We banished stinky pond and built a pergola

rwilkerson@charlotteobserver.comApril 5, 2013 

The 100-gallon water pond that seemed so charming when we bought our house in 1999 had turned into a stinky, algae-clotted, mosquito factory. Only our pets, who inexplicably still loved to drink the green soup, and a chorus of summertime frogs still hung out there.

So one winter day, out it came. But what next for this patch perched over a sloping backyard that runs down to the woods?

My wife, Paula, and I didn’t want to spend a ton of money, and we weren’t ready to go crazy with a lot of new landscaping.

After many discussions and searching online, we settled on a simple pergola, or arbor. It would add a new semi-sophisticated touch to the yard, give us another place to sit, and could anchor an area we could improve on over the years as the inspiration hits us.

It would also force us to finally get rid of the homely tree and a wall of wisteria destroying a hideous, way-past-its-prime trellis.

So I started Googling “arbors” and “pergolas.” Here’s a tip: Instead of using the standard Web setting, I used the “images” setting, which shows you nothing but photos. It gives you a lot more pictures to look at, with the option to click for more info.

It took a few sessions until I got lucky and found some plans for an arbor and bench by the Sunset company, which provided a good drawing and a list of the lumber and hardware.

While plenty of handy folks could build the structure you see here, it was a little more than I wanted to take on.

Enter Bruce Johannemann Construction, of Belmont. (“Everyone needs a Bruce,” as Paula says. ) I gave him the plan and asked him to modify it by adding a second bench – having just one felt weird. He set the posts one day, and came back the next and built it.

At his recommendation, we used more expensive cedar, because he said we’d have fewer problems with warping. The wood and bolts cost a little over $300 and the whole project came in at less than $500 – a deal as far we were concerned.

Initially, we thought about covering it with vines, but after battles with English ivy and wisteria, we’ve decided to take it easy in the vine department. We simply covered the ground with pine nuggets and await further inspiration ... while enjoying a cool drink in our new little addition.

Wilkerson: 704-358-5903

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