or so between one end and the other might not matter, but if you are faced with more of an incline, a large difference in height of the pergola between one end and the other will not look right, if you attempt to keep the top level. In that situation, it might be possible to get an attractive effect by taking the top up in steps.

The most vital parts of the pergola are the posts. You can mount a durable wood or other wood impregnated with preservative in the ground, but rot still might occur eventually. It might be better to keep the wood above the ground by bolting it to concrete spurs which you have buried a suitable amount.

It might be possible to buy suitable concrete spurs, but they are not difficult to make. The section of spurs should be about the same as the posts. Length will depend on the soil. Sandy soil will need longer posts than clay. Allow for about 18 inches above the ground. The example shown in Ill. 6-2A has 15 inches below ground. In most ground, it should be sufficient to compact dirt around the spur, but in very soft ground, you might have to put more concrete under and around the spurs before covering them with dirt.

A suitable mold for making a spur is a three-sided box with nails only partly driven. A block at one end makes the tapered top (Ill. 6-2B). Allow for two bolts to hold the wood. To make the holes in the concrete, place ½-inch bolts wrapped with Scotch tape into the wet cement (Ill. 6-2C), then you can knock them out after the concrete has set. Coat the inside of the box with oil or liquid detergent to prevent the wood from sticking to the concrete.

Use a sand and cement mix. If you include stones, they should be very small. After half filling the box, lay in two ¼-inch or 3 rods as reinforcements. Fill the box and tamp down the concrete to remove air bubbles, then trowel the top surface level. Leave to set, then remove the nails and loosen the wood, so the spur can be put aside to harden. Put the box back together to make the next spur.

Ill. 6-2. Casting a concrete post spur (A,B,C) and woodwork details (D,E).

When you bolt the posts to the spurs, make sure the bottom of the wood is a short distance above the ground. In subsequent gardening, be careful to avoid building up soil round the posts. Something should be between the wood and the concrete to insulate the wood from moisture. This insulation could be a liberal coating of a waterproof mastic or some sheet plastic, such as polyethylene. Use coach bolts with their heads at the wooden side. Grease them before driving them. Do not fully tighten until after erection, in case you must make slight adjustments if the spurs do not finish quite plumb.

Bevel the ends of all the top members. It does not matter what the exact angle is, although 45 degrees looks right. All angles, however, ought to be the same size. Do not cut to a feather edge, but finish with a small amount left square. A simple template will help in marking ends the same (Ill. 6-2D).

The pergola is based on pairs of posts which you join to a cross member. Start from an end, or the center if that's more convenient, and truly mount one of these assemblies. Measure further assemblies from this datum, which you will use to check if they are square and true. Posts and cross members should be 4 inches square.

Ensure correct location of the parts meeting by using stub tenons (Ill. 6-2E). Obviously, spacing at the top must be the same as at ground level. Nail a temporary batten across, near the ground level, to maintain the correct distance there. To check that the cross member will be level, put a temporary strip and a level across the shoulders, below the tenons. If necessary, re-cut shoulders or adjust the amount of spur let into the ground. Sizes of the example are shown in Ill. 6-3A. The stub tenons are there for location and provisional assembly. You will strengthen the joints with rods later.

Erect the next assembly in the same way. Check that the tops are not only level across, but level with each other when you test them with a temporary, lengthwise piece and a level. Make two long pieces. It will be helpful in assembly if you give these pieces shallow notches to hook over the cross members (Ill. 6-3B).

Drill at the center of each joint so you can drive a steel rod to be used as a dowel down into the post (6-3C). This hole could be ½ inch in diameter, but if you have the equipment to make larger holes, ¼ inch or ¾ inch would be better. Taper the end of the rod so it drives smoothly. The rod should not fit tightly or the wood might split. A dry joint should be satisfactory, but you could put epoxy glue in the hole, especially if the rod does not fit tightly.

Make the other side in the same way. If you want the assembly to be straight, check alignment with a string stretched along the foundation line. You could follow a moderately-curving path, if you wish, by making one side shorter than the other, but in the example, it's assumed the assembly will be straight.

For the central arch, make packing pieces (Ill. 6-3D), then put lengthwise pieces above them, and join the parts with more rod joints.

What you do at the top depends on what you want to grow over the framing. You might need fairly close cross pieces for some foliage. It even might be advisable to use wire netting on a light frame. The best-looking pergola has an arrangement of cross pieces, evenly spaced, and projecting to the sides with matching ends. This arrangement is suitable for most roses, vines, and similar climbing plants.

In the example, 2-inch x 3-inch-section strips are laid across (Ill. 6-3E) and held with long nails. Place one of these pieces near each end and space the others fairly evenly between them.

Ill. 6-3. Suggested sizes for pergola parts.

If you wish to treat the entire wood with preservative or paint, choose material that does not affect plant life. It is advisable to only treat in this way well in advance of the time you expect anything to climb up and over the pergola, so any solvents dry out. As plants start climbing, you might have to tie them on or provide strips of projecting wood for them to grip, then remove them after the plants have grown higher.

