When it comes to enjoying backyard moments with ultimate peace and relaxation, a pergola is one of the few outdoor installations that can make your leisure time blissful. But nothing comes quite clean, as the users might discover potential problems such as the swaying issue of a pergola. Swaying is when a pergola loses its structural integrity and starts to tilt sideways or at a cross-cornered angle. The main reasons behind such swaying are improper anchoring, weakening integrity, too many natural wind elements, decayed building materials, etc. Now, these can leave pergola users wondering how to stop a pergola from swaying.
There are numerous ways to stop a pergola from swaying. For that, first you have to monitor, assess, and identify the most probable cause of your pergola swaying. If the anchoring isn’t sturdy enough, then go for securing it better; if there is a lack of structural integrity, then tighten them up properly; and so on. In this article, we will cover all the possible ways to stop a pergola from swaying, along with swaying reasons and considerations while implementing the methods.
6 Reasons Behind A Pergola To Sway
Before jumping into the ways to stop a pergola from swaying, first, let’s understand what causes a pergola to sway:
1. Design and Construction Material
Design and construction material play a significant role in pergolas stability. A well-designed pergola built with quality material has the potential to remain in place by withstanding any obstacle in the process. The design of the pergola is not only for its outer appearance but also for its physical integration as well. For materials, wood is a natural choice, but it has drawbacks such as cracking, warping, splitting, chipping, peeling, chalking, or fading due to the constant UV and wind exposure.
2. Lack of Assembly Integrity
Next to a well-designed and quality material, proper assembly integration is equally important. Improper placement of the beams, integration mechanisms, and even a wobbly metal bracket can alter the ideal load factor to be uneven. Any movable portion within the structure can further influence the overall structure to sway.
3. Bulky Dimension
The size and dimensions of the pergola can also influence its swaying. Larger pergolas with longer spans between support beams may be more susceptible to swaying compared to smaller ones. It is related to the design part of the pergola, where attention to detail wasn’t paid to assess the possibility of swaying due to an uneven length-width-height ratio.
4. Improper Anchoring
Improper anchoring is one of the major reasons for pergola swaying. If the pillars are unable to stand still, it will create a natural swaying effect, even if the structure itself is sturdy enough. The whole anchoring formation, starting from the pillars, their load-bearing capacity, what depth they are dug into the soil, anchoring material, etc., should be aligned to match and ensure sturdy standing.
5. Site of Placement
Pergolas’ site of placement is very crucial to determine if there is any swaying chance. The type of soil, the surface type, and its evenness can cause a pergola to sway. In most cases, pergolas laid on a sandy top layer were unable to withstand their weight against winds. Also, most anchoring methods will likely be less efficient in such soils. Add the unevenness of the surface, which can further cause the pergola to sway towards a downward slope.
6. Windy Environment
Higher wind speeds and turbulent conditions can create stronger forces on the structure, leading to increased swaying. Pergolas located in an open area with minimal obstruction will likely experience stronger wind forces, resulting in more swaying. Whereas pergolas obstructed by surrounding terrain elements such as manmade structures, trees, etc. are safer from swaying.
10 Ways To Stop A Pergola From Swaying
As mentioned above, there could be various reasons that can cause a pergola to sway. To stop that, you have to make the overall structure more integrated by using proper anchoring, ensuring sturdier joints, etc.
We have divided all these possible outputs into three types.
To stop a pergola from swaying, you have to start with its anchoring integrity. Even if the pergola is well-built, a lack of surface integrity can cause it to sway over time. Depending on the size, weather intensity, and anchoring surface type, there are numerous ways to anchor a pergola, such as:
- Nut-Bolt-Screw Method
- Digging and Pouring Method
- Soft Surface Method
2. Cross Integration
Anchoring isn’t all it takes to stop a pergola from swaying. Even if the legs are well anchored, the pergola structure can still sway due to a lack of structural integrity. That’s why you can use the below methods to make the pergola better fitted out.
