Building Your Own Canopy

In the greater Atlanta area, we are blessed with an average of 217 days of sun each year. No wonder we like to take advantage of the good weather to enjoy our outdoor pursuits! However, sometimes sitting in the direct sunlight can get more than a little warm. If you have been considering a DIY project to create more shade in your backyard, a timber-framed canopy can be a relatively simple and inexpensive solution.  


There are a multitude of plans for building backyard canopies on YouTube and elsewhere on the internet, many involving metal frames (like a tent) or even PVC pipes used as frames. This is a simplified timber-framed plan that can be adjusted to suit your needs. 


  1. Decide what size you want your canopy to be and where you want to build it. Using some ground marker spray paint, mark out the canopy dimensions on the ground. 
  2. Using wooden stakes and string, mark your corners to make sure that the holes you’ll be digging will create a straight canopy. 
  3. At each corner, use the 2 man gas drive auger to dig holes for the canopy posts; we recommend digging down a minimum of 16-20 inches. It’s certainly possible to use a 1 man auger for this job, but the 2 man auger is easier to control and gives better results. 
  4. Once all four holes are drilled, you can start installing the posts one at a time. 
  5. Place each post in a hole and surround it with 2-3 inches of gravel. Use the post level to ensure that the post is straight and true. 
  6. At this time, you might find it easier to attach scrap wood braces with screws or nails to the post to hold it in place and in a straight entry position. Do this for each of the remaining posts 
  7. Using the concrete mixer and following the ingredient ratios on the bag, mix enough concrete so that when you fill the holes around the posts, the concrete is about one inch above the earth. You will need to let that set up for a minimum of 24 hours before continuing. 
  8. Once that is done, you can remove the supports.  
  9. Using the string level, mark the top of each post at level equidistant points. This is where having 2 ladders and a willing friend or family member will prove helpful. 
  10. Use the circular saw, which excels at cutting through thick pieces of lumber, to carefully trim the posts to the correct height. You will need a ladder for this job, and you should wear eye protection.  
  11. At this point, you are ready to put in the 6X6 wood traverses (crossbars) that will go across the two front and the two back canopy supports. The best way to attach them is to drill a pilot hole down through the traverse into the top of the post. We recommend a ⅜-inch drill bit for this. Because you will be drilling through fairly thick pieces of timber, it is recommended that you use a high-power low torque drill. The ½” electric low rpm drill is ideal for this situation; the ½” right angle drill is also good at getting into hard-to-reach spaces. 
  12. Each crossbar should overhang the width of the posts by at least one to two feet on each side. You decide how long you want the overhang, but measure carefully to make sure that it is equal on each end.  
  13. Next, you will install the side traverses. These will go over the top of the front and back traverses and will also jut out an extra foot or two on each side. Measure carefully to make the overhang the same length as the previous ones before you cut.  
  14. As well as attaching a crossbar on each side, include one that stretches across the middle of the structure. Leave the same overhang on each end. We recommend using at least 2 lag holes per joint. 


A note about the lumber: You can buy treated lumber, which is pressure-treated to resist rot and insect damage, or you can buy untreated lumber and paint or stain it yourself. The untreated lumber is easier to work with if you want the posts of your canopy to be a particular color because it will be easier to paint.  

  1. Now that the frame is standing, you can paint or stain the wood. Although it may seem counterintuitive, it is actually easier to build it and then paint it rather than the other way around. If your wood is untreated, you can apply an outdoor sealant. Although you can certainly do this by hand with a paintbrush, the job will go more quickly if you use an airless paint sprayer. 
  2. You have now constructed your simple frame. It’s time to add the actual canopy. You have many choices here. If you want something permanent, you can nail wooden slats across the top to create a traditional pergola effect. However, if you want a true canopy – something that you can remove to clean or during off seasons, use a breathable outdoor fabric that can be attached with stretch ties. Another option is to top your canopy off with a tarp that has built-in grommets. They can fit over nails on the top of your frame to stretch the tarp taut. 

If you don’t have the right tools you need to build your canopy, Northside Tool Rental has everything you need for the job. Contact one of our experts today to discuss what tools you need and how we can fully equip you to get the job done. We have convenient locations in Marietta, Gwinnett, Doraville, and Buckhead. Call us at 404-233-6722 to get your project started.