Materials List for Pergola


You can use a building with a sheltered porch for sunbathing or sitting out in chairs, even when the weather is not perfect, since the structure provides shelter from wind and rain. It can provide a peaceful retreat for anyone wishing to get away from activities inside the house. It might be a place for studying. It could be a play center for children, although it's not primarily a playhouse. The enclosed part of the building will provide full shelter when you need it, and it makes a place to store chairs, tables, games, equipment, or gardening tools.

Ill. 6-4. This summer house has a sheltered porch and ample inside accommodation.

Ill. 6-5. Two views of the summer house of the suggested size.

The summer house shown in Ill. 6-4 has a base which is 9 feet square, divided in half by a partition with a door and windows (Ill. 6-5). The upper part is open, with sheltering lower sides, and a rail front. The door is arranged to lift off, so you can put it inside, instead of it swinging and interfering with seating on the porch. The exterior probably will look best with shiplap siding and you might use that on the partition. You could, however, cover all the building or just the partition and door with plywood. The summer house is built on a floor, which forms part of the assembly.

Most of the framing can be 2-inch-square wood, although you could increase that to 2 inch x 3 inch for greater strength. The roof is boarded, without separate purlins and is covered in the usual way. Much of the decorative appearance comes from the bargeboards and matching eave’s strips. The fence at the front has square uprights, but if you have the use of a lathe, they would look attractive if you made them as turned spindles with square ends.

Start with the floor, which should be 9 feet square. Use 1-inch boards and 2-inch x 3-inch joists at about 18-inch centers (Ill. 6-6A). Close the joist’s ends with strips across (Ill. 6-6B).

Make the building to fit the floor. Let the cladding overlap the floor—either just the top boards or to the bottoms of the joists. Use the floor as a guide to sizes when making the other parts.

Make the partition (Ill. 6-6C) and use it as a height guide when making other parts. It probably will be best to make the bottom part of the frame right across at first (Ill. 6-6D), then cut out the part for the doorway when you nail or screw the partition to the floor. Halve the frame parts or use open mortise- and -tenon joints. Make the frame width to fit inside the sides when they stand on the floor (Ill. 6-6E). The side cladding should go over the edge of the floor. At the apex, allow for a 2-inch x 4-inch ridge to be slotted in (Ill. 6-6F), with a supporting rail underneath. Vary door and window sizes, if you wish.

When you have erected the building, the partition will fit between uprights on the side, with its covering overlapping, whether it's boards or plywood (Ill. 6-6G). Consequently, when you cover the partition, let the covering extend enough at the sides. At top and bottom, the covering should be level with the framing.

Ill. 6-6. The summer house floor (A,B), its front (C,D) and constructional details (E,F,G,H).

Make the back of the building the same as the partition, except you leave out the door and windows and extend cladding over the floor edge. This procedure means the framing could be the same as the partitioli, with the center and bottom rails right across. Cover in the same way as you did the partition, since there is a similar overlap at the corners, which you will cover with a filler strip between the meeting boards.

Ill. 6-7. A side of the summer house (A,B), a roof truss (C), and assembly details (D,E,F,G).

The pair of sides could have windows, but they are shown closed (Ill. 6-7A). Cladding is taken to the front edge, but you could arrange open rails, similar to the front, i you wish. Cladding should be level with the frame all around, except you should allow for going over the floor edge and for going over the ends of the covering at the front of the partition. Cover pieces will be over this joint and along the top edge of the porch. Bevel the top edges of the sides to match the slope of the roof (Ill. 6-6H). The top part of the frame extends 6 inches at the front and 3 inches at the back to support the roof. This top part also might be 3 inches deep for extra stiffness and you could build small angle brackets into the front, open corners (Ill. 6-7B).

Use the top part of the partition as a guide when making the front, which fits between the side uprights (Ill. 6-7C), where you will nail and screw it. Extend its cladding over the side uprights. Slot the apex to take the ridge piece. Make its bottom edge 5 inches below the eaves. Fit a covering piece over this edge (Ill. 6-7D) and around its edges.

The rails or fence at the front are shown extending 24 inches from the sides, but you can make them any other width. This width gives a good space for moving chairs and other things in and out, as well as allowing several people to pass. Make two identical frames, with strong corner joints. Use planed wood and take the sharpness off the exposed edges. Two uprights about 1½ inch square should be enough intermediately (Ill. 6-8A).

You will mount this assembly on the edge of the floor and you will securely screw or bolt it to the floor and the side uprights. Arrange an overlapping piece to extend to the bottom of the floor (Ill. 6-8B) to stiffen the post at the open end of each piece.

Ill. 6-8. Sizes and details of the fence at the front of the summer house.

Start erection of the building by bolting the two sides to the back and the partition— coach bolts at about 24-inch intervals should be sufficient. Square this assembly on the floor and nail the bottom edges down. Cut out the bottom piece across the doorway. Put square filler pieces in the rear corners (Ill. 6-7E). Cover exposed cladding edges at the partition and front (Ill. 6-7F). Put strips on each side of the window frames so they are the same thickness as the cladding (Ill. 6-7G and 6-9A).

Ill. 6-9. Window construction for the summer house.

Fix the front rails and make an overlapping covering piece (Ill. 6-8C) with well-rounded edges. It will look best if you fix it with counter-bored screws and cover them with plugs.

