A gazebo is a nice finishing touch to any backyard, providing a new vantage point from which to enjoy your gardens and a focal point when looking at your landscaping. Gazebos also provide shade from the sun and shelter from rain, giving you more hours to enjoy the outdoors. The only drawback — especially for gazebos in the classic octagonal style — is that they are complicated to build and expensive to buy.
My design eliminates the fancy joinery that’s usually associated with an octagonal roof and walls. Instead, I used hinges to join the walls and a patio umbrella for the roof. As a result, my gazebo is quite easy to build for around $200 (perhaps a little less), plus the cost of the umbrella. An added bonus: it’s relatively lightweight and portable. If you want to move this gazebo to a new location or take it down for the winter, it is not difficult to do.
The finished project breaks down to four hinged pairs of wall panels and eight trim boards. The wall sections join together with 12 wingnuts, and it takes less than 30 minutes to raise or take down the gazebo. Nevertheless, the structure is very stable, even under windy conditions. To be on the safe side, I used a heavy concrete umbrella base of about 90 pounds, and I fastened the umbrella’s ribs to the hooks on the sides with elastic line as shown in the plans and photos.
Framing the Walls
Building the walls is made easier because all eight sides have the same overall dimensions, and seven of them are identical. This means that for every part, you only need to measure once — and then transfer the marks to the other workpieces.
I used 5/4 stock for the posts (pieces 5) and the cross members (pieces 6). The arch panels (pieces 1) are cut from 3/4″ exterior grade plywood. The remaining framing is from 2 x 2 lumber, which you can rip from 2 x 4s if you so choose.
Once you’re done with measuring and marking, cut all the parts to size. This saves time and makes creating uniform pieces a bit easier. I marked the 27-1⁄2″ radius on the arched panels using the simple homemade compass. I then made the curved cuts with a jigsaw, but a band saw would work as well.
All the other cuts can be made with a handsaw and miterbox, a portable circular saw, or, for best results, a table saw. Whichever you choose, you will save yourself a lot of trouble if you make certain that they are all perfectly square cuts.
Assembly of the walls works best on a large worktable. Sawhorses, topped with a sheetstock panel such as plywood, work great. Just be sure to use a sheet that you have checked to make sure the factory-made corners are indeed square. Begin by screwing the blocks (pieces 4) to the rails (pieces 2).
Align one post with the edge of the work table, and then clamp the rails with the block assemblies (see the Drawings for details) in position relative to the posts and balusters (pieces 3). Screw the rails to the posts and then to the balusters. Then screw the outboard rails to the blocks and to the posts.
For measuring the cross members (pieces 6), it’s easiest to first draw centerlines. Then lay them under the assembled wall and mark the angles. They should, of course, be close to 45 degrees. Make the cuts and position them, one over the other, inside the square opening.
Mark the area where they overlap. Here, you’ll have to make notches in order to fashion the halflap joints. It’s easy to do this. Simply make a series of cuts halfway through each cross member.
Switch to a sharp wood chisel to carefully clear out the waste. I found that I could clean these joints out by hand (no tapping with a hammer). Please take care never to have the chisel pointed toward your hand or body. It can easily slip and cause a nasty gouge if you are not careful.
Install the rails (pieces 2) at the top of the subassemblies next. Then install the arch panels (pieces 1). Use a few 3/8″- thick strips of scrap wood to support the panels in a centered position during assembly.
The entrance wall is identical in size to the others, except there is no balustrade assembly.