DIY String Lights Pergola

Miranda Anderson

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There’s nothing quite as magical as sitting beneath a canopy of bistro lights on a warm summer evening. The glow of the lights brings a cozy energy to the outdoors, and makes a perfect setting for outdoor entertaining, conversation and memories. If you already have a pergola or covered patio, your work is easy: simply hang the lights and enjoy. For those of us who have some uncovered outdoor space, this DIY Bistro Light Pergola provides the framework needed to create a beautifully lit area with simple construction and affordable supplies.

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For this pergola project you’ll need:

-(1) able-bodied helper

-(2) ladders

-(4) 2″ x 2″ wooden posts (for added strength you could use 4″ x 4″)

-(4) galvanized buckets filled with gravel

-(6) 1″ x 3″ wooden beams, 8-feet long

-(4) 1″x 2″ wooden beams, 8-feet long

-(30) 1 1/2″ wood construction screws

-(30) 3/4″ cup hooks

-(1) power drill with 1/8″ drill bit and phillips head

-(3) strands of 30 bulb string lights

-(optional) potting soil and flowers to plant in the top of the buckets

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Step 1: Gather your supplies into a large open area where you’ll be building.

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Step 2: Lay 2 of the 2″ x 2″ posts flat on the ground and lay 1 of the 1″ x 3″ post across the top, even with both outside corners.

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Step 3: Use the drill to screw the beam to the post in two places, leaving room in between. Repeat on the other side of the beam, screwing it to the post. Then repeat with the 2 additional posts and 1 more beam.

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Step 4: At this point you will have 2 goal-shaped frames. Place each post into the center of the gravel-filled buckets and line them up. They may need to be temporarily supported by a third helper while you get on a ladder to add the side beams.

Step 5: You and your helper need to get up on the ladder, each with the end of 1 of the 2″ x 3″ beam. Drill pilot holes then screw the beam in place, lined up with the top of the post, square with the first beam, making a corner as pictured.

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Step 6: Repeat on all 4 sides of the pergola frame.

Step 7: Go back and add a second beam to the INSIDE of the posts aligned with the first two beams. This will give the pergola some added stability.

Step 8: Measure down 6″ on each post, and add the 1″ x 2″ beams to the post frame. This adds a design detail as well as further increasing the pergola’s stability.

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Step 9: Make sure the posts are still in great alignment, and adjust as needed.

Your frame is done!

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Step 10: Use the drill to create pilot holes every 6″ along the inside beams on the frame, then add the cup hooks all along the beams.

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Step 11: Start by hanging the first light a one corner, then drape the bistro light strands back and forth, connecting the three strands together for one consistent length. Use only the cup hooks that you need in order to hang the lights evenly and neatly across the pergola; you won’t need them all.

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Step 12: This step is optional. You can add potting soil and some sun-loving plants to the buckets to finish off the Bistro Light Pergola. Run an extension cord from the nearest outlet to the end of the lights, tucking it behind one of the posts.

Plug in and enjoy!

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Wasn’t that easy? I bought all of my supplies and built ours in a day, with help from our neighbor. By nightfall we were sitting beneath the canopy of bistro lights, feeling the breeze and loving life!

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This DIY Bistro Light Pergola ends up being 8′ x 8′ in size, but you could easily adjust the beam length to make it smaller for your space, or add additional posts and beams to increase the size. Each post and beam is less than $2, and the total supply cost of this pergola is around $100, making it a super affordable option for a beautifully lit patio. Add your favorite patio furniture and textiles to finish off the space.

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