How to Build a Backyard Cabana

patio cabana with cushions and a chandalier next to a pool
  • 5-20 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 200-2,000

At resorts around the world, lounging in a cabana will cost you a premium, but the luxury is so, well, luxurious. Cabanas offer shade from the heat of the sun, a comfortable lounging spot, and a bit of privacy. The experience doesn’t have to be limited to high-end vacation spots, so why not build one for your own backyard oasis?

What a Cabana Is and Isn’t

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Is it a gazebo, a cabana, or a pergola? Let’s define what we’re talking about here. Gazebos are open on all sides with a solid roof on top. In contrast, a pergola is typically slatted on top for filtered protection and has no sides. A cabana, on the other hand, has some kind of cover overhead and drapes or walls on three sides.

Plan Size

The planning process is part of the fun of building your own backyard cabana. There are many ways to achieve the goal so think about the finished look you’re going for. Calculate the desired size, depending on whether it’s intended to be a small cabana for a child or a larger option for four friends.

Also think about what type of seating you’ll have inside. This can help outline the required dimensions. For example, will you use pool loungers you already have or build a pallet bed for relaxing? You can also use an old daybed, futon, or couch. Knowing this in advance will ensure it fits.

Select Materials

backyard cabana with pillows on couch

The vertical and horizontal supports can be made from copper or galvanized pipes, PVC, wood, and other options. Wood is the most common and can either stand in supports or be sunk into concrete.

Once you’ve decided on support materials, consider the draping material you’ll use. You can convert an existing pergola into a cabana with a few additions and sunshade cloth woven through the slats. Alternatively, curtains, fabric, screen material, sheets of lattice, or even bamboo can be used to enclose the sides.

Match the weight of your draping material to the strength of your structure.

Theme and Interior Design

Sure it’s a small space, but you can still flex your interior design muscles. Are you going for a playful theme or more of a contemporary, romantic, or country vibe? The overall look can affect your building material selections and definitely impact the choices for soft furnishings. Add throw pillows, a basket or crate to hold towels, sunscreen, and magazines. Also mount or build in a shelf, or include a table for drinks and sunglasses.

Step 1 - Create the Vertical Support

Mark out where the four corners will be. For supports that will be underground, dig holes and fill with a concrete mixture.

Step 2 - Build Horizontal Supports

Next, you’ll connect all the vertical supports together with cross beams. For piping, use connectors. For wood, rely on joist hangers or typical framing practices.

Step 3 - Add Roofing Support

Your roofing support can be minimal if you plan to use light draping. Set a few narrow cross supports if you plan to mount something like bamboo. Use more of a pergola style for weaving fabric through.

Step 4 - Add Roofing Material

Mount your roofing material or fabric. Use metal wire to attach bamboo fencing panels. For lumber, use screws or nails to secure boards into place.

bamboo cabana on patio in tropical landscape

Step 5 - Add Side Material

Finally, enclose three sides of your cabana with your chosen fabric, sheeting, or bamboo. Mount bamboo to the top and the vertical support beams. For curtains, add a rod inside the framing for easy mounting. If you’ve built your cabana from pipes of any kind, you can use hooks to hang curtains or install a separate curtain rod alongside the horizontal piping at the top.

Step 6 - Move In

With your cabana erected, it’s time to bring in the creature's comforts. Start with the couch or loungers. Position them with a view of the pool and near the back of the cabana for the best sun protection. With seating in place, add your tables, shelves, baskets, and pillows, and enjoy your space!

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