- Tension Rods
- Angled Metal Brackets
- Cross Braces
3. Additional Support
Along with installing heavy materials on your pergola, there are some DIY methods you can try to stop a pergola from swaying. Such as:
- Wind Breaks
- Guy Wires
- Reducing Weight
- Replace Any Damaged Portion
Here is 10 Ways To Stop A Pergola From Swaying
1. Nut-Bolt-Screw Method
Most pergola spaces are concrete or brick-paved. In order to lay the best anchoring for a pergola on such surfaces, you can drill and bolt in them with the hard surface concrete. Steps:
- See if your pergola legs come with metal-attaching brackets for placing on concrete surfaces.
- If not, then source one such kit and attach it to each of the pergola legs.
- Measure and mark the drilling spots aligned with the bracket screw holes.
- Using suitable drill bits and a drilling machine, drill each of the marked spots.
- Place the pergola in position over the drilled spots and secure it with bolts.
- You can add similar textured wooden covers to hide the attachment.
2. Digging and Pouring Method
You can also go for the digging and concrete pouring methods to set a foundation for the pergola legs to anchor. The steps:
- Dig a number of holes deep and wide enough to house a pergola leg.
- Pour concrete to fill the hole, with or without a metal anchoring kit.
- Attach the pergola legs with the metal anchoring kit using bolts.
- If you have not used kits, then apply method no. 1 (Nut-Bolt-Screw Method).
3. Soft Surface Method
Not having solid soil or a patio area in your backyard is a common scenario where concrete pouring isn’t viable. To anchor your pergola over such a surface, you can use the Earth auger or helical piles method. Steps:
- Identify and measure the placement spots, the required depth, and the length of the Earth auger or helical pile.
- Prepare your designated pergola area for debris and level it as much as possible.
- Install the earth augers or helical piles as per the required installation method and equipment.
- Upon installation, place and secure the pergola legs using bolts on the sandy surfaces.
4. Tension Rods
Tension rods are the horizontal rods that we install in between the posts of a pergola. Along with the horizontal beams, they create additional bonding between posts to prevent swaying sideways. To install them:
- Measure the space between the posts where you want to install the tension rods.
- Purchase a rod that is longer than your measurement.
- Drill holes in the swaying-prone post at parallel heights.
- After this, we take the tension rods and insert the rods through them.
- Twist both ends of the tension rod to unlock it.
- Slide the tension rod between the two posts and let it expand, or secure it with bolts.
5. Angled Metal Brackets
Angled brackets work as a support structure to improve weight distribution in weak joint corners. Depending on the space available, these metal brackets can come in a mostly 90° shape. They are made of sturdy stainless steel and iron. Their installation process includes:
- Identifying the corners that are weak and influenced by swaying.
- Measure their corner angle and source similar-angled metal brackets.
- Remove debris, lose portions, and fill any uneven surfaces on those corners.
- Place the convenient bracket on the corner and mark the screw-down points.
- Drill the marked points with a drilling machine and a convenient bit.
- Place the brackets in position and secure them with screws.
6. Cross Braces
Metal cross braces are great for stopping a pergola from swaying. Especially the metal one, which has better strength and works as an arm trying to keep the posts together. Their installation process is firmly easy, and you can do it by following the below steps:
- Sort out any existing swaying issues in your pergola and properly anchor it.
- Identify the spots to install the cross braces and measure the distance between the cross spots.
- Buy two slightly smaller cross braces for each wall.
- Drill the previously marked spots and install the braces using bolts or screws.
- Keep the brace tension tightened to allow the stronger post to hold the weaker one.
- Make sure to tighten all the bolts and screws properly for the best result.
7. Wind Breaks
Wind is the primary cause of pergolas getting swayed. When intense wind blows into a pergola’s surface, it creates vibration and pressure on its wall. And as most of the pergolas are anchored lightly on the surface, chances remain high for them to sway. For that, you can put windbreakers in distinct directions to prevent high winds from hitting your pergola. Steps:
- Identify the wind direction.
- Try to utilize your backyard’s existing setup to alter the wind path.
- Put a glass barrier outside your pergola to prevent wind.
- Attaching a curtain windbreaker can put extra pressure on the pergola.