The two windows are shown fixed, but you could arrange for them to open, either with hinges at the top or on the outer edges. They are protected from the weather by the porch, so there is no need for a sill. Put strips all around the window openings (Ill. 6-9B), extending out a little, and rounding all exposed edges. Make the window frames to fit closely (Ill. 6-9C), using rabbeted strips (Ill. 6-9D). You could screw the strips directly in place, but it will probably be easier to make a good, weathertight fit with stop strips inside (Ill. 6-9E). Fit the glass with putty after you paint the woodwork.

Line the sides and top of the doorway in the same ways as the window openings. Put stop pieces near the inner edges (Ill. 6-bA). Make the door (Ill. 6-lOB) an easy fit in the opening. Have the edge of the bottom ledge about 2 inches from the bottom of the door. If the top ledge has only a small clearance below the top stop strip in the opening, you can fit a lock with a keyhole there, or arrange a catch which turns with a knob. Place the other ledge centrally and arrange braces both ways.

At the bottom, fit two pegs to go into holes in the floor (Ill. 6-1OC). Notch over the bottom ledge and taper the extending ends slightly (Ill. 6-1OD). Glue and screw these a few inches in from the sides of the door. Mark holes in the floor where you can drop the pegs in while you angle the door forward, so they hold it fairly close to the stop strips. When the top of the door is held with a lock or catch, the building will be secured.

Fit the ridge to extend 6 inches at the front and 3 inches at the back. If necessary, trim the ends of the eave’s strips to the same length (Ill. 6-11A,B).

Ill. 6-10. The doorway and lift-out door for the summer house.

Ill. 6-11. Roof details for the summer house (A,B,C,D,E,F) and a template for marking edge decorations (G).

You can board the roof direct, using 1-inch x 6-inch boards, preferably tongue and -grooved. If you use boards with plain edges, there can be a central batten (Ill. 6-11C) to prevent the boards from warping out of line. You do not need to fix the batten to the back or partition.

Nail the boards to the ridge and to the eaves, where they should extend about 4 inches (Ill. 6-liD). At the eaves, put a strip underneath, with its edge and the ends of the boards cut vertically, if you are adding the side decoration (Ill. 6-l11E). Put similar square-edge strips down the end boards (Ill. 6-h11F) to support the bargeboards.

Materials List for Summer House

Carry roof covering over from eaves to eaves and turn under for nailing. Turn under at the ends. Allow ample overlap where there are any joints and make joints in the direction that will let water run away from them. You could add capping strips, but they probably will not be necessary on this small roof. Nail battens down the slope at each side at about 18-inch intervals.

If the decoration on the lower edges of the bargeboards and eave’s boards is to look right, the curves should be uniform. Make a template of at least two curves, using scrap plywood or hardboard (Ill. 6-hG). Use this template to mark all the shaped edges and to check them after shaping. Nail the boards to the roof to complete construction.


When the weather is bright and warm, you might wish to take the sun directly, but in cooler conditions, you might enjoy it better through glass. Even on a dull day, it might be pleasant to sit behind an expanse of glass while sheltered from the wind.

This sun lounge is a complete building [ 6-12), but it's arranged so you can open most of the high side to give you shelter while letting the sun in. if all or some of the doors are closed, you are sheltered more, although the glass lets the sun shine through.

Of course, if the object of the building is to let in sunlight, it has to face the sun, so you have to choose a location facing south. You might have uses for such a building if it does not face south, but if the main purpose is to let in the sun, you need to face it south where the sun’s rays are not shaded by trees or buildings. Allow for the lower arc of the sun in winter, if you want to get the most from the sun lounge in cooler weather.

Ill. 6-12. The sun lounge has a front made of doors which fold back.

The building is large enough for several other uses. You could enjoy a hobby there. Children might use it as a playroom. At a sports field or recreational area, you could use it for storage and for viewing events, or as a judge’s enclosure. Spectators could find shelter inside while participants brave inclement weather or just a passing storm. For year-round use, line the walls and , preferably, insulate them. Double glazing would help, but if you plan to use the building after dark, heavy drapes would more than serve the same purpose as secondary glass.

As shown in Ill. 6-13, the building is 6 feet x 12 feet and the doors and back wall are 6 feet 6 inches high. The four front doors are each 30 inches wide, so they open to 10 feet. A single door is in the back, and there can be windows in the ends. It might be possible to buy suitable, standard doors. If so, you might have to modify some dimensions to suit them. The making of the doors is included in the following instructions.

The drawings show a covering of vertical, tongue-and-groove boards, but you could use horizontal shiplap boards or sheets of plywood or other covering material. The framing suits upright boarding. If you use horizontal boarding, you might need more uprights for its support.

The roof is given a solid, square-edged appearance and there are no bargeboards or fascias. Several roof coverings are possible. Treated felt or similar material could be laid over boards. It would be possible to use wood or composite shingles on boards or plywood. There is a solid-wood edging all around.

