Preparing for Pergola Construction

When going about how to figure out how to plan pergola construction for your landscaping, there are quite a lot of different factors to bear in mind. Without a clear and focused concept of what you hope to accomplish, or how to accomplish it, you might end up with a pergola that isn’t what you would have hoped for. So take your time when putting together pergola designs, and ensure that every angle has been accounted for.

Accounting is of course a big part of any home improvement project. A budget needs to be set to give guidelines about how much can be spent on various portions of the project. Keeping these goals in mind will help you to create the best pergola that you can afford. Pergola prices aren’t that steep in general, as their design is light on materials and usually rather simplistic. The pergola cost can be much higher though if it’s not designed properly, as it could require regular repairs or even replacement altogether.

Locations and Uses of Pergolas

Pergolas are functional as well as aesthetic additions to your yard, and as such both of those factors should be considered carefully when designing a pergola. Decks with pergolas built above them become a much more substantial feature that can improve the look of the house as well as to provide a somewhat sheltered place to help mitigate the effects of the hot summer sun.

Pergolas also do well in gardens. There they can be used as trellises for climbing vines. (Well, they can be used this way anywhere really, but it’s most common in gardens.) This helps the vines to be more healthy and productive, and at the same time will create a cooler and more shaded environment underneath the pergola. This can be a great spot to put some lawn furniture or even a hammock so that you and the family can enjoy a cool, quiet place to get away and relax.

Those aren’t the only locations that you can put a pergola though. With the distinctive styling and airy construction of a pergola they can look great just about anywhere. Beside a pool, along a walkway, or featured out front, you can be sure that a well designed pergola is going to be a great addition that draws the eye and compliments as well.

Pergola Construction Materials

One of the key aspects that is going to determine how your pergola looks and works in conjunction with the surrounding environment is what materials it is constructed of. While some materials may be structurally sound and allow for wonderful lithe structures, they might not fit in visually with the rest of the landscaping. Other materials might not be as well suited for the outdoor environment, but look great. Finding ways to use these materials in a way that highlights their strong points while minimizing their weaknesses is a very important factor in planning your pergola.

In a pergola, timber just looks great. However, depending on the type of lumber you are using, it may not hold up to the elements all that well. A pergola is going to be exposed to wind, rain, hail, and snow … as well as the damaging effects of ultraviolet light from the sun.

To protect a wooden pergola from this onslaught requires properly sealing the wood. This is something of a problem for timber though. Sealants tend to give a glossy look to wood, and that’s something that just doesn’t look good on timber, where a rough finish is part of the appeal. So if you are using timber for pergola construction, try to avoid glossy finishes.

Wood isn’t the only material that has some drawbacks to it though. Most metals that can hold up well to the weather, such as stainless steel or aluminum, often have a finish that doesn’t mesh well with natural surroundings. The bright, shiny metal can distract from the look of a yard and look tacky. This doesn’t have to be the case though, as aluminum can be finished to have a darker or even more earthy color to it, which can be a rather alluring look.

Another metal that just works outdoors is wrought iron. While an entire pergola constructed of wrought iron would be a very massive and heavy structure, using wrought iron just for some components can make a great impression. Leaving the runners for wood or a lighter metal like aluminum is probably a good approach though, as having that much weight up in the air might not be the best idea in the world.

Accessories for Your Pergola

It may seem like it’s too early to start thinking about adding on to your pergola, you are just planning it right now, but actually this is the perfect time to start thinking ahead. Some additions may not be possible later on if you don’t accommodate specific requirements in your original build.

For instance, what if later you want to add a swinging wrought iron bench to your pergola? Well, that’s a lot of weight to suspend, and will need special structural designs that won’t be found in just any pergola. If you plan ahead though, you can design your pergola to allow for such an addition. It might be a while before you can actually implement that porch style swing, but when you do it will be much easier than trying to figure out how to update your pergola itself to allow for the additional weight.

Another consideration with a pergola is whether you will trellis it or not. Some vines will climb the main legs of a pergola easily enough, then spread out when they reach the deck above. Other plants though will need help, such as an arbor on one side to climb. Still others may need to have their pots suspended from the pergola so that they can reach the top with their shorter vines and shoots.

Taking a holistic approach to pergola design like this will ensure that you can enjoy your pergola for years to come rather than end up with a lot of headaches down the road. Take the time to plan it out right and it will really pay off!

