Friday, September 13, 2013

A Pergola Pavilion in Mississauga -- Work in Progress

Ben and Brian are working hard in Mississauga Ontario...


This Pavilion will have a proper shingle roof shortly. Sometimes it is interesting to see how things look along the way! Great work gents!  See more of their work on

Their next project is a circular deck with wrap around steps!

Stay tuned--we will show you what it looks like when it is done!


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Taunton doesn't know what a Pergola is!

I received this ad for an upcoming magazine and what are they advertising it as? They are showing off a pergola! Unfortunately, Taunton thinks an "Arbor" is a "Pergola".

What is the difference? Read my email to Taunton...
Dear Taunton,
Before you embarrass yourselves as a company... you may want to correct the ad and edit your description in the book. The construction you have in the ad...labeled as a "Pergola", is actually an "Arbor". A pergola is a room without walls--An arbor is an entrance to a garden...normally 4x4 or 5x5. Pergolas are typically the same size as a room in a house. 
I would certainly hope you didn't label that as a pergola in the book... that would be funny! 

I also dropped the actual image into the email so that they knew which ad.

WOW! How the mighty have fallen. I used to read FH, FW, but I guess I was new to woodwork. I was soaking up everything, and I guess I didn't know that much. I used to trust them--however, I just don't see them as relevent any longer.

 A few years back I sent a note to an editor criticizing an article on Trim they did--and they told me that the new trend at Taunton is hiring professional editors rather than actual tradesmen. He picked out the issue right away. There just are not any editors left at the publication that can determine which craftsman knows the best methods to actually "Build".

Here is the Ironic part... I submitted a pitch for a "Pergola Book" roughly a year ago now... Now I know! They didn't write back because they thought I was a space cadet! "The nerve of me", pitching an arbor book...and calling it a pergola!
Kind Regards,
Lawrence Winterburn

Friday, January 11, 2013

Historical Pergolas Pt. 2

Doug Abernathy was a trim carpenter, and these are a few more shots from the home he lived in for many years. Covered in vines, barely visible, why was I shocked to find this pergola?

We learn from the past, what worked, what didn't... This looks to me like the rafter was steamed into shape. I couldn't find any lamination lines in the rafters. I could be wrong, however, even numerous coats of paint would not hide the seams, and as far as I know, the epoxies we use today just didn't exist back then.

Take a look at the notch in the post that secures the lamination. It looks to me like the steamed lamination wanted to spring, so they cut a notch in the post to prevent spreading of the curve... That is a cool technique!
Proportionally, the structure is perfect. The detail on the rafters, the overhangs with crisp profiles, this is something a landscape architect may have worked a few days to conjure up, not normally something just cobbled together by a mere carpenter.

The structure is listing due to a splint being attached to a post that was likely broken...the patch actually is causing the structure to lean excessively. Sure, the posts need replacing, but the rest of the structure is solid. This is worth restoring.

The question in my mind is, what did this genius carpenter use for wood, and adhesives to make it last nearly 60 years exposed to the elements.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Historical Pergolas pt. 1 - Doug Abernathy

Now, before you are too rough on this structure, this is part of what was one of the most beautiful yards in Collingwood Ontario Canada for a couple of decades. This was simply cutting edge work considering that it was more than 50 years ago that it was built.To be honest, it has striking similarities to some of my designs and when I finally had opportunity to see his work up close I was shocked.

This pergola was built by a carpenter named Doug Abernathy in the late 50's early 60's and by the looks of some of the detailing, his father helped with some of the joinery. I've broken this into 2 posts so that you can get a close look at both structures.

I drove by this place quite a bit, and even stopped in and met Doug while he was having a garage sale about a decade ago. He was a gregarious man, and when I was admiring his handy-work he started telling me about his father, his grandfather and his great grandfather that were all home builders. He was most proud that he still had the gingerbread templates his dad had created, and he knew how it could be done today. He tried to convince me it was a craft that I should carry on--alas, I had another path in mind.

Driving by this house (and the picket fence that disappeared about 8 years ago), noticing the second structure (that I will look at in the next post), I had gained some serious respect for his proportions and how the look just worked together. It was unique detailing I hadn't seen anywhere else, so I was sure that he was a designer, not a copycat.

