Pergola on top of deck or built into framing

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Forum topic by DIYdad posted 06-15-2017 06:20 PM 1403 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 1122 days

06-15-2017 06:20 PM

Good morning guys and gals! My wife has decided that I am to build her a deck off the back of our house. I’m not against the idea, but she did do all of the deciding. We like the idea of it also having a pergola. Since the deck won’t be high enough to require guard rails, but we would like them in order to keep the pets off, I’ve found myself pondering the design a bit too much. As I mentioned, since the height doesn’t “require” rails, I had the thought to simply build the deck, then build the pergola and attach it to the top, then attach railings between the posts. The railings would connect thru the decking as well along the bottom, and into the double rim joist . My thought process on this is that since pergola’s (if built well) are pretty sturdy structures, that adding railings to the pergola itself would even further increase the stability of the entire structure.

My second option/thought is to just build the pergola into the design of the deck framing, and instead of using 4×4 posts, go ahead and use 6×6.

I’ve seen a similar post about connecting pergolas to decks, but it didn’t include the idea of railings attached to the pergola and not the deck.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

7 replies so far

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1696 days

#1 posted 06-21-2017 02:55 AM


The first option, if I understand correctly, would have the balusters connect to the skirt board of the deck around the perimeter and would serve to anchor the pergola to the deck. I think it would be stronger and better to independently attach the posts to the structure of the deck. This could be done by notching each post so that the post both sets on the decking and is fastened through the face of the notch into the framing. The offset posts would complicate a railing plan that has the balusters attaching to the skirt board of the deck.

I like your second option. Pergola posts integrated into the structure of the deck and setting on foundation piers seems that it would add strength to the pergola. Overall, I think a pergola integrated into the structure of the deck would probably look better than a pergola setting on top of the decking.

I like the idea of 6×6 posts. If the deck is large, larger posts would probably be better scaled to the space. In any event, the 6×6s would offer added strength to the upper structure.

The railing could offer independent top and bottom rails with balusters attached to these rails. The bottom rail kept about 4” above the deck surface would make quick work of blowing or sweeping leaves and debris off the deck.

In either option, the railing would enhance the rigidity of the pergola but I doubt that railing alone would be enough to prevent racking. Diagonal bracing from the posts to the main beam(s) would probably be required especially when strong winds blow. I would also be concerned if the balusters were used as the primary means of keeping the pergola attached to the deck. I think the pergola posts are best firmly and independently attached to the deck structure.

View Desert_Woodworker's profile


2791 posts in 1991 days

#2 posted 06-21-2017 04:02 AM

This could be a lively post, but it needs pics, therefore:

-- Desert_Woodworker

View wooderra's profile


1 post in 1116 days

#3 posted 06-21-2017 09:45 AM

Type of wood used has effect how long it lasts I lover tropical hardwoods for pergolas


View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3073 days

#4 posted 06-21-2017 11:41 AM

I don’t think attaching the railings to the deck will add any strength as they wouldn’t prevent racking at all. I would just do whatever pleases you design wise.

View a1Jim's profile


118066 posts in 4353 days

#5 posted 06-21-2017 01:14 PM

As a 30 year contractor, I build lots of decks and pergolas, In my state(Oregon) code requires that any roof type structure be anchored in concrete either with the post in the ground or connected with wet post anchors to meet the 100 mile and hour lift possibilities.
Another option is to have the post to the outside of the deck, the size of the post has to do with how high off the ground the pergola is and size of pressure treated wood available if pouring post in ground.


View DIYdad's profile


2 posts in 1122 days

#6 posted 06-21-2017 06:23 PM

This could be a lively post, but it needs pics, therefore:

Top row, 4th image ()

is essentially what I’m looking to achieve, except that there isn’t anywhere to attach ledger boards, and it’ll be a bit deeper. I’m thinking 3 rows of 3 posts. I really appreciate the recommendations, and I’m fairly sure I’ll be building the pergola into the framework of the deck.

I’ve also been discussing it with a contractor buddy of mine and he has informed me that if I call it a deck, then I WILL have to pull a permit and it will have to be attached to the house. I can understand having to to pull a permit, but I’m having a hard time figuring out why it would be required to be elaborately attached to the house? Basically, he said just don’t call it a deck, so it will be jokingly referred to as my “timber patio” until I figure out all the details.

View MrRon's profile


5913 posts in 4020 days

#7 posted 06-21-2017 08:26 PM

In most places, any construction that requires an attachment to the house, requires a permit. Decks can be attached (permit) or free standing (no permit). I am building a ground level deck that is free standing with no connection to the house

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