You could lay a wooden floor on joists over a concrete slab, arranging the structure so the walls stand on the floor and the sheathing continues over the floor. An alternative is to mount the building directly on concrete, stones, or bricks, and fit the floor inside after erection, if you wish to make the floor first, follow the instructions used in earlier examples. The following instructions are for fitting a floor inside the building. This type floor is slightly shallower, which might be an advantage if you do not want much of a step up from the surrounding surface.

You might make the main structure of softwood, but a durable hardwood would be better for the doors, which have to be strong enough to withstand rough use. There would be a risk of broken glass if they were weak enough to flex when moved violently, possibly by the wind, if it's possible to get tongue-and- groove boards in the same wood, you would obtain an attractive effect by giving it a natural look with an oil or varnish finish.

You could erect the building before you make the doors, but as their sizes are important to the rest of the assembly, you might prefer to make them first, then you can allow for any slight differences in the doorway with less trouble than if you had to alter the sizes of the doors. The rear door, if fitted, might be almost identical to the others, or you can panel it fully with wood, instead of having the glass panels.

Prepare the parts for all the doors together and cut and fit joints at the same time, so they finish identical. Use planed wood, which will be about ¼ inch under the nominal size, so 2 inch x 3 inch for the top and sides will actually be 1¾ inch x 2¾ inch. Make the door with the lower part filled with tongue- and -groove boards (Ill. 6-14A). The glass panels have their bar slightly above hallway, which looks better than dividing the space equally (Ill. 6-14B).

Ill. 6-13. Sizes and layout of the folding door sun lounge.

Rabbets will have to be put in the upper parts for the glass and grooves in the lower part for the boarding. If the rabbets are made 1 inch wide (Ill. 6-14C), the tenons might be ½ inch wide. You can continue this design into the lower part, where the grooves are ½ inch wide (Ill. 6-14D) and the mortises and tenons will fit into them. Prepare the top of the door with a rabbet right through show them with tradition (Ill. 6-14E). Make the central-glazing bar with similar rabbets on both sides (Ill. 6-14F). The bar between the glass and wooden panels needs a rabbet on the top and a groove underneath (Ill. 6-14G). For the bottom of the door, cut a groove right across (Ill. 6-14H). Prepare the door sides in pairs with rabbets down to the dividing bar and grooves below that.

Ill. 6-14. Make the sun-lounge doors first. Here we show them with tradit. joints.

Have the door sides too long until after you have cut mortises and glued in the tenons. This procedure prevents the end grain from breaking out and protects the doors while they are handled, if the extensions are not cut off until you are about to fit the doors. Tenons need not go through the sides, but should be about 1½ inches deep.

Mark all the crosswise parts together, so they are the same length between shoulders. Cut back the tenon widths at the top, so there is solid wood left in the sides and set back the shoulders to suit the rabbets (Ill. 6-14J). Cut mortises in the sides to suit. Cut the glazing bar similarly (Ill. 6-14K).

At the center bar, cut the shoulders the same length and also the tenons between the bottoms of the rabbets and the bottoms of the grooves. Notch the back to fit over the rabbeted part of each side (Ill. 6-14L). At the bottom, cut back the tenon width in the same way as the top. Because of the depth, divide the tenon into two, with a ½-inch gap (Ill. 6-14M).

If you can get tongue-and-groove boards only ½ inch thick, they could go directly into the grooves, but the boards are more likely to be thicker than that. If so, cut down the edges to fit in the grooves (Ill. 6-14N). Do not force them too tight in the width, as there should be a little allowance for expansion and contraction. Lengthwise, they should be a tight fit.

Be careful to check squareness as you assemble the doors. Check the shape of each door on those you previously assembled. See that they remain flat, as a twist in any door will affect the fit of the whole set. If you clamp tightly as you assemble and use waterproof glue, the door joints should be strong, but you could drill through the centers of the tenons and glue ½-inch dowels through the joints.

Although you might not be painting or varnishing yet, you should apply putty over paint. It is worthwhile painting in the rabbets now, so it's dry when you start glazing.

The pair of sides are straightforward frames (Ill. 6-15A). Use 2-inch x 3-inch wood with the 2 inch direction towards the skin. Corner joints might be any of the usual type, although open mortise-and-tenon joints (Ill. 6-15B) should make the strongest corners. If you will be covering with vertical boards, there is no need for intermediate uprights. If you will be using horizontal-shiplap boards, continue the window upright nearer the center to the full depth. Check squareness and see that the opposite ends match.

Cover with upright tongue-and-groove boards, making them level with the edges all around. When you have erected the building, cover the meeting corners with a filler strip (Ill. 6-15C).

Trim the boards level with the frame around the window. At the top, fit a covering piece with a taper and groove to shed rainwater (Ill. 6-15D). At the bottom, arrange a similar piece (Ill. 6-15E). Notch both covering pieces and continue them a short distance over adjoining boards. Cover the vertical edges with narrower strips (Ill. 6-15F). Put stop pieces all around inside the frame (Ill. 6-15G).

Ill. 6-15. A sun lounge end, with sections of edges and joints.

Frame the back (Ill. 6-16A) with 2-inch x 3-inch strips with their 2-inch face towards the skin, except for the top piece. Face the top piece the other way, to allow enough wood for the bevel to match the roof (Ill. 6-16B). Position the rear door, if you want one, in a position to suit your needs. It can't be quite as high as the front doors.