Young men rush here...and there, and always have 3 things to do and never bother to spend time with the people that they should, so, I simply never spoke to Doug again. He's in a home now, but this spring I saw a worker there doing carpentry in the house, so I dropped in. Here is a bit of what I saw.

Above, you will notice a curved brace which makes the structure stable and it is about 3" wide. I couldn't tell whether it was a cut curve, or a lamination, but for it's age, it has stood up well. There are subtle cracks, but that could just be expansion and contraction. It might be a glued up lamination with the end cuts sealed with pine tar, (which was evident on the other structure).

 He did curved benches, made for comfort and it is all solid wood--not plywood. He left the slats more spaced than you would expect, and that is likely why it has aged gracefully. This was something I hadn't seen or expected as I drove by--and I hadn't gotten close enough to see these structures back when I met Doug. On the right hand side there is a potting bench--however I think that was retrofitted after.

Here is a serious testament to ability. A gate that still works after 50 years. It is braced, it is built stronger than it needed to be, and the joinery has remained tight because he sealed it somehow as it was built.  The trelliswork has held together and lasted because it was lapped over--not notched into itself.

This garden structure was made long before anyone in North America used the word "Pergola". For this reason, I would nominate Doug Abernathy as one of the people that brought Pergolas into the modern age. If I had had a closer look at his structures early on, I wouldn't have had nearly as much to learn about them in my first 25 years in the business.

by Lawrence Winterburn

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Yes, People use our Pergola Plans!

Lots of people send photos of what they do with our pergola plans!

Here's one built by Ed McCormick in New Jersey. Thanks for the note ED! Great Work!

Ed Said :
It took me two years to complete it, but the structure is finished and stained. In the spring I will make a blue stone and brick pathway underneath. I have planted wisteria vines on the three trellises ( a bear to buld I might add).

The structure adds an additional module which was stepped up due to grade.Thanks for the great plans.

Warm regards, 

Ed McCormick

Ed, now that you have the new skills, these kind of pergolas and laminations will be much easier. Nice work adding your own touches, like the routered rafter tails and even the additional bent forward. I think it turned out great. Be sure to send us some shots when the landscaping is finished!

Here is another one sent in by Cathy in Washington!
Cathy Wrote:

These are a few pictures of our recently completed pergola from the plans we purchased from your website. As you can see, we modified them to fit the shape of our house. We are both VERY pleased with the way it turned out.

Cathy... I would be very pleased too!  You did a beautiful job adapting the plan to your home and the builder did a gorgeous  job....this one is by the book! I am very impressed...

You both have a free plan for your next project... Please choose whichever one you like. I am posting new plans as available in the coming weeks... so stay tuned! Some very interesting arbours with laminated arches are coming up!

These photos are actually pergola projects derived from the same plan--   P012 Pro Pergola Plans (click for more info)

There are 2 versions available, one is downloadable, and one is printed. The printed one comes with full size templates that you can trace onto sheet goods to make a hard template... Most people buy the printed version than the downloadable for that reason.

Happy building everyone!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pergolas with Curved Beams

Curves are hot when it comes to Pergolas and Decks. This a great example of curved pergolas. This one is a minimalist pergola. Just the beam and open sky above. There is a square pergola beyond, but we will talk about that next post. It is an outstanding pergola on it's own.

The client had a circular patio, so we made the pergola a match for the curve. Luke Simonovski was the builder and I did the computer rendering for this curved pergola and worked with the client, (also a designer), until he was happy with the look.

Many TV builders will fake curves for outdoor, by making thousands of little cuts in the beams to enable them to bend. Fact is, when you make all those little cuts, they get weak, and the end grains soak up moisture, which means it will rot prematurely.
When it comes to curved pergola beams we use solid dry lamination methods. We know the right adhesives and use kiln dried lumber for long lasting structural laminations.

To see more photos of this curved pergola click here

If you are in need of laminated curved beams for a pergola or decks get in touch by email or phone at (888) 293-8938  We will need to know the length and radius.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

P121 Pergola Extended to 12' Wide

 This is one of our most popular pergola plans, (available at Lee Valley Tools). Our client asked for a pre-finished version 12' long at the base. We'll get a plan out by next spring for this size, but most builders should be able to scale up from the stock pergola plans.

