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Adding an Attached Sunshade

Adding a sunshade that t \ attaches to your house offers advantages over building a freestanding structure. The ledger provides a solid starting point, reducing wobble while you’re building, and it eliminates two posts, making the space underneath more open. To prevent wood warping and materials pulling apart over time, be sure to use the right-sized lumber and to fasten it securely. Use lumber that is rot resistant.

Tools: Ladders, circular saw, drill, saber saw, hammer, level, chalk line, square, tape measure.

Putting it together. For the ledger and the rafters, use 2x6 boards for spans up to 12 feet, 2x8s for spans up to 16 feet, and 2x10s for spans up to 20 feet. This assumes only light materials sitting on top of the rafters; if you will be adding significant weight, you’ll need sturdier rafters. Local codes also may call for different dimensions. The top pieces are important not only for creating shade, but also to keep the rafters from warping. You may want to change the configuration depending on which direction the sunshade is facing and how much shade you want.

1. Install ledger and anchor posts. Cut a ledger board to the length of your sunshade and attach it firmly to your house, making sure it is level. For a frame house, attach to the studs or to the floor framing for the second story. Use shims to make the ledger sit flat and then flash or caulk the top. Or use washers to hold the ledger away from the house so water can run through and the wood can dry out. To attach to a masonry wall, use masonry screws or shields. Cut the posts longer than they need to be. On a patio surface, use a post anchor, or dig a posthole and set the post in concrete. If the posts will rest on a deck, crawl under the deck (if possible) and drive screws up into the posts. Otherwise, use angle brackets.

2, Plumb posts, mark for cutting. Temporarily brace the posts so they will be firm while you work on them. Check the posts for plumb in both directions. The beam will rest on top of the posts, so you will cut them as high as the bottom of the ledger, minus the width of the beam. With a helper, use a level sitting atop a straight board or a line level to mark the corner post for cutting to exact height. If you will have an interior (noncorner) post, run a tight chalkline from corner post to corner post to mark for cutting it. Another option: Cut the post to the height of the bottom of the ledger, and make a beam by attaching boards on either side of the posts, flush to the top of the post.

3. Cut posts and install post caps. Draw a line all the way around each post using a square, and cut two sides with a circular saw. Attach a post cap on top.

4. Cut the beam pieces. Make a template for the beam and rafter ends on a piece of cardboard that is the same width as the lumber. Use the scallop design shown above, or make up your own. Cut the first beam piece to length (remember, it will overhang the posts), and then cut out the decorative ends on both sides with a saber saw. Use it as a template for the other piece.

S. Make the beam. Cut pieces of 1/2 inch pressure-treated plywood into strips the same width as the beam pieces. Sandwich the boards together, and fasten them with 3-inch deck screws driven in an alternating pattern every 4 to 6 inches. This will make a very strong beam that is 3 1/2 inches thick—-just right for placing on top of a 4x4 post.

6. Attach and brace the beam. With a helper, set the beam into the post caps, making sure it overhangs the posts the same length on both sides. Drive 114-inch screws or 6d galvanized nails to hold the beam in place. To make a brace, cut a 4x4 at a 45-degree angle on both sides. Check your circular saw to make sure its blade is square. Mark for the cut as shown, and cut the two angle-marked sides. To install the brace, have a helper hold it in place, so both ends are tight and flush to the beam and the post. Drill pilot holes and drive two 3-inch screws at each joint.

7. Cut the rafters. Cut a rafter to length, taking into account the overhang. The design shown above is the reverse of the beam design; use the template that you used for the beam, and hold it backwards. Cut both ends of one rafter, and use it as a template for the others.

8. Attach the rafters. Lay out the rafters first so they will be evenly spaced. For extra strength, use hurricane ties as shown. Or drill pilot holes and angle-drive deck screws if you don’t like the look of the ties.

9. Add the top pieces. Cut the 2x2 top pieces to length. Experiment with different spacings to see how much shade you want. One attractive option is to “selfspace,” that is, to use a scrap piece of 2x2 as a spacer. Attach to the rafters by driving a 3-inch decking screw at each joint.

Other Canopy Materials - For a richly textured look, install several layers of crisscrossed materials on top; for instance, a layer of 1x2s on top of the 2x2s in this design. Other canopy options include rolls of reed, bamboo, and shade cloth. If winters are harsh where you live, store your canopy during winter to prolong its life. Ready-made sheets of lattice can work, but use a heavy-duty material that is a full 3/4 inch thick, and support it every 12 inches. For protection against rain, the roof must slope away from the house at least 1/2 inch per running foot. Install stretched canvas or corrugated fiberglass panels on top.

Planning an Outdoor Room - By combining several of the projects described in this book, you can create an outdoor living area that has the feeling of an enclosed space while preserving the pleasure of being outdoors. Often you can transform an area marred by street noise or an unpleasant view into an enjoyable outdoor room. The base for the room can be a deck or patio—any smooth surface suitable for outdoor furniture. If you need a new surface, prefab modular wooden squares are the quickest to install, followed by pavers or flagstones set in a bed of sand. You’ll also want to install a permanent flagstone or paver walkway to the room.

Once you’ve settled on the location of your outdoor room, decide how much privacy and wind or sound buffering you want. Often installing a grillwork screen, fence, or a dense hedge on one or two sides will provide the needed protection. For the side facing your house, a bench, planters, or a flower bed can clearly mark the boundaries of the room without limiting access. Too much sun can be more bane than blessing. The best solution may be to cover the southern half of the room with an overhead structure so that about two-thirds of the area will be shaded. Space the overhead rafters to produce more or less filtered light depending on your climate and the number of nearby shade trees in your yard.

For seating, a stationary bench or two can be combined with movable furniture to give you maximum flexibility. A nearby fire pit can be a focal point for evening entertaining. As a final touch, low-voltage lighting can give you just enough illumination. Hang lanterns or string lights to creative a festive atmosphere for parties or other gatherings.

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