A pergola is an outdoor structure that usually consists of four columns or posts that support a ceiling built out of slats or beams. Unlike other outdoor structures, a pergola doesn’t have walls so the sides are exposed. The basic pergola is rectangular or square, but they can assume other shapes as well. It is the versatility of the pergola that has made it popular among a lot of people today.
A pergola provides you with a clear vista of your garden and is a good place to relax and unwind. Because there are no walls, air flows freely while the roof provides relief from the rain or the sun’s heat.
Simply the perfect area to hang around with friends and family in full comfort outdoors.
A pergola also blends in nicely with climbing plants, and when climbing plants make their way to the roof and columns, you get additional shade, not to mention the fact it’s an added attraction. A well-positioned pergola can also be used to hide unpleasant views. In addition, your pergola adds a sense of style to your home and garden that is hard to match. Pergolas can be set in any number of locations such as near your pool, as a structure over your hot tub, in the yard, garden, the deck or patio, underscoring its versatility.
In the following guide we will cover:
- the strengths and weakness of the main three materials used for pergolas: wooden, vinyl and metal
- basic pergola pricing calculated from general rates practiced by USA professional contractors
- basic maintenance that one future pergola-owner must consider prior purchase
- brilliant inspiring pergola designs to surge inspiration from
- pergola accessories to complete your loisir ensemble
- clarification on pergolas-like ensembles that often creates confusions
Without further a due let`s dive into it.
A wood pergola is a good choice as it looks natural and is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. One of the advantages of wood is it works well in outdoor settings and exudes a natural charm. There are different types of woods to choose from, though cedar is probably the most popular as it is resistant to rot and decay. Cedar also smells nice, and its oils repel insects and pests.
Another good choice would be redwood as it is robust and easy on the eyes. Redwood is also resistant to insects and rot, and like cedar can be stained to simulate walnut or other woods.
You may also opt for pressure treated wood, and they’re available in different colors ranging from brown to shades of green. Pressure treated wood have also been treated chemically so it will last longer. While pressure treated wood is more expensive, it will last a long time.
You may also want to look at oak as it is durable and can last even when exposed outdoors. If you want something a bit more exotic, check out some bamboo as it’s as tough as it is striking.
- Cost effective
- Widely available
- Different types to choose from
- Some woods like cedar are heavy
- Staining or painting required for pressure treated wood to prevent warping
Vinyl pergolas used to be very expensive but the price has dropped significantly the past few years, making it more common. Compared to wood and metal, vinyl is easier to maintain, lighter and more affordable. Vinyl pergolas are truly maintenance free, and unlike wood you don’t have to worry about rot or cracking.
Most vinyl pergolas are white, but grey vinyl pergolas are becoming more common, with tan and brown structures available as well. Vinyl can also be dressed up to simulate wood, and there are even vinyl and wood pulp hybrids that completely resemble wood but offer the advantages of vinyl.
- Easy to maintain
- Cracking is not an issue
- Poorly made vinyl pergola could deteriorate under direct sunlight
- Vinyl can have a too shiny appearance
There are many types of metal materials such as wrought iron, aluminum and steel. Most of these metal pergolas are black as it gives the structure a unique look that can range from the classic to the contemporary. However your choice is not limited to black as gun metal grey looks just as good.
Aluminum pergolas are the most widely available as the material is inexpensive, relatively light and sturdy, while steel is very durable and lasts a long time. Both aluminum and steel pergolas have powder coating for extra durability. If budget is not an issue however, consider wrought iron pergolas as it is the strongest and doesn’t need a lot of maintenance.
- Can withstand windy conditions
- Can become hot
- Less number of metal designs compared to wood
How Much Does a Pergola Cost?
A lot of factors influence the price, but generally you can buy a 10 x 10 ft. pergola kit for around $1,500 while a 12 x 12 is approximately $2,000, though the material has a direct effect on the price.
If you’re going to build a pergola DIY, some handyman experience is necessary as well as basic tools like a measuring tape, a level, drills and a ladder. Bolt down brackets are required if you’re building the pergola on a deck, and you’ll need concrete or pressure-treated wood for the stable base.
The total cost of all the hardware, kit and tools for DIY wood pergola is around $3,000. If you want to pay a professional contractor, it will cost about $3,000 plus $500 for labor for a 10 x 10 pergola. Professional installation of high end materials and other stuff i.e. a stereo system, multiple levels, lighting etc.will increase the cost to $5,000 and $750 to $1,000 for labor, also for a 10 x 10 pergola.
The material plays a huge role in determining how you take care of it. As explained earlier, some materials are higher maintenance than others, but here are some general guidelines that apply to all.
- Hose the pergola: use a high-pressure water hose to get rid of dirt on the roof or supports, and adjust the hose pressure according to the material. Always commence hosing downwards and make sure there are no accessories or furniture in the pergola before hosing.
