How to Build a Patio Cover

Rocking chair under a covered patio.

The patio is a favorite summertime spot for many families, but in order to take most advantage of your outside room, consider building a patio cover. Not only will it provide you with some much needed shade for the dog days of summer, it will also allow you to enjoy being outside even when a brief rain shower passes through.

Patio Cover Options

There are many different materials suitable for building a patio cover. If you live in an area that gets very little rain, a simple wood frame with a large draping of fabric will work, or you may prefer a natural cover of vines growing over a frame built of posts and lattice. There are also many kits available for patio covers made from wood, aluminum or PVC.

Designing Your Patio Cover

Depending on the size of your patio, you may want only a part of the patio covered or you may want the entire foundation protected from the elements. The size of your patio cover is completely up to you, but no matter what design you choose, the patio roof should be no higher than a single story and ideally no longer than 12 feet.

Building a Patio Cover

These instructions are for how to build a patio cover consisting of a wood frame with a corrugated plastic roof. The instructions are for a patio that is freestanding, not one that's built up against the side of the house.

Tools and Materials

  • Coated deck screws, 2-inch length
  • 2x4 treated planking (number and length determined by the size of your patio)
  • 4x4 treated posts, 8-foot length
  • Ready-to-mix concrete
  • Wood bolts
  • Rubber washers
  • Circular saw
  • Ladder
  • Tape measure
  • Hammer
  • Shovel
  • Drill
  • Carpenter's level
  • Corrugated plastic sheeting (length and width enough to cover the patio)

Installing the Support Posts

Dig a hole at all four corners of your patio. The holes should each be a depth of 18 inches. Stand one of the 4x4 posts into one of the holes and fill the hole with mixed concrete. Use the carpenter's level to make sure the post is plumb (level along all sides). Wood struts can be used to keep the post plumb while you continue working, or you can have friends hold the post steady until the concrete sets. Install the remaining posts in the same manner.

Framing and Installing the Patio Cover

Measure the perimeter of the patio using the posts as a measuring guide. Cut 2x4 planking the same length as each side of the perimeter. Build the frame on the ground and drill two-inch deck screws in each juncture to secure the pieces together.

Lay 2x4 planks at even intervals along the top of the frame and secure them in place with two-inch deck screws.

Lift (with plenty of help) the 2x4 patio cover frame and place it on top of the 4x4 posts. Secure the frame to the posts using two two-inch deck screws at each location.

Installing the Corrugated Plastic

Lay the corrugated plastic sheet on top of the 2x4 frame and drill pilot holes through the plastic where it meets the 2x4s below it. Secure the corrugated plastic to the frame using wood bolts and rubber washers. Pilot holes are necessary as the plastic may crack if you try to run the bolts directly through it and the rubber washers will help prevent rain from leaking through the holes made for the bolts.

Finishing the Job

Cover the exposed concrete used for the support posts with a layer of dirt and move your furniture back onto your newly covered patio. Now, you can sit back and enjoy a nice cold beverage or a tasty barbeque outside on your patio anytime, rain or shine.

Helpful Tips

  • Always wear eye protection when using power tools, especially when cutting wood.
  • Wait for the concrete support to fully dry before you attach the framed roof or the weight of the roof may cause one or more the support posts to shift.
  • Measure twice so you can double check your work before you make a cut.
  • Do not start this job if the weather forecast is calling for rain. Wait for a span of nice days before you start this job so the concrete can cure properly.
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