- If possible, relocate your pergola to a less windy area.
8. Guy Wires
You must be familiar with staking camping tents. Guy wires are similar to those, but more professional technique, using heavier cables. There are no copy-book rules for placing guy wires. All you need to do is attach a strong cable to the sturdiest place of the pergola and attach the other end with something heavier than the pergola. For that, you can attach the attachment to your house’s main structure. You can also try:
- Dig a hole in the opposite direction of the swaying.
- Fill one or two very big plastic bags with sand or soil.
- Tightly attach the cables to one edge of the bag and bury the bag into the hole.
- Tie the other end of the cables to the sway-prone pillar.
- Keep the cable pressure very high to prevent it from swaying efficiently.
9. Reducing Weight
It might seem odd, but your pergola roof’s heavy weight can cause it to sway over time. If your pergolas have design flaws and heavy weights are put on top, it may create a bottleneck situation in the process. To sort this out, remove all the unnecessary design from the roof and make your pergola lighter in weight.
10. Replace Any Damaged Portion
As mentioned earlier, your pergola can sway due to the uneven weight distribution caused by any damaged portion. So it is wiser to replace, if not all, that part or portion with workable ones. Take a keen look into the overall structure of the pergola to determine the impact of that missing part while replacing it. Take professional help if you’re not sure about what you are doing. Any unplanned act can cause the total collapse of the pergola within a blink of an eye.
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5 Key Considerations To Prevent A Pergola From Swaying
Swaying is a major drawback for both the pergola and its users to enjoy a relaxed experience. Over time, swaying can reduce and even cause the pergola to be structurally unworthy. To cope with that, you can take the below steps to prevent a pergola from swaying:
- Integrity Is A Must: Solid integration within the pergola structure is mandatory to keep it fit and well-standing. For that, the base has to be sturdy enough to hold the overall weight of the pergola, even in complex weather situations.
- Lay a Solid Base: Even if the visible structure is sturdy, a weak base can cause the pergola to sway over time. That’s why it is important to lay a solid base for the pergola to stand on. Depending on your backyard soil and surface type, you can reinforce your pergola base in various ways, including the ones mentioned above.
- Monitor the Weather Pattern: Your location’s weather pattern has a large influence on the pergola’s sway. Heavy wind, turbulence, frequent adverse weather, etc. can put tremendous pressure on the pergola, eventually leading to structural disintegration and sway. Plan to put your pergola in a neutral place or put a wind-breaking installation surrounding it.
- Add Slope to the Pergola: Slopes are great for adding aerodynamics to the pergola. This way, wind can easily move over the pergola without creating excessive pressure on it. Also, a moderate slope can help rainwater easily run off, leaves, and other debris to slide away. All of these relieve the pergola from the burden of holding unnecessary pressure. Don’t forget about the aesthetic part caused by the slope too.
- Ensure Ideal Weight Distribution: One of the prime reasons for a pergola to sway is uneven weight distribution. It happens mostly when the pergola lacks an efficient design, which compromises its weight distribution capability. That’s why, while having a pergola, ensure that it is well-designed structurally and the roof doesn’t weigh very much on the pillars.
It is a heartbreaking scene to see your pergola swaying slowly. It causes severe structural disorientation of the pergola, leading to financial damage as well. To stop your beloved backyard leisure space from swaying, there is more than one way present. But before taking any steps, first identify the cause of your pergola’s swaying. It could be due to a lack of structural integrity, weakening base support, exposure to frequent adverse weather, uneven weight distribution, etc. To sort and prevent such issues, you can heavy anchor your pergola, secure the pergola’s integrity by reinforcing it, and place wind-breaking design elements to and around your pergola. This way, you will not only save your pergola from swaying but also enjoy the privilege of having prolonged backyard moments.
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I am Donald M. Beyer and I am backyard enthusiasts. I am a homeowner who has been doing DIY projects in and out of my house for many years. From simple backyard lunches to making an old-school pizza oven in my own backyard, I have a lot of experience in turning my backyard into my and my family’s personal playground.