Pergola Design and Construction

When adding a new feature you your yard, you have a lot of choices about what you end up building. Pergola, gazebo, or otherwise, many of the planning stages are going to be very similar. This is somewhat because of how similar the buildings are in many aspects. More importantly though, it is because the real design at work isn’t just the structure you will be building, but also how that structure will integrate with the rest of the home, yard, and garden.

This type of overarching landscaping design is something that you need to bear in mind when formulating your specific pergola designs. Without consideration for other structures and features in your yard, even a beautiful pergola can end up hindering various activities in adjacent areas, or even undermine the aesthetic appeal of your home.

Prefabricated Kits vs DIY

There are different ways to go about building a pergola. DIY types may have already stopped reading this to go out and build their own, but not everyone can be a handy handyman with all the tools necessary to build such a structure. For those people, there are kits available which can be put together rather quickly with minimal need for tools … or skills for that matter.

The problem with kits is that they often include sub-standard materials. They may be poorly fitted, or simply made out of cheap materials which won’t hold up to the stresses of being outdoors through the seasons.

With a rather simplistic structural design, pergolas may be the right project for those who are considering jumping into the DIY pool though. The design of a pergola is such that it can be easily pictured before hand, and the types of cuts to make aren’t very complicated either. Of course on the other hand, a pergola ends up being quite a lot of suspended weight, and miscalculating the supports needed can end up disastrous.

Material Components

Carefully consider the type of materials you will use when building your pergola. Wooden pergolas are the norm, and for good reason, but other types of materials can be used to good effect as well. You can even use a combination of materials to utilize the strengths of each, and to help create a more interesting visual interaction between the components.

One material that is well suited for pergolas, or at least some components of pergolas, is wrought iron. Sturdy and with a classic look, you can be sure that wrought iron posts will stand for a lifetime … at least so long as you are willing to maintain them properly. Combined with wooden runners, this can be a visually pleasing pergola and one which has strong and heavy supports, with lighter weight joists.

Aluminium is another material that pergolas can be made of. This metal is most useful because of how well it resists the elements. Aluminium will not corrode or rust. It is also strong and lightweight. As such, it’s a great material from a functional standpoint for just about any outdoor building project.

The problem with aluminium is that it often looks rather out of place in a garden environment. Straight and mechanical looking, it would be more at home at the side of a pool or walkway. Of course you can have aluminium cast and finished to look much like wrought iron, but generally the aluminium pergola kits you will find have nothing of the sort, or worse yet, tacky attempts at it.

To Cover or not to Cover?

It may seem strange given the basic pergola design, but pergola canopies are becoming more and more common. Perhaps this is because pergolas don’t protect against the rain and sun very well in most cases, and so to add functionality to their pergola owners want to add something more roof-like … if only temporarily when inclement weather strikes.

The right pergola cover can be a difficult thing to figure out though. As it’s not a terribly common feature, there aren’t a lot of similar pergolas around that you can draw inspiration from.

An important thing to bear in mind when looking for a pergola canopy, much like when looking for canopies for awnings or gazebos, is that not all canopies are created equal. Some will leave you to get soaked because they haven’t been waterproofed. Others may be so flimsy that they won’t last out the year. Make sure you find a quality canopy for your pergola, and the extra cost will pay itself back many times over.

More Pergola “Roofing” Options

As an alternative to a canopy, you can add glass or plexiglass to your pergola. This has the benefit of acting as a roof while not looking like it. The structural highlights of your pergola will remain fully visible, as will the sky filtering through the rafters above. This can be great for when you need protection from rain storms, but don’t want to clutter up the look of your pergola with a canopy.

When it’s the sun, not the rain, which you seek shelter from, using your pergola as a trellis is a great idea. Vines and other crawling plants can be trained up to the pergola deck, and there they can spread out their shoots and leaves to help shade below. Not only is this great to create a cool and private area to relax in, but it can also help you make your pergola into a productive garden feature.