Decks and patios are most often attached to a house, which makes sense in terms of convenience. But if you've got some open space in your backyard, then consider building a freestanding shelter, such as a gazebo. Building a gazebo will add a new structural element to your landscape, providing a great destination to gather. This simple four-sided gazebo would is a great backyard project that even a beginning carpenter can tackle.
Figuring out precise angles and cuts for a hip roof can be a daunting task that might deter some DIYers from attempting to build an outdoor structure. We used a site called www.blocklayer.com to calculate the dimensions of the roof framing for this gazebo project; all you have to do is follow the plans and round up a few extra hands, and you’ll be sipping iced tea in the shade in no time. (Before you start the project, however, be sure to check with your local building authority regarding applicable permits and codes.)
Download this gazebo project plan as a pdf file.
Prep the foundation
To allow for proper drainage and prevent grass and weeds from growing beneath the gazebo, first mark the 12 x 12-ft. pad; then remove the sod and about 3 in. of dirt within the marks. Add a layer of landscape fabric and top it with approximately 3 in. of class II gravel.
Next, dig four 12- to 14-in.-dia. holes (one in each corner) to accommodate the 8-in.-dia. Sonotube forms for the concrete footings. Dig at least 24 in. deep or to the frost line depth for your area.
Mix the concrete and start by filling the holes half full. Insert the Sonotube forms so that the distance from the center of one footing to the center of the adjacent footings measures 10 ft. 6-in. and the diagonal distance between the centers of the footings is 14-ft. 9-1/2 in. Use a laser level to make sure the tops of each form are at an even height. (The yard where we built this gazebo was slightly sloped, so the footing elevation above each hole varied.)
Finish filling each hole and form with concrete and smooth the surface; then insert a mudsill anchor in the center of each footing. HANDY’s contractor for this project, Mike Conner, borrowed the idea of employing mudsill anchors from a friend who has great success using them to build decks.
Once the concrete has cured (usually after 24 to 48 hours), use a reciprocating saw or sharp utility knife to remove the Sonotube form from the outside of each footing.
WATCH IT HAPPEN: Watch this gazebo get built in 1 minute and 20 seconds!
Build a simple deck
Create the deck frame by cutting two 2x10 boards to 10 ft. 9 in. Double-check that the pieces rest level on the concrete footings. Cut two more 2x10 boards to 10 ft. 6 in.; they will fit between the longer boards to create a square frame. Fasten the pieces together and box the frame. Add shims where there are spaces between the boards and the concrete footings. Secure the frame to the concrete footings by wrapping the mudsill anchors around each board and nailing them in place with joist-hanger fasteners. Be sure to keep the box straight and level while attaching the straps.
Next, cut 10 4x4 posts to 6 ft. 8 in. Using 4x4 joist hangers, fasten one post inside each corner of the deck frame and the rest of the posts along the sides (photo 8 and insets). Drive a ledger board fastener through the frame and into each post.
Mark the locations of the 2x10 joists 16 in. OC (or 15-1/4 in. from the end of each previous joist); then cut all joists to fit within the frame. Be sure that the crown of each board faces up. (Learn more about crowning lumber). Conner recommends nailing the joists to the frame to hold them in place while attaching the 2x8 joist hangers. Secure each 2x8 joist hanger to the frame using joist-hanger fasteners. (Be sure to drive a nail in every hole.) If you run into a space where there isn’t enough room for a hanger (as we did), use shims and locking screws to attach the joist to the frame.
Attach two 2x6 boards (decking blocks) to the ends of the deck frame that run parallel to the joists. This will provide a sturdy surface for nailing the deck boards in place.
Add the deck boards next. To create a finished look for the perimeter of the deck, let the edge pieces overhang slightly and miter the corners. You’ll have to notch the edge pieces and the adjacent deck boards with a jigsaw to fit around the 4x4 posts. Top the rest of the frame with deck boards cut to fit within the edging. To find the right spacing, lay out all of the boards before fastening them. Using a hidden-fastener jig such as the Camo Marksman, secure the boards to the frame, creating a smooth surface.
Construct the rafters
Begin by measuring and cutting eight 2x4s for the top plate. Secure two stacked boards on top of the 4x4 posts along each side of the gazebo; then add 2x4 support brackets to each corner (photo 14 and inset). Next, refer to the rafter layout and detail illustrations to cut the rafters and hips one at a time as you assemble the roof. This will allow you to make slight adjustments as necessary.
Start by creating the four common rafters (to be installed from the center of each side of the top plate to the center point of the roof). Cut four 8-ft. 2x6s to 7 ft. 6-3/4 in. Mark and cut the angles for the setbacks and bird’s-mouths to achieve the proper height above plate. Cut the overhanging ends to achieve the desired length and finished edge. Attach the common rafters to a ridge, a 6-in.-long x 1-1/2 x 1-1/2-in. piece at the center point of the roof.
Next, measure, mark and cut four 2x6 hip boards (to be installed from each corner of the top plate to the center point of the roof) one at a time to make sure you achieve the correct length, setback and bird’s-mouth. Each hip will have a compound miter on one end for securing to the adjacent main rafters and ridge. Cut the overhanging ends to the same length as the common rafter boards. To ensure accuracy and to speed up the process of marking and cutting the overhanging ends of all subsequent boards, Conner suggests adding a nail to the end of each hip board (one in each corner) and tying a string across all sides.
Making sure to mark the correct spacing, setback, bird’s-mouth and end cuts for each, continue adding three boards (creepers) to each side of the four hip boards. There will be eight creepers of each length.
To make the roof panels, we chose to laminate 3/4-in. water-resistant plywood (for the top face of the roof) and 1/4-in. non-water-resistant plywood with a high-grade veneer (for the underside). Creating this double layer prevents the roofing nails from puncturing the ceiling of the gazebo.
Use construction adhesive to glue each 4x8 sheet of 1/4-in. plywood to a sheet of 3/4-in. plywood to create eight panels. Once the adhesive has cured according to the manufacturer’s instructions, lift the first panel onto the bottom edge of the roof framing and screw it in place along the common rafter. Snap a chalk line to mark the cut location along the hip; then use a circular saw with the depth guide set to 1 in. to make the cut . Use the scrap pieces for the upper portions of the roof. Repeat these steps until the roof is completely covered with plywood.
Though this is an open-air structure, adding a vent will help to allow air and heat to escape, preventing too much uplift under the roof. After you’ve installed the vent, add the drip edge to the roof using a hammer and nails; then cover the plywood with a layer of roofing felt and staple it in place. Top the felt with an armor of shingles.
Install the railing and apply finish
We used Deckorators 26-in. classic-baluster railing from a local home center for this project. To install the railing, start by attaching the top and bottom metal rails to the top and bottom 2x4s for each section of railing. Then screw all plugs in place and insert the balusters.
Next, mark the cut locations for the top and bottom 2x4s for each section and cut them to size. Install each section of railing by screwing it in place between the 4x4 posts. Tip: Use a couple of pieces of scrap 4x4 to prop up each railing section from the deck; this will ensure that all sections are installed at the same height.
Once the railing was installed, we used a Wagner ProCoat to spray on a cedar-color semitransparent water-base stain from Thompson’s WaterSeal. You can apply the finish of your choice. After the stain dries, all that’s left is to furnish your gazebo with a couple of chairs and perhaps a small table or two; then you’re ready to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor.