We Built A Garden Pavilion…What You Need To Know!

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As we all know, 2020 was no ordinary year and I think it is safe to say that everyone’s life changed pretty drastically. A global pandemic has a way of doing that, doesn’t it? Well, I am certainly not immune to the pandemic or the effects of it. In March 2020 I contracted Covid19 and, unfortunately, it was no walk in the park. I know many people test positive for the disease and then experience no symptoms but that simply was not the case for me. I actually had many of the symptoms first then tested positive. Through that ordeal, I experienced a whole slew of symptoms which would be recognized as symptoms of Covid19 later in 2020. That was the first of many things in 2020 that would cause me to slam on the breaks and start focusing on other aspects of my life. The virus has made travel virtually impossible for me at this point because I am unwilling to take the risk. Therefore, I’ve focused a lot on the other aspects of my life I neglected before the pandemic. Essentially, this means I’ve been home a lot more, I have to see my house everyday, and have decided to make changes to it including building a brand new garden pavilion on our property.

Building A Home
We built a garden pavilion... what you need to know.
Enjoying our garden pavilion

As I said earlier, I’ve traveled so much in the last 5 years that I never really spent too much time at home. Oftentimes, I’d come home from one trip, rest a few days, and then head out on another. There were months when I would spend a matter of days at home. When you travel as much I did, you don’t really think too much about the place you call home. My things were here and it was a place where my pets lived. But things have changed and I spend most time at home. It isn’t a bad thing at all and I am actually enjoying it. I can adapt to any situation and I’ll definitely happily make my new normal work for me.

When we started spending more time at home, we began to take notice of our home. We have pretty large two-story 1970’s Contemporary style home which probably hasn’t been updated much since it was built. After spending a few week in our home without leaving, we started noticing everything we wanted to change, rebuild, or add to the property. One of the first places we started working was in our garden which was one of the primary reasons we chose to purchase our house nearly 9 years ago. The previous owner had cleared a section of the property of all trees and built a nice garden which we hastily added some makeshift garden beds too before we started our life as travelers. After 5 years of neglect, the garden was in shambles and when Covid started, we decided the garden needed to become our first focus when it came to remodeling our home.

Original Garden Plan
We built a garden pavilion... what you need to know.
One of our garden beds

When we started remodeling the garden, our original plan was to build a few artistic looking raised beds and nothing else. We thought most the garden could remain in a more natural state but a minor accident involving me falling down the hillside and hurting myself as I carried lumber changed that quickly. Alfred built a new set of stairs leading into the garden which made things much safer. The problem we encountered was that our original plan looked pretty shabby compared to the stairs we just built. So we went to the drawing board and redesigned the garden beds while adding a garden pavilion to seal the deal. We never intended to build a garden pavilion but it sort of naturally happened.

Why Build A Garden Pavilion?

In our old garden (before we demolished almost everything) we had a nice little patio where we could sit and enjoy our space. The problem is we never really used it because it wasn’t really an inviting space. I’ve always had the notion that gardens should be enjoyed. They should be considered an extension of your home so it’s necessary to create space within the garden for accomplishing this purpose. When we demolished the original patio space, I suggested we rebuild it in another part of the garden and elevate it slightly. I thought this would be a really nice way to sit out in the garden and be able to see it all at once. Essentially, we wanted to create the space for entertaining friends and family out in our garden.

Garden Pavilion Design
Garden pavilion design
Our sketch up of the garden pavilion

We chose an elevated design for our garden pavilion…quite literally. Our old patio sat on the ground and would get a little flooded and gross. It also just allowed weeds and other plants to grow through the crack of the pavers. For our new garden pavilion, we wanted to make sure this didn’t happen. One of our goals was to also make it feel more purposeful. So we designed a more inviting space offering protection from the sun, or falling acorns, with plenty of room for gathering and enjoying the company of friends. It is a simple square pavilion with open railings that allow views of the garden from any angle. It is elevated off the ground with a roof which keeps it clean and tidy and has railings on three side. The fourth side was left open since it is level with the ground and offers a wonderful view of our shade garden.

You can see the original concept design below.

Location, Location, Location
We built a garden pavilion... what you need to know.
The garden before we started construction.

When it came to location, we decided to relocate the structure. The space where our old patio was situated also happens to be the sunniest spot in our garden. We decided that space would better serve our purposes as a garden bed for growing vegetables and ornamentals. We also didn’t want the patio to be in such a sunny area because North Carolina summers can be intensely and miserably hot. Therefore we decided to build the garden pavilion in the shadiest spot in the garden. We thought it would create a better environment for everyone to enjoy the garden verses having to sit in the sun.