- Clean regularly: clean your pergola regularly with a brush with bristles. Use a toothbrush to remove dirt a bristle brush can’t remove. Make sure you get rid of any splinters or peeling paint. If it’s a metal pergola, use a bristle brush to eliminate rust. Vinyl pergolas come with special cleaning instructions so follow the guidelines provided.
- Stains and mildew: corrosive fasteners might produce dark brown or black spots on your wood pergola. To get rid of mildew, mix a gallon of water with a cup of oxygen bleach and apply this on your pergola after washing it. Once the stains have lightened up, wash with soapy water and rinse.
- Once all the dirt has been removed, rinse the pergola with a hose to get rid of any residue or leftover dirt. Repeat the rinsing if necessary.
- Have a repair kit in hand to patch up any signs of damage before it gets worse. Dings and cuts can be repaired by applying wood or metal putty, and a touch up kit comes in handy for repainting areas that have been damaged. Many pergola kits come with repair tools you can use.
Pergola Purchasing Options
There are three available: custom made, purchase a pergola kit or build one from scratch.
- Pergola kits: this is the most practical and popular option. Kits come in different colors, types, sizes and styles. Most are rectangular or square, with dimensions ranging from 6.5’ x 6.5’, 8’ x 8’ and 10’ x 10’. There are also 12’ x 12’ pergola kits available. The rectangular kits are usually 12’ x 14’, 10’ x 12’ and 8’ x 10’, and increasingly larger kits are now available.
- Custom made pergola: if you want specific features for your pergola, get one that’s custom made. They’re more expensive than kits but have the exact specs you want, ensuring the structure fits in the space you have. A custom made pergola is the ideal option if the standard pergola kit sizes don’t fit your requirements. Custom made is also the way to go if you want to use specific types of wood or metal.
- Build a pergola: if you have the skills, tools and time, building a pergola from the ground up can be satisfying and in some cases, less expensive. The quickest way to go about this is to look for pergola plans online or buy a book on the subject.
There are several well known pergola designs you can draw inspiration from, follow the short list below and choose your favorite.
Also known as a lean to pergola or wall pergola, it’s a good option if space is at a premium. While the typical pergola has four columns, the wall pergola only has two as the rest of the structure rests on your house. Wall pergolas are smaller than regular pergolas, which makes them just right for patios so you can sit in a shade. You can also use a wall pergola to act as a window shade and connect your pool house to your home.
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Outdoor Kitchen Pergola
If you are into outdoor cooking but could use some shade protection, an outdoor pergola will do nicely. There are many kits you can buy and place over your outdoor kitchen or BBQ island. Some of these are even custom made, and that’s the ideal solution if you want the pergola to cover a specific amount of space.
Photo Courtesy – Doug Edmunds
A louvered pergola has angled slats on the roof, and the slats are angled in such a manner it blocks the sun’s rays, effectively keeping the heat out. Louvered pergolas have adjustable slats, a convenient feature because as the sun’s rises and sets, you’ll be able to make the proper adjustments. Depending on your goal, this pergola can cool you down or warm up. The more sophisticated pergolas even have touch buttons for the slat angle adjustments.
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A window pergola doesn’t come with any support legs as it is installed on a wall over doors or windows, and these are used to enhance the appeal of that particular window or door. These don’t provide the advantages a full-fledged pergola does, but it’s going to provide shade for the interior and won’t cost as much. A window pergola is most effective if you’ve got a large pergola already and use this for emphasis.
Photo Courtesy – 567 Photography
As the name suggests, an arched pergola has an arched roof that can serve as the structure’s highlight, and it is certainly one of the most visually appealing pergolas. Apart from its attractive appearance, an arched pergola provides you with an effective way to add ceiling. Some arched pergolas are large and sometimes used as a walkway or as a shade provider. A lot of pergola kits have arched roofs, and there are also specialized builders who can make one for you.
These are pergolas meticulously handmade by the Amish and are renowned for the quality and craftsmanship. Since these are handcrafted, no two are similar, something that’s hard to find with other outdoor structures.
A Japanese pergola usually has wood roof beams which come up in a curve, very much like what you would see in traditional Japanese architecture. A Japanese pergola would fit in nicely in an Asian themed garden. There are many ways to use this pergola, but it looks best when it is adjacent to some type of ornamental bamboo, a pond or water.
The Tuscan pergola is notable for its stately columns. The classic Tuscan pergola has stone columns, but different materials are often used that simulate the appearance of stone minus the weight and cost. A Tuscan pergola looks just right in a Mediterranean garden as it’s going to be the main focus.
A corner pergola is set in corners and has three legs and triangular shaped. These are not as widely available as other pergola designs, but you can find them in some pergola kits. By simply adding a corner pergola, you’ll be able to enhance a corner of your house that would otherwise be ignored. These are also frequently used in BBQ and outdoor kitchen spots.
