Spending more time at home? A pergola offers a way to expand your home with outdoor living space. With furniture, you'll want to spend more time outdoors with a comfortable place to go. A pergola is made with vertical posts supporting cross-beams overhead. The open lattice may be covered with climbing vines, providing a shaded walkway or sitting area.
Pergolas are larger and more open than other garden structures like green tunnels, arbors that include benches or gazebos. For this article, we'll focus on pergolas that homeowners put in their yards to give them more outdoor living space.
Most houses include a patio or deck, but often they're pretty small as builder's manage their costs. As we're spending more time at home, there are times when you simply want to get outdoors. When you outgrow the basic deck and start designing something bigger, it's time to explore adding a pergola or gazebo to your yard.
How Will You Use Your Pergola?
When designing your pergola, you'll have four important decisions to make:
- Where do you want to put your pergola? Do you want to have it right next to your house? Do you want it next to your pool or maybe there's a great view you would enjoy more if there was an inviting place to sit and relax?
- Do you want to use your pergola when it's raining? If the answer is yes, you'll want either a retractable canopy, a more expensive louvered roof that opens and closes, or even a hardtop roof.
- How big would you like your pergola to be? Ideally when planning a pergola you can visit a few to get a feeling for the size that feels right. That's because standing in a 10×16 ft room with four walls … is no indication of how you'll feel in a pergola that size. You can also use stakes or cones to mark the corners of your planned pergola.
- How will you use your pergola? Is it for family time, entertaining or both?
- How much furniture will go under your pergola? Get measurements as outdoor furniture is surprisingly large.
- How many people will you want under the pergola? Is their surrounding space for overflow for large events that only happen one or 2 times a year?
Pergola Sizes & Materials
Pergolas traditionally were built from wood but today you have a lot more choices. You can buy plans or design your own pergola if you plan to build it from wood. With other materials, you'll get to shop for kits that fit the dimensions you want.
Here are some of the most common pergola sizes:
- Small to medium size decks/patios have pergolas that are 12×12 or 12×16 ft, providing some shade without making the rest of the deck look small.
- Larger decks with outdoor kitchens or built-in seating, need a larger pergola around 16×24 ft … but you don't have to cover the entire deck.
- Free standing pergolas start small at 12×12 ft square. For 6 people, 12×16 ft works well and seating for 12 people works better with a spacious 16×20 (or 16×24) ft pergola.
- Pergola heights have been 8 ft tall to match the ceiling height you're familiar with. Now with higher ceilings in new houses (9 to 12 ft), you'll probably want to go with a taller pergola, especially if you plan to include a ceiling fan and/or lighting.
There are so many material choices for pergolas today, that it can be hard to pick one. The most important thing to consider is which materials (colors) will work well with your home's siding. The other factor will be the cost of the materials and whether you want to install yourself.
- Wood – is the traditional material for pergolas, providing maximum flexibility. Woods with natural oils that resist insects, fungi, termites and wood rot due to moisture are best. These include redwood, teak, red cedar and mahogany.
- Metal – is the sturdiest material, with a modern, industrial appearance but it's expensive and needs maintenance or it will rust.
- Aluminum – requires little maintenance, will not rot because it's nonporous and it can withstand extreme weather.
- Vinyl/PVC – doesn't need much maintenance, overcoming the issues with wood and metal but it's the least strong of all these options.
- Fiberglass – is similar to vinyl but stronger. It won't soften or sag when exposed to different temperatures, although it may crack when exposed to frequent wind pressure or extreme temperatures.