Now, the only problem with our choice of location is that it is within a couple feet of our property line. In Raleigh, and I believe most towns, you can’t build a structure on or too close to your property line to avoid conflicts with your neighbors. In our situation, we like or neighbors and they like us so it was no big deal. We simply asked and they agreed it was ok. However, in your city there may be specific steps that must be taken or you need to build a certain distance from the property line. Just make sure you understand your city’s rules for this type of thing and you’ll be good to go.

Garden Pavilion Materials
We built a garden pavilion and here's what you need to know
Alexas_Fotos / Pixabay

If you’re planning to build your own garden pavilion of any size, you need to consider time and realize it is going to take more than just a few days to build. We planned to have our garden pavilion built in two weeks but it, instead, took about a month to get the entire thing built. Of course, we were both working our normal jobs and getting construction time in when we could but that’s how it is for most people.

As for materials, well, you’re going to need a lot. In fact, you likely will need more materials than you initially expect and will end up making multiple trips to the hardware store. To cut right to the point, here is our list of materials. You’ll obviously adjust the amount of materials needed based on your own design and plan but this gives you a general idea.

  • 22- 2″ x 10″ x 10′ pieces of pressure treated lumber
  • 10- 2′ x 10″ x 12′ pieces of pressure treated lumber
  • 12- 4′ x 10′ x 8′ pieces of pressure treated lumber
  • 20- 2″ x 4″ x 8′ pieces of pressure treated lumber
  • 5- 1″ x 6″ x 8′ pieces of pressure treated lumber
  • 24- 12′ decking boards
  • 1- Pail of 500 3″ decking screws
  • 44- joist hangers
  • 6- bags of cement
  • 24- carriage bolts w/ washers
  • 32- 3″ hex bolts
  • 3- 5 x 10′ galvanized roofing sheets
  • 50- 2.5′ metal roofing screws
Maria_Domnina / Pixabay

You’ll also need quite a few tools to carryout this project. Luckily, we have a very good collection for tools at our house so we didn’t need to buy very many. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the tools we used.

  • Drill
  • 1/4′ drill bit
  • T25 decking screw bit
  • Hex bit for roofing screws
  • Circular saw
  • Sawhorses
  • Ratchet wrench set
  • Jigsaw
  • Level
  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • Post hole digger
  • Compound miter saw
  • String and marking paint
Things to Consider
We built a garden pavilion... what you need to know.
Working on the floor of our garden pavilion

There are a number of things to consider before your start building your very own garden pavilion. Let’s jump right into a few things that I think are very important to consider.

Permits: Depending on where you live, you may well need a building permit. Every city, county, and state has specific laws regarding building new structures on your property. Be sure to do a quick google search to figure out what permits you might need BEFORE you start building. This will influence the dimensions and the design of your structure. For instance, in Raleigh (where I live) we have to obtain a building permit if we build any detached structure exceeding 10 feet in any direction. So we kept our garden pavilion at under 10 feet and avoided the whole building permit ordeal.

Space: Please, please, please make sure you consider the space you plan to build in. Take stock of what is already there. Are there trees surrounding the space? Then you might need to consider designing a reinforced roof capable of handling tree branches falling down on it. How close is the space to your neighbors property? Remember most cities have a minimum 5 foot requirement when it comes to building on your own property which means you can’t build less than 5 feet from your neighbors space.  You’ll also want to consider the space for the sake of determining building materials you need and for the goals you have with your garden pavilion.

Purpose and Style: Before you build, you need to make sure you get a true grasp of why you’re building a garden pavilion. Will it serve as a folly? Maybe you want to be able to have drinks and food with friends in the garden…or perhaps you plan to use it to practice yoga and have tea. Whatever your purpose might be, it will influence your design. Think about the different ways you’ll use your new garden pavilion and plan accordingly.

Do It Yourself: There are a lot of advantages to do any project yourself including the amount of money you will save in labor costs as well as being completely in control of every aspect of the project. However, it’s important to understand your own abilities and limitations. If you don’t have any idea about construction or building things, it doesn’t mean you can’t build your own garden pavilion. But it does mean you will be slightly disadvantaged and have to learn a lot as your going. Ultimately, this means you will make many mistakes in the process. However, the end result can be very rewarding. Just be prepared to take far longer to build than you expect. If you’re not up for this process then it may be a viable option to pay someone to build your garden pavilion for you or purchase a pre-fabricated pavilion kit. Just be totally honest with yourself regarding your ability and budget and then make the best choice.

Time to Build Your Garden Pavilion
We built a garden pavilion... what you need to know.
The start of our Pavilion

I am not going to go into a vast amount of detail in terms of how to build your garden pavilion for a number of reasons. First, there are lots of places online where you can find free or nearly free plans for building all kinds of shelters. For instance, here’s a totally free plan I found online by doing a quick Google search. Second, everyone’s space is different. Our garden pavilion probably won’t work in your space. It’s medium in size which is actually pretty large for most properties but we have fairly large plot of land where we live. And lastly, I couldn’t tell you how we built the pavilion in detail even if I wanted to tell you. I didn’t write it down and it all came from Alfred’s head. He’s the mastermind behind most our projects in terms of actually getting things done. So I leave you with a bird’s-eye view plan. Check out the generalized steps below then put it into action. We didn’t follow a pre-made plan and it turned out amazing. But if you decide you need something planned out for you, there are tons of free plans online.

