How to Build a Hammock Awning
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Rock-solid posts and overhead shading make this hammock the perfect retreat on warm summer days.
Now here’s a home improvement project you’ll want to dive right into. After only a couple of days of building, you’ll be swaying in the gentle summer breeze.
Sure, you can hang a hammock from trees (if you’re lucky enough to have them in the right spots), but one of the great features of this project is that it lets you choose the ideal location and bring your shade with you. Another plus is an optional awning cover that’ll let you nap even during a gentle summer rain.
This project is built around two solid 6x6 treated posts that you set in concrete. The rest of the project is made from ordinary cedar dimensional lumber.You can get all the screws and other hardware at your local hardware store or home center. Figure on spending about two to three days building plus a half day applying a clear deck sealer to the project. It’s to your advantage to have some carpentry experience, but even a novice can complete this project with simple carpentry tools and our clear step-by-step photos and dimensioned drawing.
Cut the curved parts while you wait for the concrete to set
The curved parts (D and F) of this structure give it a soothing elegance. They’re not difficult to cut but take time to lay out. You can make full-size template by drawing a 2 x 2-in. grid on a piece of Masonite or thin plywood, plotting the points as shown in Figure B and C, drawing the curves and cutting out the shapes with a jigsaw. Then use this thin piece as your pattern to mark the actual pieces onto wider dimensional lumber.
You can lay out the curves with a trammel (large homemade compass) by simply drawing the inner and outer radii of each piece on your lumber. The brackets (D) have a 44-in. inner radius and a 48-in. outer radius. The rafters (F) have a 51-1/4 in. inner radius and a 55-1/4 in. outer radius. NOTE: Use a large deep-throated jigsaw blade to help make a smooth, even curve. A regular jigsaw blade is thinner and shorter and could wander in thick material.
A deck sealer protects your framework
Once you’ve finished the building phase of the project, choose a sealer suitable for decks or siding.You’ll need close to a gallon. If you’d like to darken the color a bit, choose a semitransparent stain/sealer exterior finish, or if you like the fresh-cut look, simply get clear.
Lay a tarp on the ground below and apply the finish with a 4-in. roller immediately followed by a 2-in. brush. Begin with the upper slats and work your way to the posts. Let the finish dry for a day before using the shelter.
Project step-by-step (15)
Notch and drill the posts
Notch and drill your posts before you set them in concrete as shown in Fig. A. Make the top notch for the ridge board by drilling a 1-1/2 in. hole through the post and then hand-sawing from the top to the edges of the hole. Also drill the 1/2-in. diameter hole 12 in. from the bottom for the No. 4 rebar. NOTE: Check your individual hammock specs to make sure you get enough spread between your posts. We spaced ours 166-1/2 in. from center to center, which left 161 in. between. This distance worked for a wide variety of hammocks.
Clean the notches
For the side notches, make multiple passes with your circular saw set at 1-1/4 in. deep and then clean out the debris left behind with a wood chisel. Flatten the bottom of the notch with a coarse file.
Dig holes and plant the posts
Dig a 12 x 24-in. hole at least 31 in. deep. Screw a cleat 30 in. from the bottom of the post to hold it to the correct depth. Drill a pilot hole, then drive a 16-in. long piece of rebar (expose equal amounts on each side) through the post as shown to help bond it to the concrete.
Dig big holes for a solid structure
Choose a site that slopes no more than a few inches.You can adjust the post depth on one side a bit to keep the structure fairly level.
With all the swinging back and forth, this hammock shelter requires a lot of concrete to anchor it to the earth. In fact, we used about eight bags of dry-mix concrete (60 lbs. each) for each of the footings. If you’re transporting the bags from a home center or hardware store in a passenger car, make two trips carrying no more than eight bags each time. If you have a delivery option, by all means, take advantage of it.
Digging the holes, I’ll confess, is not the enjoyable part of this project. Each hole can take as little as a half hour or as much as two hours if you’ve got tough, rocky, clay-ridden soil. Besides a posthole digger and a shovel, have a heavy solid-steel bar on hand to free buried rocks, and a shrub loppers to clip stubborn roots. As you dig your holes, have a plastic tarp handy to slide the dirt away from the worksite for easy disposal. CAUTION: Whenever you dig, make sure there are no buried cables or pipe in your yard. If you’re not sure, don’t guess. Call your utilities to get them marked for you. It can save you a big headache and possible injury.