Backyard Pergola Ideas – Rustic, Solar, or Contemporary Shade

Adding a backyard pergola to your home is one of the better ideas as to how to upgrade the look and function of your landscaping all at once. Pergolas have striking architectural features that draw the eye, and can also create interesting shade patterns on the ground. With slight variations on the spacing and angles of the lattice members, a pergola’s impact on the aesthetics of your home and garden can be drastically changed. For this reason, it is imperative that you take the time to formulate well planned pergola designs.

While the designing of a pergola can be rather complex, the actual building of it is rather straightforward. The design elements are all there to see, front and center, and so the real task is to construct it very precisely so that no mistakes will be made apparent. Remember that there’s no siding or roof that’s going to cover up poorly worked joints or warped edges. It’s all there for everyone to see.

Although when used as arbors or trellises, pergolas can have their structure covered up by the leaves of the vines growing on them. This can help create a more beautiful pergola, but shouldn’t be relied upon to cover up mistakes. Vines will die back or lose their leaves for the winter, and then your secret would be made public.

Shade Ideas with a Pergola

The way a pergola interacts with the sun is perhaps the most interesting thing about it. As the sun moves across the sky, from the East in the morning to the West at evening, the shadows cast by a pergola can change dramatically. Similarly, the shade cast will also be changed as the seasons go by and the sun lowers in the sky.

Understanding this interaction allows for pergola ideas to be formulated with specific shading ideas in mind. These can range from the functional to the artistic, though often there is a great deal of overlap between the two. Trying to enhance this synergy between the form and function is one of the key aspects of pergola design.

The primary design decision that will affect shading is of course the ratio of open to closed space. In widely spaced pergolas, the slats won’t offer as much in the way of shade as in more closely spaced designs. This isn’t just true in the horizontal dimension, but also somewhat in the vertical one as well. Very tall slats, which are often desirable for the look they bring to the pergola, will cast more shade when the sun is low in the sky. This runs contrary to the functional aspect where it’s generally best to have more shade when the sun is at it’s apex, as those will be the hotter times of day and year.

Another important factor is the orientation of the slats. You can modify your designs to largely ignore movement of shadows during the day by orienting the slats East and West. This means the profile offered to the sun stays much the same throughout the day. Alternatively, you can orient the slats North and South. This has the opposite effect in that the pergola will cast shadows differently during the day, but stay the same throughout the year.

A Different Angle on Pergola Ideas

Understanding how orientation and spacing will affect shadows is just one aspect of the design process. The interaction between the inclination of the sun and the profile of the lattice offers further control for when and where shade will be cast.

A board which is on end will not give much shade at noon. This is because the sun is close to directly over head, and that is where the profile of the board is the thinnest. Later in the day when the sun is coming in from the West, the wide profile of the board is in effect.

In most cases this doesn’t do very much good for the people under the pergola. It means that when shade is needed the most, it’s not there, and only shows up when it’s not needed. To counteract this, imagine of you lay the board flat. Now when the sun is highest in the sky, the board casts the most shade because that is where the profile is widest. Of course if you lay all the boards flat on a pergola, it ceases to be a pergola and becomes more of an elevated deck.

Somewhere in between those two extremes is an angle that’s just right to limit the light during the warmer times of day, and let more light in when it’s cooler. The simplest way this can be accomplished is to tilt the tops of the boards to an angle where the profile is narrowest pointing towards where the sun will be when you want the most light. This way when you need the warmth, it will be there, and when you want it cool, you can have shade.

This is the driving principle behind solar pergolas, which can be a very energy efficient addition to a home. By regulating the sunlight that is allowed to warm the home, heating bills can be lowered in winter, while air conditioning costs can be reduced in summer. The fact that solar pergolas cast beautiful shade patterns and have striking designs is just icing on the cake!

Ideas for Material Use in Constructing Pergolas

In the backyard, there’s some materials that feel more at home than others. With the elements beating away at exposed structures, the materials they are comprised of need to be weatherproof. With the natural surroundings of the backyard and garden, they also need to fit in to an earthy color palette.

Wooden pergolas have the look down pat. Their problem is that wood tends to rot when exposed to moisture over time. Not all types of wood are affected the same, but even the toughest need some protection from rain and snow. Teak and cedar are good options for wood use in the backyard. They have natural oils that act to seal the surface. Still, it’s advisable to apply sealant to even these woods, to keep them looking beautiful and structurally sound.

Aluminum is a great material for pergola construction in many ways. It isn’t affected by moisture at all, and won’t rust or corrode like most other metals do in such an environment. At the same time, aluminum’s strength to weight ratio is unsurpassed in regards to commonly available materials. This makes it uniquely suited for the functionality required by a pergola.

