What is a Pergola and What are the benefits: the Ultimate Pergola Guide

louvered pergola

We've all pictured it: sitting on a cozy swing in an outdoor structure. Incandescent lighting decorates the upper corners of the structure. Old French wine enlivens our taste buds as a mild breeze from the garden caresses our soft skin.


It's Friday night. What better time to forget about work life and relax our minds?


Admittedly, there's no better time to relax. However, the process of selecting the appropriate structure that'll help realize this dream isn't easy. If you google the term, "outdoor structure," you'll see numerous suggestions: from pergolas to arbors and gazebos.


It is confusing. Trust me; you don't want to experience the frustration.


We are here to help. It's not feasible to discuss the numerous outdoor structures in one article. So, let's talk about pergolas.


Ready? Alright, we'll start with an explanation.

What is a Pergola?

At this point, you already know a pergola is an outdoor structure. And we can wager you know it constitutes a roof and pillars. Because that's what most online sources are saying.


Yet you can't seem to picture it in your head. Now, listen, we'll make it clear.


Usually, pergolas are garden features used to form shaded sitting areas. However, you can use pergolas to form walkways or passageways, and they don't have to be part of a garden design.


Similarly, you can construct a pergola by erecting parallel pairs of pillars—or vertical posts— spaced at regular intervals and using them to support an open-roof construction of girders and cross-beams.


Alternatively, you can use these sets of parallel pillars to support a latticework.


While your pergola's roof can be exposed to the elements of weather. It is advisable to cover the wooden-slat laths formed by the cross-beams with either fabrics, fibreglass, retractable canopies, climbing grapevines, or bougainvillea.


These materials  and plants block direct sunlight. However, they also allow diffused sun rays to permeate the roof and provide some sort of protection.


Also, you can construct your pergola as a standalone structure. Or you can attach it to your backyard such that it serves as an extended living area that allows for soft breeze and light sun.


Regardless of popular conventions, in recent times, pergolas are designed to have removable walls in the form of outdoor curtains, screens, glass panels, and sliding loggia panels.  Oftentimes, these walls do not protect from the elements. Rather,  they help provide shade and  deter insects

Types of Pergolas

Let me guess what you're thinking: pergolas are nice structures and can serve as the  perfect at-home escape from summer heat.


You're correct. However, there are different types of pergolas. And not every type of pergola would fit your needs. Thus, you must select the best type of pergola for your home.


But first, it's essential to note that pergolas are categorized based on syle/design and construction  material. Adequate knowledge of the different types of construction materials and designs will help you choose the material and design that suits your budget and environment.


Here are the types of pergolas based on style/design:

  • Standalone pergolas
  • Louvre pergolas
  • Floating/Awning pergolas
  • Arched pergolas
  • Attached pergolas


Similarly, the types of pergolas based on construction materials are:

  • Wooden pergolas
  • Vinyl pergolas
  • Alluminium pergolas
  • Steel pergolas

Types of Pergolas Based on Style/Design

Standalone Pergolas

As the name implies, standalone pergolas stand alone as a detached part of your residential property.


Standalone pergolas, also known as free standing pergolas, are probably the most dynamic type of pergolas. That's to say; you can incorporate other types of pergola design into your standalone pergola structure.


Similarly, you can erect a standalone pergola in your backyard, beside your swimming pool, on your patio, and in your garden.


These structures are ideal for outdoor family gatherings. And you can place an outdoor dining set or an outdoor swing in your standalone pergola if its properly constructed.

Louvred Pergolas

In a Louvred pergola, also known as modular or adjustable pergolas, a form of venetian slats are used  for their roofings. In other words, louvered pergola designs uses louver roofings instead of crossbeams and girders for its roofing.


The Louvred roofing helps you modulate the amount of sunlight that penetrates the pergola's rooftop. Also, the adjustable roof louvers can have both manual and automatic control


With the automatic control system, you can use a remote control to adjust the louver roof openings  to provide acceptable sunlight penetration. Better still, the automatic control system can come with electronic sensors that can detect sunlight intensity and adjust the louvers to meet pre-set preferences.


Conversely, manually controlled louvered pergolas provide manual control arms with which you can adjust the louvered pergola roofs.

Floating/Awning Pergolas

Floating pergolas, also known as awning pergolas, a variety of the attached pergolas. These type of pergolas  don't require pillars for support. they're more like a cover extended from a wall or a modular rafter anchored to a higher point of a building by string steel wires.


Floating pergolas can incorporate the louvered roofing or arched pergola designs for its roof top design.

Arched Pergolas

The arched pergola is named after its arched roof design. They have arched rooftops and are rarely found in residential buildings. This trend  is probably because of its hard to construct.


However, it's easy to spot arched pergolas in nature conservation reserves, sidewalks, and walkways. Most arched pergolas have one solid side—usually the rear side—and two pillars or vertical posts at its front side. They roofing can be wooden-slat laths, pergola canvas, or grapevines.

