Before we get too far into this, let this be a warning that you will likely benefit from this information if you have some familiarity with using tools, building small structures or have some handy skills. Let's face it, some people just need to hire other people to build things. This is totally fine. In fact, without it, we would have an even tighter labor pool. When it comes to building a patio cover, you only need some basic skills, but your hard work will pay off.
To get started, let's discuss what you will need to build your patio cover. In this example, we are going to be building a pergola. This is a simple type of patio structure, so it will serve as a good example. We will talk about the most common tools and use power tools wherever possible. So, if you read something that saws circular saw or miter saw, you could always use a hand saw, but that is just too much like real work. Patio covers lend themselves to a fairly quick build time, so you don't want to waste it using a hand saw if your cut can be done in less than 5 seconds.
Material-wise, you will only need a few basic items. Some are optional, depending upon the current state of your site. If you already have a slab poured, then you can skip the concrete for the footings step. Okay, so you will need wood for your posts, beams and top slat or cross members. You will need brackets to attach your posts to your beams and your posts to your footings or slab. Then, you will need either screws or nails to attach your slats to your beams. These can be mounted with brackets as well, but it takes away from the look of your pergola if you have a lot of zinc-plated metal all over the place. The size and type of wood you buy is up to you. Redwood and cedar are very common choices, but they cost quite a bit more than a Douglas fir. Also, the size of your posts, beams and slats should be tailored to your particular likes and site requirements. Posts that are too small in size don't seem to look as good as wood with more substantial thickness. In this case, a 4"x6" or 6"x6" post makes for a great look. The beams can be of equal dimension as the posts, but sometimes a slightly larger dimension, like 4"x8" stock looks good too. It's all personal taste. The top slat pieces can be thicker like 3"x3"s or can be taller and thinner, like 2"x8"s.
What you will need tool wise is the following: shovel, circular saw, hammer/nail gun/drill-driver, level, tape measure and extra muscle. Let's talk a bit about what tools will be used when. The shovel is for digging the holes for the post's footings. If you already have a slab that you are planning on building your patio cover over, you might be able to simply mount a bracket to the slab and set your post in place there. This definitely saves time and also ensures that you probably have a level surface to set your pole in. The circular saw will be used for cutting the posts and beams to length, as well as the cross member pieces or slats. The way you attach your top slats to your beams will determine if you use nails, screws and/or brackets as well as a hammer/nail gun or drill. Your level will be used to ensure that you are setting the posts both level and plumb. Even slightly out of plumb posts will cause a lot of problems with your patio cover once it is 8-10' off the ground. Those minor changes grow over the height of your pergola.
In order to properly assemble your pergola, this is where the extra muscle comes into play. These guys or gals will help you hoist the beams onto the posts to make adding your slats that much easier. Your patio cover is almost complete at this point. Oh, a quick point about treating the wood. You should do all your wood sealant and treatment while your pieces are all on the ground. This makes for much quicker and easier work. Also, you will be able to get more of the nooks and crannies sealed this way. In order to build patio covers like this, you will need to do some homework. Check out some plans on line or buy a book on building patios and decks. You can also find more information at the patio covers place online and through searching Google and other search engines.