Ill. 6-16. Details of the back and front of the sun lounge.

When you cover the back, cut the boards level with the frame at top and bottom, but allow extra at the sides to overlap the ends (Ill. 6-15C). The overlap should be an amount that will allow you to fit a filler piece during erection. If you cover with horizontal-shiplap boards, include more uprights at 30-inch intervals or less. The length of back and front shown allows for fitting inside the ends to give an overall length of 12 feet. You can increase this length, but do not shorten it if you are to include four front doors which are 30 inches wide. You must have some of the front boards on each side of the doorway to provide stiffness.

Make the front (Ill. 6-16C) in a similar way to the back, with a strip-on edge at the top, beveled to match the slope of the roof. Measure the doors together and allow for the cover pieces (Ill. 6-16D) at the sides and top when positioning the frame parts for the doorway. To keep the long, horizontal parts straight and to hold the frame in shape, join a short, central upright and two diagonal braces (Ill. 6-16E) to the other parts.

Cover the front in the same way as the back, with extending parts at the sides. Trim level with the doorway and cover the edges. Each side piece will have to take the weight of two doors on the hinges, so fasten the cover pieces with waterproof glues and screws. When you mount the doors, use screws in the hinges long enough to penetrate the wood behind the door frame. Fit stop pieces at top and sides that will hold the front surfaces of the doors level with the front surfaces of the wall.

Assemble the four walls together with ½-inch bolts at the corners about 18 inches apart. Check squareness by measuring and comparing diagonals. if necessary, put temporary diagonals across to hold the building square while you add the roof, which is based on 2-inch x 4-inch rafters from front to back. The finished roof is intended to project 12 inches at the front, 6 inches at the back, and 9 inches at each side.

Fit the first two rafters over the ends of the building. Other rafters at about 24-inch intervals should be adequate (Ill. 6-17A). Join the ends of the rafters with pieces that project far enough to hold the rafters at the side overhang (Ill. 6-17B). Provide further support with short pieces between the end rafters (Ill. 6-17C).

You could cover the roof with thick plywood, but 6-inch boards are suggested (Ill. 6-17D). Shingles, plastic tiles, or any of the flexible covering materials could go over these boards. After covering, edge all around with strips (Ill. 6-17E). The strips at the front and sides could stand up slightly, but at the back, keep the top edge low, so it does not stop the runoff of water (Ill. 6-17F). You could mount a gutter there, leading to a downpipe.

Cover the undersides of the overhanging rafters. You could cover with boards, but it's probably easier to use ½-inch-exterior plywood (Ill. 6-17G) fitted closely to the wall boarding.

The windows in the end might be fixed or opening, hinged at the top or side. You can putty glass for a fixed window directly into the stop strips, but it's better to make separate frames, as described for earlier building (Ill. 5-2 5).

If you wish to build in a wooden floor after you have erected the building and fastened it down to a concrete base, lay down joists the same height as the bottom parts of the wall frames (Ill. 6-18A) at about 18-inch intervals from front to back. You can attach them to the walls, but after you have laid the boards, they will hold in place. Lay these joists, and the bottoms of the frames, on plastic sheeting or be sure they are coated well with a waterproof mastic. They always should be protected from rot with a preservative.

Lay the floor boards lengthwise, going over the frame parts and cuffing around uprights (Ill. 6-18B). You can make joints lengthwise over joists. At the front, the floor will act as a doorstop. Fit the floor boards there with their edge level with the stop pieces on the side (Ill. 6-18C). Fit a strip across in front of the bottom part of the frame, either level with the covering boards or projecting to form a step (Ill. 6-18D). As this area will have to take wear from feet, you could use hardwood. You also might wish to put a hardwood lip on the front floor board.

The doors close flat, but when opened, each center door swings in against its outer door. The two fold against each other and back against the wall (Ill. 6-19A). If they are to open this way, the knuckles of the outer door hinges must be clear of the surfaces, (F 6-19B) and the hinge knuckles of the inner doors must project inwards (Ill. 6-19C). Three 4-inch steel or brass hinges, placed in the sides of the door, should be suitable.

Each door should have a little top and side clearance and move freely above the strip at the bottom of the frame. To secure the doors, fit bolts at top and bottom of the edge of each door towards the center of the building, so they can go into holes in the surrounding wood. In this way, you can secure the front doors from the inside. After fastening them, you can leave by the back door.

Ill. 6-18. Details of the floor and front corner of the sun lounge.

Ill. 6-19. How you fold and hinge the doors of the sun lounge.

You do not need a fastener between the inner doors and you do not need to fit handles as you operate the doors by pushing.

Fit the back door in a similar way, but provide it with a lock operable from either side and a knob or handle.


Although most buildings have square corners, they can be other shapes. You might want to fit a building into an awkwardly-shaped plot of ground. This requirement would need to be individually designing. Buildings might be made of special shapes for the sake of their appearance. A round building is difficult to make in wood, but a multi-sided one need not be much more difficult to construct than a square one. Making a building with an odd number of sides is an interesting geometric problem. An eight-sided building, not necessarily a regular octagon, involves angles of 45 degrees, but you will be dealing with twice as many sides as the more usual square-cornered building. If you have six sides, you will not need to make so many walls and roof sections. Some advantages exist in giving the building a regular hexagon as a floor plan. One advantage is the attractive appearance. Another is the ease with which you can set it out.