Attached Pergolas

Like the awning pergolas, attached pergola designs  have one its end attached to a building. You can build an attached pergolar over a deck or a patio. So it will serve as an extended outdoor  living area of your house.


While attached pergolas can be  found in residential buildings, they're usually part of food joints or serve as as outdoor dining areas.


Attached pergola designs can use normal open-roof wooden slats, sheer fabric coverings, louvered roofs, or any type of pergola roof covering.

Types of Pergolas Based on Construction Material

Wooden Pergolas

Wood is the most popular and cheapest material you can use  to constructing pergolas. The natural look and grain design makes for an alluring architecture. Similarly, wooden pergolas are easy to repaint or maintain.


However, if not properly maintained, wooden pergolas are susceptible to  rot, bugs, and molds. And the culmination of maintenance cost overtime is on the high side.


Therefore, if you intend to make your wooden pergola a  living space comprising an outdoor swing and comfy furnitures for family gatherings, entertaining guests, or summer time rest, consider using top-quality wood such as cedar and redwood.

Vinyl Pergolas

Relative to wood,  vinyl pergolas are low maintenance pergolas. They are made from PVC plastic materials and are highly durable. Plus, vinyl pergolas are easy to set up.


However, when exposed to hot climate conditions the colouring and quality of vinyl pergolas deteriorates faster than wooden pergolas. And they can be repainted.

Steel/Aluminium Pergolas

Steel/Aluminium pergolas are your best shot at zero-maintenance, top-quality, customizable pergolas.  Their customizability allows for multiple functionalities such retractable canopies, glass privacy screens, and CNC decorations.


However, they are more expensive and require experts to install. You can get aluminium pergolas from Purple Leaf, an ecommerce store where you can purchase outdoor structures at affordable prices.

Benefits of Building a Pergola

At this point, you probably think pergolas are nice for aesthetics, but they're for the wealthy minority.


To be honest, you need to own a piece of land, a house, or  a building,  before you can build or construct a pergola. And land owners aren't the epitome of poverty.


However, you mustn't be a billionaire or have a 6-9 digits account balance to build the pergola of your dreams. Believe me; you can be an average income earner and build a comfy pergola with a chaise lounge, a patio swing, and a patio dining set on your patio.


For instance, Purple Leaf offers louvered pergolas for as low as $2000.  We know, That's  going to leave a  dent in your pocket. But it's worth every penny.


It's not expensive, you say. But why would I need a pergola?


As a homeowner, there are numerous reasons why you would need a pergola. we've outlined some of these reasons below:


  • First, pergolas help you enjoy the serenity of your landed property and offers protection from direct sunlight
  • Pergolas extend your living space : they are a perfect at-home getaway from the summer heat
  • pergolas improve your property's aesthetics and value
  • Pergolas are perfect for outdoor family gatherings

How to Build a Pergola

Listen, we've got good news: you can construct a DIY ( Do It Yourself) pergola if you have low-medium carpentry and masonry skills. In fact, you just need a brain, two hands, a couple of tools and materials.


And trust me; it will look as good as its commercial cousins. Don't worry. It's easy. Here's how to go about it:


Step I: Plan your pergola design: it's not advisable to rush head-first into your pergola building venture. You need a plan that outlines the pergolas design, location, and size.


Step II: Ascertain your permits pergola construction: Some states restricts specific construction types. Confirm from relevant authorities that you can build a pergola on your property.


Step III: Contact local utility companies to confirm power or sewer lines aren't buried in your property.


Step IV: Measure and mark out the  rectangular or square outline: you can use 10 by 8 feet (rectangular) or 8 by 8 feet (square) for an average sized pergola.


Step V: Run a string around your outline: A thin string tied on posts around the line will ensure straightness and give you a birds-eye view of the pergolar.


Step VI: Dig holes in the four corners of the measured area: Your hole should be at least 130 cm deep or 4 feet deep. You can make it 6 feet deep. the length and breadth depend on the size of your pergola post. For example,  the dimension of the holes should be 8 by 8 inch if your pergola post is 8 by 8 inch.


Note: Don't dig holes if you're building your pergola over a patio. Instead, screw post brackets or anchors into the patio, and screw the pergola posts to the post anchors.


Step VII: Pack gravels into the four holes: Your pergola posts will sink into dirt if you place the on ordinary sands in the holes. Pack gravels into the four holes. The gravels would serve as a solid ground for the posts.


Similarly, ensure equal amounts of gravel are placed and levelled in each hole. If not, the height of your pergolas would be non-uniform.


Step VIII: Place the four  posts in their respective  holes: Ensure each post is placed vertically and not inclined at any angle. Use a spirit level to check for straightness. The bubble in the spirit level should at the center of the level's indicator.


Step IX: Mix concrete and pour it into each hole: Make sure to use the appropriate water-concrete ratio. Also, while the concrete mixture is still wet, use a pole to apply pressure to the mixture in the hole. This pressure helps remove air bubbles from the mixture.


