Building a gazebo in your garden or backyard is a really great idea, but what if you are worried about installing that gazebo properly? Is it difficult to build a gazebo on a grass surface so that it is safe and secure? If this thought is worrying you, and perhaps stopping you from taking the plunge and getting a summer house, then read on.
Installing a gazebo on grass is easy, straightforward and really not difficult – anybody can do it. Although it helps to know how, to have a little patience and to plan ahead.
Planning Comes First
Before starting any installation of this kind it is wise to check that it will not need planning or building permits from your local Building Department. Gazebos are usually permitted without any formal permits but it is better to check first rather than be sorry afterwards. If you do need to apply for a permit then you will need to prepare a simple drawing of the proposed structure.
Now to the planning stage. Buying a gazebo, either fully assembled or in kit form, requires some preparation of the site. The delivery truck will need access, of course, and it might pay to let your neighbors know what you are going to do. Check that there are no electricity or water lines close to where you will install the gazebo, because you are going to dig down two or three feet for the support footings. And clear away bushes, stones and any other obstacles that might get in the way during the installation.
Building A Gazebo On Grass
The principle of installing a gazebo on grass is little different to any other surface. The structure will be supported on a number of solid footings, normally made from concrete, sunk into the ground to a suitable depth. You can accommodate a reasonably bumpy surface, if necessary, by making the supports high enough for the gazebo floor to clear the ground. In fact a gazebo is a great way of using a grass area that is not really suitable for making into a lawn.
The number of footings is determined by the number of sides of the summer house. One of the most popular gazebo designs is a hexagonal structure, for which you will need 6 main footings (one at each corner). If the gazebo is more than about 5 feet across you should also install a central footing. In any case your gazebo or kit should come with instructions about the number of supports needed.
Your gazebo will probably have posts at each corner which will need to rest on, and be attached to, these footings. Attachment systems vary but the normal way is to embed a post anchor into the top of each footing at the time you pour the concrete. The gazebo corner posts will be bolted to these anchors once the concrete has set. About 5 days is usually sufficient.
Each footing needs to be deep enough to start below the frost line in your garden, unless you are lucky enough to live in a permanently warm area! This could be as little as two feet or as much as four. If unsure about this just ask your Building Department – they will be happy to oblige with any information you might need. I have always found these people to be very helpful if you involve them early enough in any building project, by the way.
First stage in the installation is the marking out of the footing positions. Do this with wooden markers or pegs at each position, at the exact center of the eventual footing. Your gazebo plans that come with the kit should show you quite clearly where the footings should be positioned.
Making The Supports
These footings – or piers, as they are sometimes called – should be made of concrete, which you can buy in ready-mixed form from your local DIY store. You just have to add the water. And you might be surprised by the quantity (and weight!) of concrete required – but don’t forget that this is what is going to support quite a heavy structure.
You will mold the concrete to the correct shape and depth in the hole by using a former. If you decide on footings with a square cross-section then simply line each hole with four planks (any scrap timber will do) to the correct depth and with widths equal to the width of the footing sides. Once the concrete has set just tap the planks lightly to separate them from the concrete and then lift them out. Then fill any gaps around the footing with earth and stamp it down thoroughly.
If you prefer to have footings with a round cross-section then you can buy tubular formers made from a degradable fiber. Home Depot sells these if you want to check them out. I have also known people to use cardboard tubes that they have obtained from their local carpet supply shop.
Dig the hole to the required depth, line it with the former then prepare the concrete mix – usually just by adding water and mixing thoroughly. Pour the concrete into the former, adding the post anchor at the top. When all the footings have been poured check that the post anchors are all level with each other and in the correct positions.
It is worth taking plenty of time and care to get this bit right, because the gazebo floor needs to be absolutely level and properly supported. Once the concrete has set it will be too late to make any adjustments…
And that’s all there is to it. The job is actually much simpler to do than to describe!