Where To Start With Pergolas

R. L. Rhodes
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Whether you’re designing an outdoor room or planning to start a backyard vineyard, few outdoor structures add as much charm to a yard as the classic pergola. Get started here.

An ivy cladded pergola.

A pergola is more or less defined by its open lattice roof—close a pergola in with a fixed roof and it magically becomes a gazebo. Beyond that, though, pergolas can take a variety of forms. Picking the right one is largely a matter of taste and function.

In the U.S., at least, the most common type of pergola is a simple, wooden structure of four posts and a lattice of rafters. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can use our project to build your own pergola, but there is also a wide range of pre-made kits and pergolas if you’d like to save yourself the trouble. This 10 x 12 ft Montego Bay model is similar to the pergola described in our project.

If you’d like your pergola to provide a bit more shade, there are several ways to “clad” it. One classical solution for gardeners is to train vines across the rafters so that the leaves enclose the interior. That’s an approach borrowed from the tendone system used in ancient Roman vineyards to protect their grapes from animals. For a more modern look, you can dress your pergola with curtain or, as with the steel and aluminum model below, a canopy.

HamptonBay-metal-pergola-canopy-transparent-TH-560x448

Pergolas need not be so minimal, though. They can be built with roofs that are arched or or gabled, their columns raised on sturdy bases, or their side filled in with decorative panels. Look at those options as opportunities to express your personal style and extend the decor of your home. Rather than the classic, rustic structure, a more elaborate model might better suit your home, like an ornate pergola from Yardistry with cedar plinths, corner panels and an arched roof.

Pergolas are generally intended to be enduring structures, so make sure you choose a style that will serve you needs for some time to come. If, for example, you intend to use your pergola to shelter a spa or hot tub, be sure to choose one large enough to accommodate the entire basin, with space left over to maneuver. Also consider the climate and weather patterns in your region when choosing a material, and be sure to apply a coat of waterproof sealant if you build your pergola from previously untreated wood.

Yardistry pergula.

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