Step 1 | Plan and Design

The first step to building your very own garden pavilion is the planning stage. Take some time to think about the ways you want to use your garden pavilion. Do you want to hang out and have drinks? Then you need to make it big enough for a seating situation. Are you planning to cook on it? Then you need to consider how you will accommodate a grill or maybe a pizza oven. Do you want to be able to use it through out the year? Then how will you cool it off in the summer or heat it up in winter? Planning is essential in order to ensure you build the appropriate structure.

Additionally, you need to draw out a sketch, measure your space, and then come up with precise measurements for your structure. Take things such as height, width, and length into consideration to determine how many materials you’ll need to build your garden pavilion. This will help you determine a budget and make decisions when it comes to other important aspects of your construction project including the design of your railings, the material your roof will be made of, and the materials you’ll use to build the entire structure.

Step 2 | Purchase Materials

Now that you’ve create a design and you have a pretty good plan for building your garden pavilion, it’s time to purchase the materials you’ll need for construction. The list of materials I’ve provided above gives you a good general idea of the things you may need so use it as a guide. Make sure all your calculations are correct so you buy the correct amount of lumber you need. Of course, you likely will not get everything you need with the first trip to the hardware store and it’s inevitable there will be more trips. But if you buy most of your materials in one go then you’ll reduce the time you spend getting things you’ve forgotten which can be put towards actual construction.

We built a garden pavilion... what you need to know.
Roof Installation
Step 3 | Prep Construction Area

Once you’ve designed your garden pavilion on paper and you’ve purchased your materials, it’s time to start prepping the area for construction. The space you plan to build in may be covered in leaves or weed and must be cleared. You may even have bushes, shrubs, or a tree growing in the space. If this is the case, you’ll need to cut them down and clear the area of roots which may take a bit of effort. Another important aspect of prepping your construction area is leveling the ground. This is important for the structural integrity of your garden pavilion. Using a level and string, you need to dig dirt up and replace it in other parts of the construction zone to make everything nice and level. Otherwise, you’ll need to build a platform as the base for your pavilion.

Step 4 | Build the Garden Pavilion

Next comes the hardest part of the entire project. It’s time to actually build your garden pavilion. You may be able to complete your build in a week or two or it may take a month. I can tell you from experience, it takes longer than you might expect. Make sure you are measuring everything precisely and building things following your plan. You want to ensure everything is constructed with integrity for the sake of your safety and the safety of your guests. Additionally, if you build your pavilion according to plan then it will last for years and years to come.

There are lots of garden updates! Check out some of our earlier garden projects!

We built a garden pavilion... what you need to know.
Working Working
Step 5 | Paint and Seal

After all that work, you’re probably excited to be finished with construction. I know the building process can be annoying but look what you’ve accomplished. Now you can enjoy it! But you might not like the way it looks because it’s lacking color. You might feel you want to immediately paint and seal your garden pavilion but don’t do that. Once you’ve build the garden pavilion, let it sit without paint for about 6 months. This allows the treated wood to breath a little and dry out. If the wood is wet, it cannot absorb the paint. Instead, the paint will dry on top of the wood and not adhere to it which means your paint will begin to chip off in no time at all. It’s best to let it dry out so you only have to paint once.

We built a garden pavilion... what you need to know.
The garden pavilion at night
Step 6 | Decorate and Enjoy

Everything is done! At least, everything that can be completed is finished at this point. You might not be able to paint yet but you can still enjoy your new garden pavilion. Get some patio furniture and arrange it on your brand spanking new garden pavilion. We added furniture, an electric cooler, curtains to make our garden pavilion feel a bit more homey. We also a bit of artwork and named our garden pavilion the Drinking Shack. We even had a placard created that says the name of our garden pavilion.

Check out some great recipes for dinner on your garden pavilion!

Are you ready up your home game?

J Harvey

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We built a garden pavilion... what you need to know.


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J. Harvey

J Harvey is a travel writer based in North Carolina. With two masters degrees, he decided to forget working a normal 9-5 job and instead create a travel blog focusing on travel for a more inclusive community. He hopes to increase LGBT representation within the travel industry while inspiring others to travel in whatever capacity.

J. Harvey has 185 posts and counting. See all posts by J. Harvey

One thought on “We Built A Garden Pavilion…What You Need To Know!

  • April 24, 2021 at 12:46 pm

    Looks great, has to be satisfying to do all that work and see it pay off at the end


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