Even with my collection of oversized hats, sunglasses and tubes of fancy sunscreen, I’m all about sitting in the shade. I don’t like to feel hot, I’m prone to heatstroke, and working as a drugstore cosmetician in high school and university left me extremely paranoid about sunburns.
I wanted a spot where I could sit outside our house semi-comfortably to supervise the kids in their little pool. A large umbrella seemed like the obvious solution. But we live on top of a very windy hill, and umbrellas are a joke. (Well, and a weapon, since they’re likely to catapult through the air whenever the wind picks up.)
My next thought was a retractable awning attached to the house to cover our (very small) back deck. But those started at $500 and the majority were several thousand dollars (yikes), plus there was a good chance the wind would destroy it anyway.
“I just need some kind of little roof,” I whined to my handy husband on a particularly sunny day. “Just something to cover me. We could almost just …” I paused, looking at the picnic table sitting in the backyard.
He agreed that would probably be the best solution, and we didn’t have anything to lose — the picnic table was already several years old, and building onto it wouldn’t harm it.
He wasn’t as pleased with the second part of my plan, though: to move the picnic table onto our back deck.
“It’ll take up almost the whole deck!” he complained. “Why can’t it stay on the grass?”
“No! I’ll use it much more if it’s right here on the deck,” I countered. “I’ll also have a better view of the kiddie pool. It’ll be like a lifeguard stand!”
Grudgingly, he agreed and helped me lug the heavy picnic table onto the deck. It didn’t leave much room for anything except the BBQ, but I knew it was still the best spot for it.
After a quick trip to the store for pressure-treated lumber, he started by attaching four tall “legs” (2x4s) to the picnic table and then connecting them across the top. It looked like a strange outdoor canopy bed.
Then he framed out a wider roof, so the benches would be fully shaded, and started covering it with planks made from 6” fence boards.
We considered where the sun tends to strike during the afternoon, and decided to take the planks partially down the “wall” on the west side and provide more shade. Of course, if it were completely up to me, I’d run the walls up and down both sides so I was basically sitting in wooden box with air holes. 😉
Once it was built, we did a quick coat of stain to match our deck (Sico’s “Autumn Brown” in exterior semi-transparent). I also re-stained the faded picnic table to match, and then we were done!
Our “pergola” picnic table is way sturdier than a store-bought patio set with an umbrella — the wind is DEFINITELY not blowing this heavy wooden structure over — and it’s a compact way to seat a lot of people in the shade.
I’m pleased to report it became an instant hang-out spot for the neighbourhood moms. We gather there on sunny afternoons to sip Diet Coke and chat while our kids run around like maniacs in the connected backyards.
I’m considering adding more fence boards — or maybe outdoor curtains — to give me a teeny bit more shade, but overall I’m very happy with my new “vampire perch.”