Step X: wait at least 24 hours for the concrete mixture to dry.


Step XI: Gather the cross beams rafters and tools needed for building the roof.


Step XI: Mark out a specified length from the top of each post: The dimension of the measured length depends on the height of your girders.


For example, you should mark out 3 feet if the the size of your girders is 3 by 10 feet.


Step XI: Hammer nails halfway into the marked out spot: Hammer a nail on both sides of each post. The nails will help you hold your girders in place before you screw them to the posts.


Use a nail that's at least 5 inch long. The length of the nail depends on the breadth of you girders.


Step XII: Screw two girders to the marked-out spot on both sides of posts on the same vertical line. That's to say; the girders and post will form parallel lines.


Step XIII: Use rafters to join the parallel pair of posts. Use adequate rafters to ensure proper shading. The number of rafters depends on the size of your pergola.


Step XIV: You can nail laths to the top of the rafters or use a pergola canvas to cover the rafters.


Now, that's all it takes to build a simple DIY pergola.  14 steps of arduous rigour, right? Only a carpentry enthusiasts will call this process fun.


Thankfully, there's a better option: pergola kits. You can buy a complete pergola kit from Purple Leaf. This store has everything you need to build a cozy outdoor structure.


And you can temporal outdoor structures like cantilever umbrellas, patio umbrellas, or offset umbrellas from Purple Leaf if you don't fancy permanent outdoor structures like pergolas and gazebos.

Pergola Building Materials

In any case, if you intend to construct your pergola by yourself. Here are some tools and materials you'll need:

  • Wooden posts ( at least 10 feet)
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Measuring tape
  • Shovel/spade
  • Girders
  • Water
  • Cement/Concrete
  • Post bracket ( for patios)
  • Panel Saw
  • Gravel
  • Sand

Pergola Vs Other Outdoor Structures

Pergolas aren't the only outdoor structure you can install on your property. As previously mentioned, there are quite a few. However, their differences are subtle and confusing.


So how do you identify these outdoor structures. Continue reading to find out.

Pergolas Vs Gazebos

We've mentioned gazebos several times in this article. And if you aren't an architectural enthusiasts, student, or professional, it's normal to be confused by the number of outdoor structures with subtle distinctions, which are constantly eroded by modern innovations.


However, now that you want to build an outdoor structure on your property. it's important to learn this subtle distinctions for several reasons. These reasons include:

  • Wiggling through state/town restriction laws
  • Identifying the construction material you need for a particular outdoor structure
  • Identifying the type of outdoor structure that suits you taste and environment


By now you already know the features of a pergola. So what's a gazebo?


Gazebos are  outdoor freestanding structures with hexagonal or octagonal shapes. Most gazebos have raised floors and can be found in spacious public parks and gardens.


The main difference between pergolas and gazebos is that traditional have permanent roof designed to keep out the element. On the hand, most  pergolas pergolas do not  have permanent roof structures. Pergolas are designed to allow the penetration of  mild sunlight.


Much like pergolas, there are different types of outdoor gazebos. these types include:

  • Hardtop gazebo
  • Aluminium gazebo
  • Metal gazebo
  • Patio gazebos


However, unlike  pergolas, gazebos aren't easy to build. You've got to employ professionals or buy a gazebo kit if you want to build a gazebo on your property.


Numerous ecommerce stores advertise gazebos for sale. However, try Purple Leaf gazebos if you want adequate bang for your buck.

Pergolas Vs Arbors

Arbors, another outdoor structure that's often confused with pergolars. Arbors are mini-versions of pergolas. However, they're different.


Let me explain.


Like pergolas arbors provide shade and shelter in a garden. However, arbors are smaller and usually have arched rooftops— some arbors use flat rooftops.


Then again, unlike pergolas arbors are usually used as gateways to a garden path or a house. You can improve the aesthetics of your gardens with arbors by separating the  garden into partitions and using arbor-esque gates as the entrance to each partition.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the point of having a pergola?

The point of having a pergola is to create a living area where you can rest during the summer. But that's not all.


Your pergola can serve as a space for outdoor family gatherings, reading, and guest entertainment.

What's the difference between gazebos and pergolas

The difference between between gazebos and pergolas appear subtle to new buyers. However, they are obvious if you've experience with any one of the two.


Pergolas and gazebos have different purposes. Pergolas aren't designed to protect you from the elements. Rather, they help you experience milder versions of the elements.


On the other hand, gazebos give you both shade and  shelter from the elements.


Pergolas are outdoor structures with which you can add aesthetics, flair, and value  to your property. Similarly, they're are ideal getaway from the summer's heat without leaving your home.


There are different types of pergolas, and you can build your own DIY pergola. Similarly, you can buy a complete DIY kit from ecommerce stores like Purple Leaf.


Regardless of how you choose to erect your pergola. One good place to build it is over your patio. If you build it over your patio,   you can decorate it with a chaise lounge, a  patio porch swing, a patio dining set, and incandescent lightenings if you build it on your patio.

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