The sides of a regular hexagon are the same length as the radius of the circle on which you base it, so the lines from the corners to the center divide the area into equilateral triangles (Ill. 6-20A). As all the angles in an equilateral triangle are 60 degrees, this is convenient. You can set many saws and planers accurately to this angle.

Materials List for Folding-Door Sun Lounge

Ill. 6-20. The method of marking out a large hexagon.

To set out a large hexagon, make an improvised compass with a strip of wood, placing an awl through at half the distance you want the shape to be across the points (Ill. 6-20B). With a pencil against the end, draw a circle. Now move your “compass” so you can step off the radius around the circumference (Ill. 6-20C). Join the points you have marked to make your regular hexagon (Ill. 6-20D). You can make a hexagon using the size across the fiats, but it's easier to work using the distance across the points.

The gazebo shown in Ill. 6-21 and 6-22 is based on a hexagon which is 9 feet across the points. It is 7 feet from the floor to the eaves. One side has glazed double door. The sides next to it have windows. The other three sides are boarded solidly.

The covering is shown as tongue-and-groove boards laid diagonally. There could be horizontal-shiplap boards or you could have tongue-and-groove boards vertically. A painted plywood skin might suit some locations. Shingles are suggested for the roof, but you can use other coverings.

To mark out the floor shape, put down sufficient floor boards with their undersides upwards. With an improvised compass, obtain the positions of the points and join them to get the hexagonal floor shape (Ill. 6-23A). It is convenient to have the floor boards parallel with two sides. On this floor shape, lay out the floor beams, which you might halve at the corners and other joints (Ill. 6-23B).

Ill. 6-2 1. This hexagonal gazebo is 9 feet across and has two windows and double doors.

Assemble the beams together, then turn the floor over and nail down the floor boards. Trim the edges level. This design should make a strong, flat assembly on which you can base the building (Ill. 6-23C). If it's to be mounted on concrete, you might wish to raise it with blocks at the corners, so there is ventilation below.

You can mount the walls on the floor in two ways. Keep the wall framing level with the edges of the floor, then continue the cladding down to cover the floor edges (Ill. 6-23D). This method requires careful control of sizes. The second method is more tolerant of small errors, and it has a better appearance. Cover the edges of the floor all around with boards (Ill. 6-23E). When you fit the building walls, include a sill (Ill. 6-23F), which will direct rainwater away from the floor edges. If you do not get the wall sizes quite the same as the floor edges, small differences will not show.

Ill. 6-22. The sizes and shape of the hexagonal gazebo.

Ill. 6-23. Making the floor of the gazebo.

Although you should strive for perfection, it's difficult to get all six sides of the hexagon exactly the same. When you start making the walls, decide which edge, with floor boards parallel to it, will be the doorway. Then, as you make the wall panels, match them to the floor edges and mark where each will be.

Ill. 6-24. One solid side of the gazebo, showing diagonal boards and sections at corners and bottom.

Make the three closed walls, which are the same, except for the need to match widths to the floor. Diagonal cladding is shown, but you could have vertical or horizontal boards.

If a wall is to stand on a sill, the outside of the cladding should be the same width as the length of the side of the floor (Ill. 6-24A). If you intend to take the cladding over the edge of the unbordered floor (Ill. 6-23D), it's the framing which should be the same width as the length of a floor side. Cut the upright edges of the frame and the cladding, when you fit it, to 60 degrees (Ill. 6-24B). Top and bottom edges are square. Other framing divides the panel into two across and three vertically (Ill. 6-24C). When these walls meet (Ill. 6-24D), it's impossible to put bolts through. It probably will be easier and more satisfactory to nail or screw the uprights together. You can use any of the usual frame joints for assembly of these walls.

The cladding is shown as tongue-and-groove boards laid at a 60 degree angle to the floor (Ill. 6-24E). You could use 45 degrees or any other angle, but the upward angle gives an illusion of height. You can clad all of the walls in the same way, but you improve appearance if you arrange slopes alternate ways, preferably so the joints on one panel match those on their neighbor.

You could fit the sills to the panel now, or you could fit them after you mount the walls on the floor. Let a sill project about 1 inch. Slope the exposed top and plow a groove underneath to prevent water from running back (Ill. 6-24F). Miter the corners at 60 degrees to match the panel sides.

The two sides with windows and the one side with the doors should have the same overall sizes as the closed panels. Make their outer frames and any cladding or outside boards to match. The final assembly of six sides will be symmetrical on the floor.

The panels with windows (Ill. 6-25A) are identical. Include two uprights to leave a window opening 40 inches wide (Ill. 6-25B). Put a rail across at the bottom of the window. The cladding probably will be stiff enough to support itself below the window, but if you think it's necessary, put another rail across the center of this space.