This Pergola plan comes with a molded bench design as an option. The digging on this site was a nightmare so we enlarged the lower beam and carried the bench with the existing structure. This plan includes a 6' radius curved 4x4. 

 During assembly you need to be careful to confirm the radius before the glue sets. Glue is a deceiving term--we use waterproof epoxy for all outdoor laminations.

 This is what the curved pergola beams look like after the epoxy has cured--Before sanding.

 Here are the beams all sanded out, faired (a boatbuilding term which just means to make the curve natural and even). We notched the beams to carry the center of the upper beams in the shop. As I mentioned, every stick of lumber in this project was pre-stained with high quality finish prior to installing, (click for Stain Guide). Lumber from this project was Kiln Dried. We can sell you the plans and materials in Southern Ontario. (Call 888 293 8938 for pricing).

If you need to buy any curved beams, braces or rim joists, Get in touch with Me (Lawrence) at the same number. We do a lot of exterior laminations these days.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Pergola on Decks with Hot Tubs

Large decks need a pergola that fits. This hot tub pergola is a perfect match for the proportions of this deck.

This deck with pergola was designed and built for a home near Montreal Quebec. Pre-finished western red cedar, with solid and semi transparent finishes. Tempered glass rails frame the view rather than obstruct it.

I am sure you can imagine yourself enjoying this view, relaxing in your hot tub, shielded from prying eyes of neighbors. Notice the curved cuts on the underside of the pergola rafters.

Speak to one of our local design builders about creating this kind of retreat at your home!

To see more photos of this deck and pergola click here.

To find your local builders of decks and pergolas click here.

To see the video of this deck and pergola project click here

Call 888 293 8938 for a consultation.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Pergola with a Roof? A Pavilion!

This Pergola with a full roof is more commonly known as a Pavilion. 

It has ornate pergola detailing and a full roof with eves-trough. The beams and posts scream pergola, but the roof makes it waterproof and full shade like a pavilion.

Before you tell me that there are no braces... that is what makes this one a little different. The structure is built in to the post assembly. designed a special fastening system just for structures like these. There is NO movement to this structure and it is adjustable if required to be tightened.

This one has shingle and a flat roof to fit within Oakville structural height restrictions.

This was designed by (Lawrence Winterburn) and built by Dan Maragno-- Our Oakville Builder.

To see more of Lawrence and Dan's pergolas, please visit our Pergolas section. To see more photos of this Pergola please click  Roofed Pergola


Monday, September 6, 2010

More Pergolas 2010

Pergolas with Canvas Awnings!

click to see more photos of this project!

This retractable canopy system can be fabricated for installation on nearly any size pergola. This pergola is 9 x 12' but these canopy systems can be made for up to 18 x 30'.

They are waterproof and carry a 12 year warranty on mechanicals and a 5 year Sunbrella warranty on the fabric.

You can go to to choose your fabric and let us take it from there.

The Design is by Lawrence Winterburn and it was built by Luke Simonovski-- our builder in East Toronto.

Friday, September 3, 2010

New Pergolas 2010

A pergola by click large pergolas and large pergolas 2 to see more shots.
It is the time of year that I get to show off some of the work our builders have done this year. Pergolas can be the framework for outdoor rooms, a dining room in this case. You can also see the hot tub in the far end beneath this rather large pergola. This shot is the view from behind the bar with granite counter tops.

We designed benches for guests not taking part in the hot tub festivities and as a separation from the dining area.

Trelliswork adds to the look. This pergola was constructed of western red cedar for the lower parts--and pressure treated materials for the beams and rafters.

Semi-transparent stain can help disguise pressure treated materials in a subtle way. Many of our structures have 2 color finishes which also minimizes upkeep.

For more views of this spectacular pergola built in the Toronto area by our local builder Brian D'Souza and Crew.

To see more shots of this project click pergolas or pergolas2

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Curved Pergola Inspection

A Curved Pergola gone horribly wrong. ( did not build this pergola)

Best intentions won't build a pergola that lasts!

We were called in this month by a customer to give a quote on rebuilding a curved support beam on a pergola. This was obviously built by a well skilled carpenter that has likely built cabinetry. This builder knew something I could attempt to explain to a building department and have them stare back across the counter with an empty glazed over look.