Accessories for Your Pergola
Here are some suggestions:
- Plants add shade, beauty, fragrance and color around your pergola. Wisteria, clematis, trumpet vines, jasmine, hydrangea and roses are just among the most popular choices, and you can also add potted plants alongside the posts where they can climb up.
- Fans can keep you cool if it’s really hot, and an outdoor ceiling fan also keeps insects off the pergola. Make sure the fan is wet rated so even if it rains there won’t be any issues. The fan must also be proportional to the size of your pergola so it can provide the cooling you expect.
- Curtains or drapes provide additional protection if it rains, and it adds a bit of privacy as well. Not all pergolas have curtains, but it’s easy enough to purchase them.
- Privacy Walls -sometimes curtains are not enough. If there’s a hot tub in your pergola, get some privacy walls to seal the area. These walls fit in between posts and made from different materials like wood and cloth so they’ll match your pergola’s design.
- Covers – the cover your pergola kit came with won’t last forever, so get another one that will serve as protection from the sun and rain. Pergola covers come in different shapes, colors and sizes so you won’t have any problems finding the right one, and there are even retractable covers, great if the weather in your area becomes unpredictable.
- Lights – adding lights to your pergola is one of the best ways to create ambiance. String lights are the least expensive, and they’re easy to set up too. Mounted lights can also be added to the posts and provide extra lights. Built-in lights can also be added to the beams for just the right level of illumination.
If you’ve got an outdoor kitchen pergola, hanging lights will be most appropriate as it’s going to provide illumination so you can cook at night, and the addition of lights also makes it more convenient to eat. Furthermore, the hanging lights make the pergola really look like a part of the main house, and wiring isn’t that hard to do.
Structures Similar to Pergolas
There are several outdoor structures similar to the pergolas and we will take a look at them here to clear out future confusions between the ensembles.
An arbor is a structure set in a garden and used as a shelter, shade or privacy. There are many types of arbors, some equipped with benches or as structure to display flowering vines. Arbors may be constructed from vinyl, iron, wood or other materials, depending on how it will be used.
Arbors usually have 2 or 4 supports and a slatted, frequently arched roof. The sides are either covered with trellis or lattice or open. The standard height is 8 to 10 feet, with some freestanding and others attached. The rafters on an arbor can be detailed or basic, and in the case of the former, notches and scrollwork can be added.
An arbor may be constructed with regular lumber, but if you’re building one, make sure it is strong enough to handle vines if you’re going to use it as a support structure for plants.
A carport is an outdoor structure with open sides and a roof. As the name suggests, these are used mainly for storing vehicles, but unlike a garage carports don’t have walls and are open. Carports are smaller than the typical garage and it may be freestanding or joined to another structure.
Some carports can be situated in various parts of your property, and while designs vary, the most basic consists of a roof and support posts. While its main purpose is to serve as a vehicle storehouse, the design allows for their use similar to a pergola. Today’s carports are made from different materials including steel, aluminum, vinyl and wood.
If you’re going to use the carport like a pergola, i.e., as an outdoor structure for relaxation or decoration, any of the above mentioned materials will do. If it’s going to be for your car, galvanized steel is ideal especially if it has a zinc finish for the roof to prevent rust.
Vinyl carports are not as widely used as steel or wood, but their advantage is being easier to set up and resistant to water. Vinyl is also durable and is a recyclable material. Aluminum carports aren’t as popular as steel either, but it is light and available in a wide range of colors which you can coordinate with your home or garden theme.
Aluminum carports don’t have to be permanent and are portable, giving you more flexibility, and they usually have a cloth and frame. While aluminum carports aren’t often used for vehicles, they’re suitable for outdoor recreation, protection when you’re hunting, at the beach or as outdoors shade protection for your home. A carport may be constructed from the ground up or you can buy a kit.
A gazebo is another type of open structure, freestanding and with an octagonal or hexagonal roof and is built from wood or metal with seats inside. While it’s an open structure, some have drapes or lattices for some privacy. When in a garden, a gazebo is often set up for easy viewing, or it is located on a hill where it serves as a viewing platform of the surroundings.
There are different types of gazebos. A folly gazebo is only for decorative purposes and is often near flowerbeds to enhance the view. Rotundas are large gazebos with a circular roof. While the rotunda is based on European architecture, the pagoda has a distinctly Japanese flavor and known for their intricate design. Lastly there is the pavilion, which is open sided and set near the main house.
Pergolas have been used for long time, with records showing they were utilized as far back as Ancient Egypt. Today they’re more popular than ever and ideal for getting relief from the heat and serve as a decorative structure. With several materials to choose from, you can have a pergola just the way you want it.
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