Clad the sides to match the closed walls. Short pieces of cladding are shown above the window space (Ill. 6-25C), but as this part will not show very much under the roof, you may put a single board there. Put a sill at the bottom of the window opening (Ill. 6-25D) and line the sides and top with pieces which project a short distance outside the cladding (Ill. 6-25E).

Arrange the windows in each side with a lower fixed part and an opening top section. This design should provide enough light and ventilation, coupled with the glazed pair of doors.

Make the lower fixed windows from planed 2-inch x 3-inch strips rabbeted to take the glass on the outside (Ill. 6-25F). Glue and screw these windows tightly to the frames.

For the opening windows, put stop strips around the opening (Ill. 6-25G). Make the window with a 2-inch-square top and sides, and a 3-inch-deep bottom (Ill. 6-25H). Hinge the window at the top, and fit a strut and catch to the lower edge.

Ill. 6-25. A gazebo side with a window.

When you make the frame for the pair of doors, make a temporary bottom rail to keep the frame in shape until you erect it. When you assemble the six sides on the sill and floor, take that, rail out, so the doors fit over the sill and swing inwards (Ill. 6-26A).

You will not have space to fit diagonal cladding on each side of the doorway, but you should fill In with vertical pieces (Ill. 6-26B) and fill the top to the same thickness. Line the sides and top (Ill. 6-26C). Make the two doors the same and in the same way as described for the previous building (F 6-14). There is no intermediate glazing bar and you should arrange the bottom panels with boards diagonally. Reduce the thickness of the boards to fit in the rabbets the same way as the earlier door.

Hinge the doors to swing inwards (Ill. 6-26D) and put strips outside at top and sides (Ill. 6-26E). Three 4-inch hinges should be satisfactory. One door might have bolts up and down and the other door might have a lock to it.

Although it's possible to prefabricate the floor and the six sides almost completely before erection, it's advisable to work on the roof in position. Build the walls on the floor before starting on the roof. See that there is no twist. The floor will keep the bottom in shape, but check diagonals at the top. if there are any errors, put temporary struts between offending corners and leave them in place until the roof is far enough advanced to hold the walls in the correct shape.

At the top, fit 2-inch- x -3-inch strips laid flat to serve as wall plates when you build on the roof (Ill. 6-27A). To help tie the walls together, halve and screw the corner joints in this assembly.

The roof slopes at 30 degrees from the corners of the building (Ill. 6-27B). As the distance is less across the sides, it's slightly steeper on the surfaces. Although you can do a certain amount of preparatory work, it's better to do much of the fitting of parts as you progress.

A pair of rafters across opposite corners are the key parts in making the roof (Ill. 6-27C). Cut their meeting ends at 60 degrees and link them with a piece underneath (F 6-27D). Notch over the wall plates and trim the ends to shape (Ill. 6-27E). The roof covering has to rest on the rafters, so bevel their top edges to suit. The angle shown in Ill. 6-27F is approximate and you should test this when you have temporarily assembled all the rafters, by laying a straight piece of wood across. It does not matter if you do not achieve perfection, but it's easier to cover the roof neatly if parts cross reasonably flat.

Make the rafters to the other corners in the same way, but allow for the thickness of the main rafters at the top (Ill. 6-27G). When you are satisfied with the top angles and assembly so far, nail the rafters to the wall plates and to each other. For most roof coverings, it's advisable to add more rafters spacing them equally along each side (Ill. 6-27H). Their tops are flat. Cut their lower ends in line with those of the corner rafters. This step completes the skeleton of the roof. Check flatness of the surfaces in all directions.

Whatever the method of covering the roof, it will help to first cover the rafters with exterior plywood. This plywood gives a smooth base and acts as a lining for the roof. Use ½-inch plywood (Ill. 6-28A). Where plywood joints come on the six main rafters, cover with sheet plastic or other waterproof, flexible material, with a good overlap, and glue down or make sure it's held in place by covering it later. Cover any joints in the plywood in the same way.

Arrange battens to suit the shingles, if that's the type of covering you prefer (Ill. 6-28B). As shown in Ill. 6-28C, the shingles are 16 inches long with a 4-inch exposure (Ill. 6-28C), so the battens are 4-inch centers. Work from the eaves upwards. Where the shingles meet over the main rafters, miter them. You could interleave more plastic or bituminous sheeting under adjoining shingles, for further waterproofing.

At the apex, the shingles will reduce to quite narrow triangles. Take them as close as you can to the top, then use a hexagon of lead or copper sheeting about 12 inches across, to cover the meeting of the six sets of shingles. Finish it to the roof shape and nail it down closely.

Ill. 6-27. Roof construction of the gazebo.

Materials List for Hexagonal Gazebo

Ill. 6-28. A roof section showing shingles over plywood.

A gap will be between the wall plates and the underside of the roof. This gap might be left as ventilation, but if you prefer it closed, fit pieces between the rafters.

The entrance is a few inches above the surrounding ground. Fit a step under the sill, and make it the full width of the doors. It will be convenient and improve the appearance of the gazebo.