"Box beams can be stronger than solid beams that weigh 3x more if built properly."

The trouble here was a poor choice of materials and adhesives and likely a bit of inexperience. This 5 year old pergola needs a new beam.

The moisture leaked through the connection points and caused the glue to let go when the "Interior Grade Materials" became saturated. As it became more wet, the sealants became porous and actually soaked up moisture from inside. They had leaks from within the beam and into the column caps that were a nasty looking brown color.

They used duracast columns by the look of it, and they held up perfectly.

This curved pergola beam looks to be made of western red cedar for the cap and interior, and they used "Bending Plywood", also known as flex ply, wacky wood or Wiggle Wood, for the exterior layer. They doubled up the flexply for strength and for a brief time it likely worked just fine!

There was no nailing blocks within the curved box beam either, which is something I would typically include.

These days there are better materials to use... We can build a box beam with a roof that you can easily expect permanent service from if maintained. (keep stain on it).

The cost of replacing the deficient pergola beam with one that will last was not feasible to this client. The builder initially had underbid, and the thought of paying nearly the same price they did initially was distasteful. Dan (our builder in Oakville--seen in the photo), has priced installing a square beam and also just removing the pergola for them altogether.

Such a waste!

If you want to know the right way to build a pergola... use our plans. (click) Our Pergola Plans


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Latest Trends in Pergolas

2010 is all about Adaptability!

Retractable canopies operated by a remote control is the latest feature to visit a yard near you.

The old wall mounted awnings are awkward and many homes don't have enough wall height to do it effectively. Nobody wants to duck their head to get under their awning. Mounting those old style awnings farther into the yard is tedious at best.

We've been designing pergolas to work with a new Canopy for a couple of years now so we are getting very good at it. The product is now 10 years old and has been retailing for about 3 years now.

There is a manual version and a motorized unit and each one is manufactured to fit your space exactly. Keep it square for the easiest installation and mount the canopy on a slope to channel water away from an area.

They can be mounted beneath nearly any pergola. If you want the motorized version it is a little more money and you will need power within 10 or so feet of the motor.

The Canvas Canopy has a 5 year warranty and the mechanicals carry a 12 year warranty.

Any relatively level structure with beams in the canopy area can be adapted to the system fairly easily. Of course it is better for us to design something that fits it perfectly and takes advantage of the unique capabilities of these canopies.

With a press of the button you can have your canopy pergola partially open, entirely closed or wide open. With the waterproof Sunbrella Fabric you can even have a sheltered sitting area for rainy days--never postpone that patio party again!

Get in touch with us today at 888 293 8938 to have a system designed just for your pergola. We can now walk you through the process of retrofitting your existing pergola. (expedite the process by sending photos and dimension maps by email to )


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Downloadable Plans !

Our downloadable pergola plans are coming on line presently. There are a few fences up, however P012 pergola plans downloadable version and T005 pergola plans downloadable version are now available. The main difference between the mail order version is that the mail out plans have a full size template inside, and the downloadable (printable), version has a grid view of rafter tails and braces that need (lofting-transferring from grid view to full size-1 grid space=1"). The curves are defined and it is fairly easy to lay those out on masonite for tracing.

You can now be planning your structure within minutes of finding the pergola you want. Rather than just copying the photo and losing it-- you can have a printed copy of the ACTUAL details on file in moments. (these plans currently come by email shortly after ordering--they will be an instant download once our webmaster catches up with us).


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pergola or Arbor ?

Is it a Pergola or an Arbor? (or even Arbour)

Here is a general guideline-- If you live in the Southern US they are all Arbors or Trellises or Patio Covers. Click Pergolas link in the title to see all kinds.
In most of the rest of the world a pergola is a room without walls.
In Australia a Pergola is a roof in the yard and normally has sheet metal applied to reflect the sun.
There are many different variations on the theme.
Generally an arbor is a gate arch or 4 post entrance frame when entering a yard.
This is a gated pergola entrance with trellis screens, (or trelliage or trelliswork) in my humble opinion.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 NEW SITE !

The main page helps you navigate through all the pergolas we have been hiding--actually, we were holding back designs to maintain an advantage over the competition.

