One of the nicest home additions to any outdoor space is a pergola. In fact, history has proven that this structure has been a constant feature in many outdoor spaces.
Recovered blueprints showed that it existed in the garden of an official of the Egyptian high court in Thebes back in 1400 BC, and it was also said to be a fixture in many homes in Italy during the Renaissance period.
On this page:
- What’s the Difference Between a Pergola and a Trellis, Gazebo, Pavilion, or Arbor?
- Pergola Designs
- Common Pergola Materials
- Pergola Ideas
- Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Pergola
- Getting Quotes from Pergola Companies Near You
We’re sure Leonardo da Vinci passed by a pergola at least once in his lifetime.
If you are looking to give your garden or outdoor space some character, pergolas are a surefire way but inexpensive of doing so.
Not only are they appealing, they are also functional because they can provide much-needed shade during hot summer days, create a private space outdoors, serve as transition between buildings, allow climbing plants to grow and bloom, and so much more.
And if you want to sell your home in the future, pergolas can even increase its value.
You can also get them custom-made by pergola builders to add some flair and make it stand out from the common and boring designs you see in most homes.
If you are thinking about having a custom pergola for your property but have yet to decide what it will look like, keep reading.
We will give you some design ideas and material options, not to mention help you quickly find a contractor to build your pergola.
What’s the Difference Between a Pergola and a Trellis, Gazebo, Pavilion, or Arbor?
A common mistake people make is not knowing how to distinguish a pergola from other outdoor structures, that is why people use these terms interchangeably.
Before hiring pergola installation contractors near you, it is important for you to know what exactly a pergola is, and if it is the right structure you have in mind and not something else.
- A trellis is a lattice structure that can either be freestanding or connected to a wall whose function is to allow vines and other climbing plants to grow. Think of a single flat panel and you get a trellis.
- On the other hand, an arbor usually consists of two trellises that are connected by an arched lattice structure above them. Its appearance is reminiscent of a tunnel.
- If you watched The Sound of Music, you will have an idea of what a gazebo looks like because it featured prominently in that movie. Comes in either an octagon or hexagon shape, it is completely open and has a roof.
- A pavilion is like a gazebo, only bigger. It also has a much more basic shape, which is often rectangular, and its large space makes it a perfect venue for gatherings and outdoor features, like kitchens.
- What makes a pergola unique is its structure, as it consists of four pillars or vertical posts that provide support to a decorative roof-like structure. This roof is usually open and consists of multiple beams or crossbeams, making it look unfinished. It is also a much sturdier structure that can easily support the weight of wisteria, roses, and other woody vines, unlike the typical trellis and comes in varying sizes.
Can you now tell one from the other?
While you can customize a pergola to any design you want as a freestanding structure, an extension, or to cover something, from a doorstep to an entire walkway, the countless designs you can possibly have will fall into these general categories:
No other design screams ‘pergola’ than an open-top one. If you already have an idea on what a pergola is but are not familiar with the different designs, chances are the one that immediately pops into your mind is the open-top one.
Just from the name, you can probably guess what this looks like. This pergola features a skeletal roof consisting of beams that are supported by pillars, and it comes in a squarish or rectangular shape. Its roof is kept open to allow sun and air to easily circulate. Its roof-like structure is often laid flat, but it can also be angled with one of its side higher than the rest.
To provide shade, it will solely rely on the growth of climbing plants instead of an actual roof or covering, or have beams that are closer to each other. Because of this, it is most often installed in gardens.
Gable or Pitch Pergola
Imagine a house with a triangular roof but without any doors, windows, and walls, and you get a gable or pitch pergola. Unlike an open-top one, it features an actual roof that shields anyone under it from the elements. It also has an excellent runoff that prevents water from settling on the roof.
Because they can resemble the appearance of your home, including the roof, this pergola can either be a standalone structure or connected to your home and blend seamlessly to it. This is why it is often used on decks and patios, as well as over outdoor kitchens and hot tubs. Also, some choose to install it above ground and allot some storage space underneath.
In lieu of a porch, this kind of pergola is a great alternative because it costs less to build but offers the same features.