If you make a pergola structure with a seat, it becomes an arbor. Foliage grows over it and around it and makes it a shelter. The foliage might be quite dense, except at the front, or it might just form a roof. Roses particularly are associated with an arbor, but you can use any type of climbing plant. You could build a pergola and place a seat under it, but it's better to build the seat in. As this is a permanent structure and since it's exposed to all kinds of weather, you must make the seat of wood. Any softening must be with portable cushions. This fact does not mean the seat can't be at a comfortable angle, for use with out cushions on occasions.

The arbor shown in Ill. 6-29 has inverted V legs supporting a flat top similar to a pergola. At each end, a strut parallel with a leg slopes up to give additional support to the top. This strut sets the angle of the seat back which has vertical slats. You can make the bottom of the seat solid or slatted. The legs go into the ground and crosspieces prevent them from sinking too far. The suggested sizes (Ill. 6-30A) are for an arbor 6 feet high and about 7 feet long, but you can alter these to suit your needs or available space.

You can use softwood treated with preservative or a more durable hardwood. Remember that once you erect the arbor and foliage is growing over it, you can't do much to treat or repair it. Its original construction must be strong enough to have an expected life of many years. Bolts ought to be galvanized to minimize rust. Any glue should be a waterproof type and screws should be plated or should be made of a noncorrosive metal. The main parts are 2 inch x 3 inch or a 4-inch section.

Start by setting out an end. If you want to set tools, the angles are 15 degrees. From the ground line, draw a centerline square to it, then 72 inches up, mark the apex of a triangle with a 3 9-inch spread at the base (Ill. 6-31A). Draw the top across (Ill. 6-31B) and mark the widths of the wood. Draw the seat support across the legs (Ill. 6-31C). The seat top is symmetrical about the centerline of this seat support and the strut slopes up from the back of it, parallel with the front leg (Ill. 6-31D). This layout gives you all the shapes and sizes you need to start construction.

Notch the tops to take the beams (Ill. 6-31E). Let the legs meet on the beam and drill through for bolts. Spread the bottoms and secure them with the ground strips (Ill. 6-31F). On this framework, mark where the seat bearers come. Put these pieces across and add the long struts (Ill. 6-31G) marking where they cross and where you want to drill for bolts or where you want to cut joints.

On the seat bearers, mark and cut the notches for the lengthwise seat supports, not more than 1 inches deep (Ill. 6-311iJ. The strut joins by halving. This halving is best cut with a dovetail shape (Ill. 6-3 1J). Cut the notches to take the lengthwise back supports (Ill. 6-31K). At the top, halve the strut into the top piece. Assemble the pair of ends, with bolts where parts overlap and glue and screws at the joints.

Ill. 6-29. Make an arbor like a pergola so foliage can form a roof over a seat.

Ill. 6-30. Sizes of the arbor.

The seat back has vertical slats with a curve cut on their top edge (Ill. 6-30B). You might prefer some other shape. Make the two, 2-inch-square rails, notching ends to fit the notches in the struts. Have the back slats too long at first. Fit them temporarily to the rails. Bend a batten over them and draw a curve on their tops. Remove the slats to cut their curved tops and round all exposed edges. Glue and screw them in place.

Make the seat supports to the same length as the back supports. Put pieces between them—if you divide the length into three, that should be sufficient (Ill. 6-32A). The seat top could be solid, and made up of any boards of convenient width (Ill. 6-32B), or you could use slats with gaps between them (Ill. 6-32C). In any case, round the front and top edges. Glue and screw the seat parts together.

Ill. 6-31. Detail of one end of the arbor.

Glue and screw the seat rails into the end assemblies. With the aid of the top beams the seat rails provide lengthwise rigidity to the structure. Check squareness, both upright and front to back. Because of handling problems due to weight, it probably will be advisable to erect the arbor in position before fitting the beams. The legs are shown with short points to push into the ground in Ill. 6-30C. If this design does not suit your situation, you could set the legs in concrete or you might want to bury flat boards under the legs in loose soil. If the ground is not level, you might have to sink the boards by different amounts. Check with a level on the bottom crosspieces and on the seat or on a board between the bottom parts.

Make the beams all identical. They should overhang by 12 inches or more on the ends (Ill. 6-32D). Bevel the undersides of the ends. Drill down through for a ½-inch-steel rod to be driven in to act as a dowel at each crossing (Ill. 6-32E). To prevent the entry of water and the start of rot and rust, you could drive the rod below the surface and fill the hole with a wooden plug or mastic or nail a thin piece of wood above it.

So plants will grow and engulf the arbor, there should be as much soil area around the base as possible, but you might wish to lay a concrete slab in front of the seat, to provide a clean, dry area for the feet. More in keeping with the arbor would be a platform of slats on crosspieces (Ill. 6-32F). Make it as a unit, so you can lift it occasionally.

If you paint or treat with preservative after you have erected the arbor, do it long before plants start to climb, so solvents will evaporate before the shoots come into contact with the structure. As plants climb, you might have to encourage them to go where you want by tying them to nails or providing temporary strips of wood across the uprights. Ideally, you should have the arbor in position well before the start of the growing season, then you can watch progress, although it will be a few years before the foliage densely covers the roof and walls of your arbor.

Materials List for Arbor

Ill. 6-32. Const of parts of the arbor.

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Updated: Monday, March 7, 2011 8:00