DIY Pergola – Planning for a Beautiful Addition to Your Yard

As one of the most simple structures you can add to your yard, a DIY pergola makes a lot of sense. You should still be careful about the design phase of the project though, as there are a lot of subtle and important elements that can dramatically change the use and visual appeal of a pergola with only slight modifications. For instance, the angle at which the slats are installed can change the amount of shade that they cast at different times of day or year. Also the orientation of the slats have a similar effect.

A pergola is not an expensive project either. With minimal materials it’s something that can be done quite inexpensively as a DIY project. Going with a prefab kit can be another way to get a cheap pergola that still is of good quality. In this case you are saving money on the fabrication, as that can be done at the factory very efficiently. Also you are saving on labor costs, as prefabricated pergolas are very easy to assemble. It is important to make sure you carefully examine the kit first to ensure it’s of high quality. Sometimes these kits are not well designed and use shoddy materials. So buyer beware!

Using Your Pergola as a Trellis for Flowers, Fruits, or Vegetables

If you’re looking for somewhere to facilitate your climbing plants, pergolas are right up your alley. With their design structure, they make excellent trellises once you get the vines up to the top of the pergola. All those slats gives climbing plants plenty of places to take hold, and the gaps in between allow fruits and flowers to hang through to increase the productivity and beauty of the plant.

There are some problems with using a pergola as a trellis though. The main one being that the main “trellis” portion of the pergola is going to be so far off the ground that many vines, especially productive vegetable ones, may have difficulty in reaching the main area they can spread out in. This isn’t a problem for things like ivy or other very long vines of course, but it does limit what you can trellis on a pergola without making some modifications to your designs.

One way in which you can mitigate this effect is to include a trellis up to the top of the pergola on at least one side. This will give the shorter vines somewhere to spread out even if they aren’t able to use the upper deck of the pergola very much. It can also be a wonderful privacy screen and help to block the sunlight in the late afternoon when positioned properly.

Another modification that you can make, which highlights one of the benefits of DIY pergolas over prefab kits, is to incorporate planters or at least places to hold container plants into the design of your pergola. By allowing the vines to be planted nearer to the top deck, you decrease the distance they must traverse before spreading out on all that free area. This is something that you may find pergola kits just aren’t up to allowing. Either they will not be able to hold the extra weight of the suspended soil in the containers, or they may not have anywhere suitable to do so.

This type of elevated container gardening can allow you to trellis even relatively short vine vegetables such as cucumbers, cantaloupes, and watermelons on your pergola. With the heavier fruits just make sure your pergola is up to holding all that weight. Also you will want to support the fruits individually so that they won’t break off their stems.

Shaded by Day, Lighted by Night

It’s funny how sometimes there’s too much light for comfort, and other times not enough. A pergola helps to address the first issue simply by it’s structural design. Limiting the amount of sunlight that is allowed through, the slats and other structural members can help to create a cooler and more comfortable area underneath the pergola.

At night though, shade is not a concern. The structure of a pergola can still help out though. By installing lighting on your pergola, you can help to increase the usefulness of the structure and create a wonderful place to spend your evenings. Pergola lighting ideas are somewhat limited by a couple main factors though. You may find that it’s difficult to include much in the way of lighting without detracting from the look and usefulness of the pergola.

With no roof to keep off the rain and snow, the wiring needs to be well insulated against the elements. Also, with a bare-bones type of structure, it’s harder to hide the wiring so as not to detract from the design and materials it is comprised of. In many cases, the best bet may be to run the wiring through conduit installed on top of the slats of the pergola. This way the wiring will be protected by the conduit, and the conduit hidden from view from below. It can still be difficult to find a suitable way to run electrical wiring perpendicular to the slats though, and so relying on this solely for running your wires would limit you to lighting along one slat.

With hollow elements such as metal pipe or vinyl pergola materials, you may find that these issues become much less of a concern. The wiring can be threaded through the structural elements and so only be exposed at outlets. This will afford the wiring a lot of protection against the elements if your joints are well sealed. The main issue to look out for when wiring this way would be later modifications, such as driving screws into the beams to hang plants from. Always remember there is wiring inside so that you can avoid potentially dangerous situations.