If you have a modern theme going on for your property and wanting a pergola, the sail pergola will suit it best. This design is similar to an open-top pergola but it incorporates the use of a stretched fabric as its roof and not beams. Because the fabric is usually canvas or any other similar material, it also offers shade. Do note that fabric is weak against harsh weather.
Pergolas are normally held up by four support posts or pillars, but a steel pergola can forego this and have less than that number. They are named as such because they are made up entirely of steel and can withstand different weather conditions, no matter how harsh.
Because of the high cost of materials and labor, steel pergolas are best suited for public spaces. Its industrial feel can also be limiting, that is why not a lot of homeowners use this design for their outdoor space.
If you want to give your boring walkway or pathway a new look, getting a promenade pergola is a useful way of doing so. It is generally longer than other designs, as it spans the entire length of the walkway. While they usually come in an open-top style, transparent roofs are added if the function of the pergola is to also provide protection to those walking along the pathway.
This design is patterned after the open-top pergola, but they differ in terms of the roof. An arched pergola is named as such because of its arched roof, and this makes many people easily confuse it with an arbor. While most arched pergolas have a convex roof, some also make use of a concave design to make it more visually interesting.
Pergola designs are not limited to the ones above, and pergola builders can help you create unique designs that will suit your home. You can mix and match various styles to get the pergola you want, and this is what many homeowners do to make it stand out more.
Common Pergola Materials
If you decided to get a pergola built on your property, chances are you are already trying to find a free day to go to the nearest lumber yard to get your project started.
But, wait a minute. Are you aware that there are also other materials that you can use for your pergola? If not, here is a primer on other options you may want to consider.
No other material is commonly used for a pergola than wood.
It is a favorite of both homeowners and builders alike, being a generally affordable yet durable material that pros won’t have much difficulty working with. Wood also offers versatility, since you can stain it for a rustic feel or paint it with solid colors to get a contemporary look.
You can even use both hardwood and softwood for it; hardwood is a lot sturdier but more expensive, and softwood is already treated but costs less. However, regular maintenance is a must for all wooden pergolas, as they are not immune to the various issues wood is known for. And because of all the treatment needed, its installation takes longer.
Because there are so many species of wood available, it can be hard to pick one for your pergola. To help you out, these are the most commonly used ones that you should consider:
- Pressure-Treated Wood – can easily be bought in home improvement stores. The treatment it goes through makes it more resistant to rot, pests, and decay that wood is vulnerable to.
However, it is known to have unsightly streaks or tints of green or blue that will require you to stain or paint over it to make it unnoticeable. Also, the chemicals used in the treatment are dangerous to both humans and pets.
- Tropical Hardwood – refers to any kind of angiosperm that grows in the tropics. This is best for any outdoor structure because they have very high Janka ratings that indicate their hardness and resiliency to different conditions. Commonly used species include rosewood, teak, ipe, and mahogany.
Although they may be the most ideal material, they are very expensive because they are hard to find and are not considered eco-friendly due to wrong foresting practices of many sellers.
- Cedar – known for its yellowish hue, cedar is capable of naturally resisting pests and rot without the need for chemical treatment. It also has a more rustic appearance due to its prominent grains. The Western Red Cedar is often used for pergolas.
- Redwood – often compared to cedar and shares similar properties in terms of pest and rot resistance, redwood is known for its reddish-brown hue and subtle grains. Also, it is a bit more durable than cedar.
Using metal is for those who are after a durable pergola more than aesthetics. Metal is resistant to the issues wood is known for, will easily withstand extreme weather conditions, and can also be customized to any design you want.
If you plan to use it for your pergola, use this as a guide to choose which one to get:
- Steel – very durable but is the most expensive. And if you use a chemically treated one, oxidation that results in rust is prevented.
- V-crimp – can be easily installed
- Aluminum – lightweight, low maintenance, cost-effective, and resistant to corrosion. If you have a coastal property or installing it in a constantly hot location, you should use this
- R-clamp – comes with high ridges and its installation requires the use of lap screws that measure 5/16”, which can be an eyesore for some
- Copper – truly eye-catching, but the patina it develops over time may not be to everyone’s taste
In terms of installation, metal is a lot easier to work with than wood. But because it normally involves welding, professional work is a must.
