Build A Gazebo: Your Own Backyard Sanctuary

Building a gazebo takes careful planning, time, and hard work, but the rewards are worth the effort. To get started, try this set of diagrams and instructions.

| July/August 1990

  • Gazebo with people
    In American culture, the gazebo is a Western analogue to the Japanese teahouse: not indoors, nor quite outdoors, it attracts cool breezes and serenity of spirit.
    PHOTO: RICH IWASAKI
  • 124-031-08
    Although yours can be any size or design you wish, these plans for the construction of an 8-foot gazebo are meant to provide inspiration and general guidelines.
    ILLUSTRATION: MARILYN KING
  • Overview of Gazebo Deck
    Overview of gazebo deck.
    MARILYN KING
  • Drawing octagon
    For a precise octagon, place the compass point on one corner and the pencil point at the center; draw an arc that intersects two sides of the square. Repeat at each corner.
    MARILYN KING
  • Measuring rafter proportions
    Use this easy step-off method to find rafter proportions.
    MARILYN KING
  • Gazebo Raw Hub
    Cut off corners on the long planes to form an octagonal cylinder.
    MARILYN KING
  • Side view of rafter
    Rafter length is equal to the distance stepped-off, minus half the hub width, plus the desired overhang length.
    MARILYN KING
  • 124-031-02
    It's best to leave the hub ends flat; you can easily fasten on premade top and bottom finial (ornamental) balls after construction.
    MARILYN KING

  • Gazebo with people
  • 124-031-08
  • Overview of Gazebo Deck
  • Drawing octagon
  • Measuring rafter proportions
  • Gazebo Raw Hub
  • Side view of rafter
  • 124-031-02

In the warm, pleasant days of early summer; you stare wistfully at an empty space in your backyard. Obviously, it would be better if your neighbor were staring wistfully at that spot instead. It would mean less work. But it would be so easy to build a gazebo there, you think, envisioning the classic structure.

In American culture, the gazebo (corrupt Latin: "I shall gaze") is a strange Western analogue to the Japanese teahouse: Not indoors, nor quite outdoors, it attracts cool breezes and serenity of spirit. When the purple twilight falls softly and the hard news comes on TV, it's a place to withdraw and listen to chirping insects, to sit in quiet contemplation of the present, a time zone people in the Orient describe as the "suchness of the now." This moment is unique and fleeting, never to come again. Surely a calm like this will never come from gazing into a colored-image box in which telephone and cola companies besmirch the competition.

The errant television is the source, in fact, of a weird cultural concept that all things should be a snap: even such things as building a gazebo. Please reconsider. Perhaps after you've built 10 or so—no, it still won't be easy. So sorry. It isn't a project you can complete in a weekend or without the help of other strong backs and psyches.

For reasons too complicated to fully understand, the classic gazebo is octagonal. Whether your carpentry skills are nominal, moderate or accomplished, this entails making friends with a shape that looks simple but contains complex geometry. The very shape cries, STOP! But take heart; its secrets will be revealed to you through the diagrams herein.



And the pleasure of workmanship done by your own hand, combined with the gazebo's inherent beauty, makes building one all the more worthwhile, difficulties notwithstanding. Challenging, yes. Insurmountable, no.

Actually, you can build a gazebo with something approaching ease, but only if you do so with forethought worthy of a chess master. Mistakes result from too much hurry. Disasters spring from too many mistakes. A moment's inattention, and the next day you will sputter undreamt-of expletives. You must work slowly; steady progress is better than slapdash completion. Each task should be rehearsed in your mind before you pick up a tool—a useful discipline in almost any pursuit.






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