Plumb the posts
Dig your holes for the posts and don’t skimp on the size. Smaller holes with less concrete may cause the posts to loosen over time. If you have a slight slope from post to post, adjust the cleat up on the lower-elevation post so your structure will be close to level (an inch one way or the other won’t matter). Nail a pair of 1x3 x 8-ft. temporary supports about 20 in. down from the top of the posts as shown in Photo 4 to help you plumb and position the posts. Screw the supports to stakes driven into the ground. Once the posts are straight up and down, run a string line across the bottom and tweak the posts so their faces are perfectly aligned.
With your posts aligned and level with each other, mix your concrete, two bags at a time, to a firm consistency (something like cottage cheese). Scoop the concrete into the hole and use a stick to pack it in around the post. Keep mixing bags until you get up to the surrounding soil. Check your alignment again and then berm the concrete slightly so rainwater will run off. Complete both holes, recheck alignment and wait two days before adding to the structure.
Set the ridge beam
Set one end of the ridge into a notch and then walk the other end up the ladder and drop it into the opposite notch. You may need to tap the ridge to get it completely seated. Fasten it to the posts with 3-1/2 in. lag screws set off center and one on each side.
Glue and clamp pairs of bracket pieces to make up the thick supports for the crossties. Use a water-resistant carpenter's glue. Once the glue dries, sand the edges with a belt sander (Photo 6) to even the curves of the brackets and the rafters. Start with an aggressive 60-grit belt and move to a 100-grit for the final sand.
Attach the crossties
Center the crossties on the post notches and then lag-screw each one to the post with 5/16-in. x 2-1/2 in. lag screws.
Attach the brackets
Clamp your brackets in place them onto the post. Drill a 1/4-in. deep recess with a 1-in. spade bit, then drill a 1/4-in. pilot hole for your 5/16-in. x 4-in. galvanized lag screws.
Attach the first fascia boards
Center the 2x6 fascia on each side and align the lower edge with the point on the crossties. Drive 3-in. deck screws through the fascia boards into the crossties, leaving 9-3/4 in. projecting past the outer crossties.
Fasten the curved rafters in place
Brace the fascia temporarily to take out any bow. Clamp one end of the rafter to the fascia and screw the rafter to the ridge. Screw through the ridge into the rafter using a pair of 3-1/2 in. deck screws at each end. Start with the center rafter and then lay them out evenly (34-3/4 in. on center) toward each end. NOTE: The end rafters appear tight to the posts, but they’re actually spaced 1/4 in. away.
Rip the 5/4 decking
Rip the 5/4x6 cedar decking in half to 2-11/16 in. width using an edge guide mounted on your circular saw. Round over the cut edges to match the factory edges with a bearing-guide 1/4-in. round-over bit.
Use nails as spacers
Install the top center slat first. Space the slats evenly as shown in Figure A. Drive finish nails every 4-15/16 in. (from the top down) to help hold the slats in relative position as you fasten the far end. Screw in the slats, then pull the nails. Next, straighten the slats as you screw them to the middle group of rafters.
Attach the roof slats
Check the spacing at each junction to avoid wavy slats. Screw the roof slats with two 2-in. deck screws into each rafter.
Attach hammock chain
Drill a 3/8-in. pilot hole and then drive a screw eye into the post. Use a lever to help turn the screw eye. We added a 10-in. piece of chain but only needed two links to connect the hammock. You can let the extra chain dangle or cut it off if you’d like.
Add a cover
Attach the cover with special turn-and-lock fasteners provided by your awning company. You may have trouble getting help with this phase of the project once your partner has discovered the comfort of the hammock below!
Choosing a tarp for the top
We went to an awning company and had our tarp made to fit using a synthetic material that resists the harsh ultraviolet sunlight. The finished tarp ended up costing us about $475, including the stays screwed in along the fascia.
If you’d like to save money by doing a little extra work, you can buy a tarp, trim two sides to fit, hem the edges and use a grommet tool to add grommets. You can then use a continuous length of rope for each side to loop through the grommets and wrap around the fascia boards.
NOTE: If you choose not to use a tarp, you’ll still get ample shade from the roof slats above.