Creating a Backyard Oasis: Building Our Dream Pavilion with Outdoor Accents® Hardware


Joel Houck of Simpson Strong-Tie shares the journey he took transforming his backyard into a family-friendly oasis with a pool and a stunning pavilion using Simpson Strong-Tie® Outdoor Accents® decorative hardware. In this post, Joel unveils the design process, delves into the construction details and shares the passion and effort that brought his outdoor space to life. 

Most people plan vacations to get away from their homes, but ever since we moved into our current house, my wife and I have been working hard to make it a place our family doesn’t want to leave. We want to have fun here and also make it a place where our kids and their friends want to hang out.

Joel’s landscaped backyard with a brand new pool

Our ultimate dream was to put in a pool along with all the other entertainment items that go with it. After 10 years of saving and planning, we finally accomplished the first part of that dream this past summer as we watched our pool go into the ground. Since our backyard is wide open with no trees or shade close to the pool, we knew we would have to build some type of shelter in order to fully enjoy the pool, so we decided to add a pavilion nearby.

Joel's newly built pavilion from across the pool
Joel’s newly built pavilion from across the pool

We wanted the pavilion to be structurally sound, so I did some initial design work using Simpson’s Pergola Builder Software™ and came up with a design we all liked. We flip-flopped quite a bit with what color we wanted the pavilion to be. We originally wanted a natural wood color, but we also really liked the gray color of the pavilion shown on Simpson’s Outdoor Accents web page. We eventually settled on real cedar wood for the pavilion, which combined with the black Simpson Outdoor Accents products and the dark shingles for a nice color contrast.

Cedar wood connected with Outdoor Accents black powder coated hardware
Cedar wood connected with Outdoor Accents black powder coated hardware

Once we had the design figured out, it was time to get the foundation set. Even though the ground doesn’t shake where I live, we can get some really strong storms and high winds ripping through our yard, so we decided to use the Simpson Strong-Tie  moment post bases to make sure we had a solid connection to the earth.

Setting the foundation with Simpson Strong-Tie MPBZ Moment Post Base in the concrete
Setting the foundation with Simpson Strong-Tie MPBZ Moment Post Base in the concrete

We ran the footing forms deep into the ground and set the post bases in the concrete when the pool deck was poured. Then the wait was on. Since the pool deck was poured shortly before the weather would be turning colder for the fall, we decided to hold off on building the pavilion until the spring. (We also wanted more time to make sure we were happy with our design choices.)

Construction of the pavilion underway
Construction of the pavilion underway

Once spring came, we ordered all the wood, the Simpson screws, and the Outdoor Accents connectors, and we were ready to start. The biggest time commitment was staining all the wood. Since it was still cold outside, we stained all the wood inside the garage, creating a giant jigsaw puzzle of moving parts as we rotated the wood from storage to staining to drying and back to storage again. We spent 40 man hours total as a family staining the wood, which gave us a lot of bonding time, and when it was done, the wood color was perfect. The natural cedar stain really pulled out the cedar color in the wood and gave it a deep, rich, weather-resistant finish.

Pavilion structure in progress,
Pavilion structure in progress,

To erect the actual structure of the pavilion, we enlisted the help of a friend who works as a carpenter and was willing to help us on this build. He does incredible work, and it really showed in the construction of the final product. Over the course of two weeks, the frame went up, then the rafters, then the sheeting and roof, and finally all the trim details. The trim details look like the custom trim work inside a house, even though it was all done with rough sawn cedar!

Pavilion up with Outdoor Accents hardware
Pavilion up with Outdoor Accents hardware

We were very impressed with the quality of the build. The five beams couldn’t be made from solid cedar because cedar isn’t rated for long spans, so we used structural LVL beams and wrapped them all with cedar boards for a seamless cedar look all around. 

Joel's pergola completed with a new bar table
Joel’s pergola completed with a new bar table

The finishing touch was to add the black Outdoor Accents brackets, which really made the final product pop. My favorite piece is the bottle opener — Simpson really thought of everything when it came to these products!

The pavilion lit up at nighttime
The pavilion lit up at nighttime

I’ve also added electricity to the pavilion for lights, heaters, TV, and other stuff; including putting in a ceiling fan to keep it cool in the summer; and built a long solid oak slab bar table under it for entertaining. My grill, flat top, and smoker all have a new home out of the weather now too. We’re looking forward to a full season of enjoying the fruits of our labors this year, and this pavilion will help us extend that season even further into the cooler climate here in the Midwest.

Outdoor Accents Gable Plate on Joel's pergola
Outdoor Accents Gable Plate on Joel’s pergola

Simpson Strong-Tie Outdoor Accents products used in this build: 

Author: Joel Houck

Joel Houck is a Associate Technical Manager, Research and Development at Simpson Strong-Tie.
View all posts by Joel Houck



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