This is likely the largest portfolio of pergola designs worldwide... so drop in and stay a while.

The new gallery shows many new pergola designs from the past 4 years not included in the previous website.

When you click the gallery items they open into a feature page and show different pergola views or versions of the pergola projects.

There is a separate section of Pergola Plans that you can find by the drop down menu for DIY Plans.

It has been a lot of work--but we think you will enjoy our new pergolas website!


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Our Pergola Display at the Toronto Home Show!

You can see our Pergola Display at the Spring National Home Show in Toronto Canada in the "Dream Gardens".

This pergola has an internal canvas canopy that retracts and opens by remote control. . As usual, we designed the woodwork to blend with the concept by Connie Cadotte of Garden Retreats.

It is certainly one of the busiest booths in the show. The Pergola-Garden-Landscape display was located at the exit from the dream home.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Simple Pergola Plans

Simple Pergola Plans - T003 DIY. They don't get more simple that this. Pergola plan with trelliswork that can be stretched to about 12 x 12 and has detailing for trelliswork as well.

As usual with plans it has step by step instructions, material list (as shown), and full size templates for any sculpted parts and a stain guide to help you make it last. Switch to 6x6 posts and use hurricane clips if storms are a concern. These are all materials that are easily found in any local lumber yard.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Composite Pergolas

We get a couple of calls a week for composite pergolas. "Serves us right for making our pergolas look so flawless". People see the solid stain and tight joints and they often assume they are cast from plastic.

The fact is composite and PVC have aspects that make them unsuitable for building any structure that is in any way structural.

PVC products, (like siding, and plumbing materials), tend to get brittle when exposed to the sun for extended periods. In a place like Florida you will have a hard time finding an engineer to stick his neck out and stamp plans for a pvc pergola--and everything built in Florida needs an engineer's approval.
Here's a pergola hidden within a now defunct composite decking plant's yard...obviously not attractive enough to show in public. It even looks askew--and watch that last riser, looks like a killer.

Composite products have not been as wonderful as we all hoped. "Maintainance Free", turned into "Low Maintenance" after a few law suits. Recently those containing recycled wood and recycled plastic have been breaking out in mold spots that grow from the interior out, and troubles with disintegration, "Flaking".

There are a few new products, however they all have issues with weakness when heated, so without solid wood or metal within the structure they simply won't take high temperatures, wind or stress of any kind.

The last tragic issue has to do with fastening. It is difficult to make a secure connection from composite to composite, or pvc to pvc, (unless gluing--but even that lacks strength and doesn't look good with sleeves).

To create composite pergolas that don't have a metal frame or wood within will require designs that will change the look of composite pergolas. They won't look like pergolas as we know them--which means that they could be a hard sell.

If there are any composite companies looking to develop plans for composite pergolas give me a call and lets get moving on it.

For more about composite decking (click)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Large Span Pergolas

“I want a 22’ pergola but I only want it supported by two posts.”

We get numerous requests for pergolas that look like this. "Do your pergola plans work for a 16' x 18' pergola with 6 posts", and before I can begin to explain that "that type of span is possible, but that is no simple and basic structure to plan and build due to such a large span"--the guy hangs up! I was going to give him free information but the guy was too impatient to receive it.

Many people want to avoid posts for some reason. It is a common source of frustration for me. That kind of thing requires some engineering—heavy beams and structural tricks and in the end after you triple your budget it just doesn’t look right..

Inspired details need to be simple and practical. Unique Pergolas can be designed and built, however what will it look like and how much will it cost. I always said we can build anything—however you may not like the price.

Pergolas are typically built in a perpendicular way with supports about 8’ to 12’ apart.

The purpose of a pergola is to create a room without walls and offer a vertical source of interest. Just the framework to “Frame the View”. You don’t see very many walls that don’t have any support posts in a house…

“No… I don’t want mullions and I want a window that is 20’ wide”.

Now that would be kind of ridiculous. Even big glass buildings have support columns. There are always dividers and supports spaced between even a wall of windows if for no other purpose than to add strength to the glass.

Supports don’t detract from the view—they enhance it. They bring architecture to the view—blending nature with the human creation.

The last good reason for not having a 20’ span…

Proportional Correctness.