The downside to using metal is its cost; metal pergolas are the most expensive, considering both materials and labor. And while it is not as high maintenance as wood, you still need to get it cleaned every now and then and apply sealers, or galvanize it, to prevent rust.
Stone or Brick
Stone or brick is the best choice for homeowners who want to make sure that their pergolas will match the façade of their home, especially when connected to it. The same bricks or stones used on your home can also be used on the pergola to make it look like that it is just an extension of your home and not a standalone structure.
These materials are also excellent in terms of weather resistance, and their maintenance is mostly limited to regular cleaning. However, it can get expensive and its installation can take some time.
If you want a pergola for your home but are on a limited budget, look into using vinyl.
However, you do sacrifice durability for that affordable price tag, since vinyl does not offer much resistance to extreme weather. Also, temperature changes can affect vinyl and cause it to weaken and sag.
Vinyl can also be restricting when it comes to customization. You can only choose between the colors offered by retailers, although some offer designs that mimic wood, and they often come in pergola kits with fixed sizes. Also, they must only be built as a standalone structure.
But on the upside, vinyl can give your pergola a sophisticated feel because it comes in solid but formal colors, with white the most commonly used. Also, its being lightweight makes installation easier; this even lets you save on materials, since you can lessen the number of pillars used on your pergola without affecting its durability. It only requires minimal maintenance and will not experience rust nor rot, unlike metal and wood.
The use of PVC is not limited to your plumbing system; you can also use it to build a pergola for your home. Just like vinyl, this material requires little to no maintenance at all, since the only kind of maintenance you need to do is clean and wash away the dirt that settles. And if you use a thick kind, rotting and rust are also prevented.
If you aim to be as “green” as possible, a fiberglass pergola is right for you; unlike other materials, fiberglass is normally manufactured using recycled materials. And when it comes to maintenance, doing a power wash annually is enough.
Often compared to vinyl, fiberglass is also resistant to the various issues that plague other pergolas. And being non-porous, moisture absorption that can weaken the structure is prevented. And in terms of the price tag, fiberglass is more expensive than vinyl because of its durability.
Fiberglass is also known to handle temperature changes without being deformed. However, it is also prone to getting damaged by strong winds and other intense weather conditions. And if you want to use it for decorative purposes, do note that it is limited to mostly light colors, like white and beige.
Regardless of what material you choose, you can expect the installation of your pergola to cost as low as $1,900 to as much as $15,000 for professional installation and materials.
When we think of pergolas, we often have this picture in our minds of a rectangular structure with four pillars and a lot of beams that act as its roof. Nothing special about its appearance, really.
Pergolas don’t have to be boring. Before getting yours installed, you can ask local pergola contractors to help you come up with a design that is unique and will stand out from the rest.
If you have no clue how you can do so, here are some ideas that you can try out for yourself:
- Use plants. Although one of the main functions of pergolas is to allow climbing plants room to grow, many homeowners nowadays prefer it to be neat and free of plants. So, how about going back to its original purpose? Allow those climbing plants and vines to grow until they completely cover up the top of your pergola and become its roof. But if this looks unkempt for you, you can just hang a few plants on the beams or place potted pants.
- Get a hot tub, jacuzzi, pool, or any similar structure installed. Pergolas are often built as a decorative element to the hot tub or pool area, but you can also do it in reverse. If there is enough space (and budget, of course!), you can get a pool contractor to build a hot tub or pool under the pergola. Aboveground pools are common for this.
- Mix and match materials and designs. It is common to see pergolas built using only a single material. Create an interesting look by combining different materials, such as metal and wood. Even if you leave it bare, your pergola will be an eye-catcher.
- Have an unconventional shape. Pergolas are typically in the shape of a square or rectangle, or even curved to follow the path of a walkway. Go beyond the box and choose a different shape. Some get T-shaped or L-shaped pergolas, and there are also others who get a pergola built in the shape of a half-circle.
- Give it some privacy with decorative curtains or blinds. While pergolas are known to be open, it does not mean you can forget about privacy. You can get curtains, blinds, or any other similar material and use it as makeshift walls for your pergola not just to use as shade but also to give yourselves some privacy whenever you want.
