How to Buy a Pergola

The pergola is a structure that dates back to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Its first modern use was during the early Renaissance, when it became a fixture in Italian gardens and then spread to the rest of Europe. A pergola is a freestanding or attached outdoor structure, either square or rectangular in shape, supported at its free ends with columns, and having an open or latticed roof. Some pergolas include a bench, while others are intended for people to stand under. As with a pavilion or gazebo, a pergola enhances the landscape of the home whose grounds it is part of and can be used to entertain guests outdoors. Following are steps in how to buy a pergola to meet your needs.


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    Decide what you intend to use your pergola for. As noted above, pergolas are available in either freestanding or attached versions. Where you plan to put your pergola and what you intend to use it for will help you decide which style will best meet your needs.
    • Attached pergolas can be attached to your house and used as small porches or to your deck to provide an area to entertain guests at a barbecue.
    • Small freestanding pergolas can be placed in a garden and used like a trellis to grow vines upon to provide a sheltered spot for resting. Larger freestanding pergolas can be used like gazebos or placed along a garden path as an attractive structure or as a setting for an outdoor wedding. (If the latter, clear plastic sheeting or a canopy can be attached to protect the bridal party if it rains.) Freestanding pergolas may be installed on concrete footings or flooring or attached to deck flooring with post anchors; longer posts are also available to anchor the pergola more deeply into the ground.
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    Determine what size pergola you need. Measure the area where you plan to put up your pergola. As pergolas are rectangular structures, you need to define the length and width of the pergola you want, or, in the case of a pergola to be attached to your house, the width along your house it is to occupy and the depth to which it will project from your house. You also need to decide on the size of the corner posts, the size of the lattices, and how much the pergola's roof should overhang the corner posts.
    • Know that pergolas are measured in terms of roof size, typically.[1] Therefore, a 10'x10' pergola would be a square structure with 10 feet (3.0 m) roof sides. Knowing this information should help you avoid confusing the size of the pergola's roof for the height of the pergola.
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    Think about what style of pergola you want. Pergola styles range from simple 4-post designs (or 2-post, if the pergola will be attached to the side of your house) and almost no roof to units with rows of posts on either side and intricate roof lattices. These multi-post units can feature squarish designs that resemble colonnades or Gothic-style arches. Here are some other, standard designs that pergolas often come in:
    • Garden pergola — Probably the most popular style of pergola, these are freestanding and sport traditional post and beam structure. Simple to build and install since they are not attached to or coordinated with another structure.
    • Arched pergola — Similar to garden pergolas, except the roof of the pergola is either concave (for an Eastern feel) or convex (for a more Western feel).
    • Small pergola — A miniature pergola for a tight space or to simply offer overhand for a smaller table. Dainty but sophisticated!
    • Custom pergola — If you want a pergola with a design that's not a simple square or rectangle, you'll probably want to choose a custom pergola. Custom pergolas are often circular, or contain circular add-ons.
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    Determine what material you want your pergola made from. Pergolas are commonly made from either wood, vinyl, or wrought-iron. Both are durable materials, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. A vinyl pergola does not need painting, while a wood pergola does need to be stained or painted and sealed. You can, however, paint or stain a wood pergola to match the color of the house or deck to which it is attached or to any other color that suits your fancy.
    • Remember to choose materials that will be in keeping with the general aesthetic of your home and garden. For period homes, traditional materials work best, while for more modern homes, more up-to-date materials may be most suitable.[2]
    • Wood can come in many different styles and combinations. Softwoods often come as rough-sawn lumber; planed lumber also exists, and it certainly takes wood stains easier. Hardwoods, such as oak, are often the most durable kind of wood, although tend to be more expensive.
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    Consider your roofing and shading options. Depending on what you anticipate using your pergola for, as well as whether you want it taking additional vegetation, you'll want to think about how close together your rafters should be. More rafters set tighter together at perpendicular angles provides more shade, but less space for vegetation to grow into.
    • A latticed roof is the best, most cost-efficient option is you want to maximize shade and privacy under your pergola.
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    Consider any accessories you may want. Accessories for a pergola include lighting, ceiling fans, and awnings. Accessories can add to the pergola's attractiveness and usefulness, but they will add to its cost. Some accessories also require supporting materials, such as solar panels or electric wiring, that may impact where you can place your pergola or how it should be designed to accommodate them.
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    Consider your budget. The purpose for your pergola, its size, its design, and the material used to make it all will have an impact how much it will cost. The other factor in how much your pergola will cost is whether you choose to buy a pergola plan, a kit, or a custom-designed pergola.
    • Pergola plans are available from online dealers or from home improvement stores. While the plan itself is cheaper than the kit or a custom-designed pergola, you will have to shop and pay for the materials used to build it. Depending on the design you choose, however, you may be able to build it a little at a time and make it more elaborate as you can afford to buy the materials to do so.
    • Pergola kits include all the materials you'll need to assemble your pergola in a short time. The posts and latticework are usually already pre-cut to the lengths you need and notched for quick assembly. You will pay more, however, for this convenience, and you will need to have the tools necessary to assemble it.
    • You can custom-design a pergola using an online retailer's Web-based design tools. You'll be asked about the architecture of your home and offered options to design a pergola that fits with the architecture. Depending on the options you choose, a custom-design pergola can cost about the same as a prefabricated kit or significantly more than one.


  • As you consider various pergola styles, consult your local building codes regarding decking and free-standing structures on your property. You may be required to obtain construction permits before putting up a pergola and have to submit to an inspection during construction. You may also be required to dig separate footings for a pergola that is otherwise connected to your deck.
  • One of the most attractive and least expensive ways to provide light, filtered shade under a pergola is to plant a Chinese wisteria or two beside the uprights. Within a very short period - a couple of years - you will not only have shade right across but for several weeks each spring the bonus addition of unbelievable numbers of large, pendant, lilac-coloured blossoms. You will need to train the growing tips of the vine during the first couple of years, but once established, the wisteria will happily wind itself back and forth across the beams. You will need to clip off the spent blossoms after they fade to prevent the vitality of the plant going into seed production but that is a small price to pay for one of the most beautiful plant displays.

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