Where aluminum is lacking though is in the look department. Well suited for some situations, such as modern or contemporary homes, an aluminum pergola can look great next to a swimming pool. However, in general the backyard landscaping is a more natural setting, and aluminum can look out of place. A good solution is to use wrought aluminum, which is styled to look much like wrought iron. This gives it that rich, textured look that goes well with natural environments.

Types of Pergola Roofing

As not a very common concept, pergola roofing may be somewhat of a mystery to most people. How do you have a pergola with a roof, without the pergola simply becoming… rafters for the roof? Well, there are a couple of explanations for the use of terms that make sense once you sit down and think about it, and doing so can lead to some interesting pergola roofing options.

The first of these is to simply be referring to the pergola slats as a “roof”, even though they aren’t actually a roof at all. In this case it becomes clear that the term “roof” is being used to describe what is simply a “pergola”. While a pergola isn’t actually a roof at all, it does make sense to abstract the top of the pergola as such. It does cover the area below it, although that coverage isn’t complete. Well, that’s easy enough to understand.

Looking Through Other Pergola Roofing Ideas

The other way is to actually incorporate the look of a pergola with the functionality of a roof. This is a bit more tricky, since one of the main aspects of a pergola are the design of the runners. These have gaps between them that help to accentuate the form of the pergola and let more light in. Of course they don’t serve as a roof very well, since the gaps are well… gaps. Roofs generally aren’t full of such gaps.

However, you can preserve that look while adding the functionality of a roof still. It requires using transparent materials such as glass or plexiglass. These materials allow the light to stream through between the rafters, while they also keep it covered well against rain and even snow. By building your pergola this way, you can get the interesting natural lighting without sacrificing protection from the elements.

With treated glass or plexiglass, you can even get protection against UV rays from the sun. This way you can spend more time enjoying the warmth of the sun without having to worry about getting a sunburn or damaging your skin over time.

Adjusting to the Environment

You can also facilitate protection from UV rays by dictating how your pergola shades the area below. The runners on top of the pergola are generally long in the vertical dimension, and narrow in the horizontal. This means that as the sun is lower in the sky, the amount of shade will increase, but when the sun is higher in the sky the shade will decrease.

In general, this is the exact opposite of what you want when it comes to shade. The hottest times of day are in the middle generally speaking, when the sun is at it’s highest point in the sky. This is the time most pergolas will cast the least shade.

You can prevent this from being such a problem by tilting the pergola slats when they are oriented North and South. This can be an interesting area of pergola designs, helping to set apart your pergola from all the other more standard builds. It can also help to increase the amount of sunlight you get early in the day, while increasing the shade later.

Your Pergola through the Seasons

As we progress throughout the year, the sun also changes it’s inclination in the sky. This has much the same effect on a pergola as the time of day, only oriented perpendicular. This is because (in the Northern hemisphere) the sun is climbing to the apex of the sky in the summer. That means the sun is at the furthest North in the sky on the summer solstice. In the winter, it’s lower in the Southern sky.

This means that for pergola runners that are oriented East and West, they will cast different shade depending on the season. You can take advantage of this fact to help you better plan out your shading through the year. During the winter, it’s nice to have more sunlight to warm the house and spirits of you and your family. In hot summer months though, the opposite is true. The more shade the better.

If you have a pergola with adjustable slats, you can tilt the slats south in the winter to allow more light to pass through the pergola when it’s needed most. Then by tilting the slats North in the summer, you can increase the amount of shade.

Pergola Materials and Pricing

It may seem a bit counter-intuitive to use man made materials for pergola construction, but it can make sense in some cases. While wood is a natural material that is easy to work with, and looks good when outdoors. Metals can look foreign in natural environments, but you can use this to your advantage to make your pergola unique and stand out. It can also allow you to do things structurally that wood simply can’t accomplish due to it’s lower strength to weight ratio.

Care needs to be taken to ensure that you don’t make it stand out like a sore thumb though. Blending into the environment is one of the mainstay design elements of pergolas. Aluminum or steel can be treated or finished to be less obtrusive. Taking away the shiny finish and replacing it with a dull black or dark color can help it look more like wrought iron, which is well suited for outdoor applications both from an aesthetic standpoint, and a weathering one. Also, using aluminum or steel can increase the pergola price quite a bit. So be sure to plan out your budgeting accordingly.