- Add some furniture underneath. A favorite way of many to add some flair to a pergola, especially ones connected to their home, is to place furniture and decorate the entire space. That way, your pergola will act as an outdoor living room where you can hang out.
- Turn the space into a patio. If your pergola is freestanding, you can also place outdoor furniture to get an instant patio. This is especially handy if you have limited space available out on your yard.
- Spruce up an outdoor dining and kitchen area with a pergola. If you are fond of having get-togethers during the Fourth of July, having an outdoor kitchen and dining area is a must. Pergolas are a great and inexpensive way of having an attractive space out on your yard where you can all sit and enjoy a meal.
Let your creativity run wild when it comes to pergolas. There are countless ways of decorating them, so don’t be afraid of experimenting.
Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Pergola
At just a glance, we might think that pergolas are too easy to build; their pieces only need to be connected to each other and you’re done. People learn it the hard way that not all pergolas projects are completed successfully.
If you want to make sure your pergola will be successfully completed, here are some friendly reminders that you need to keep in mind:
- Mind the required paperwork. While building pergolas don’t usually require permits from local authorities, there are always exceptions. Check with yours if permits are a must before starting on your project.
- Randomly picking a spot. Despite pergolas looking like simple structures, they should be placed on ground capable of supporting it. You risk it collapsing in just a short time if it is built over loose soil that cannot hold its weight.
- Relying on printable plans found online – there are so many DIY pergola plans online that it is tempting for many to just use them to build their own. The problem with it is that these are not really tailor fit to your property; you may end up with a wrong-sized pergola or even leave it unfinished.
- Not having the right size – too big, you get a crowded looking outdoor space. Too small, and you end up with a pergola that screams “I had it built just so I can say I also have a pergola in my yard!” A right-sized pergola will greatly complement your outdoor space, which is the goal.
- Wrong choice of materials – if you know that wood is a poor choice of material for pergola in a neighborhood that frequently gets torrential rains, why get it? Choose the material that is weather-appropriate for your area if you want your pergola to last long.
- Not checking where your utility lines are – even if they are buried deep underground, utility lines can still get damaged. Make sure to check whether the spot you want your pergola to be built is not above them, as they can be struck during its construction. Also, fixing your sewer line, water line, or electrical line under a pergola will mean more work and added expenses.
- Relying on DIY work even without the proper knowledge – with so many pergola plans found online, people would rather go the DIY route than get a contractor. This is doomed to fail, especially if you have no knowledge of the basics, like how to use the different tools and that a flat roof needs at least a 5-degree pitch to prevent water from settling.
Pergolas are a generally easy construction project compared to most structures, but it is also easy to make mistakes in their construction. To avoid this, leave it to the pros.
Getting Quotes from Pergola Companies Near You
It is safe to say that hiring local pergola companies for your project is the best way to go. Not only do they know the ins and outs of installation, they can also give you proper advice on what material to use, if the design you want is feasible and practical, and other aspects you may have overlooked.
Yes, you save on labor costs on DIY work, but are you sure that your completed pergola, if you even get to finish it successfully, is at par with the work of a pro?
If pergola builders do it for you, your pergola will last a long time. But if not, you can always claim warranty for unsatisfactory work or materials. You can’t really do that with DIY work.
In the long run, you get to save more with pergola installation contractors than DIY work, especially if your knowledge about construction is limited to knowing what a hammer is.
Now that you decided to get a pro, you may wonder which one to hire once you see the number of contractors that offer the same service.
You know that this is going to be time-consuming, not to mention will involve using up a lot of fuel to go all over the area and make inquiries. But what if we tell you that we have a free service that eliminates all these?
Just fill out the form above and send it back to us, and that’s it. Don’t worry, filling out your details will only take a few minutes.
Once you do that, expect to get free quotes from up to four pros who are interested in helping you get that pergola built. All the hard work you need to do is compare their offers and decide which contractor to sign a contract with.
But we know that it is possible that none of their offers will convince you to hire them for the job. That is why we give you the freedom to turn down their offers; whether you hire a pergola builder or not through our service, we will not charge you.
Don’t believe us? See for yourself by filling out our form right now to find qualified pergola installers near you!