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Everything You Need to Know About Pergolas

When you read about outdoor structure options, you usually come across pergolas. However, you might not know exactly what a pergola is or how one can be an advantage to your outdoor lifestyle. Find out all the essentials of this popular backyard structure.

Definition of a Pergola

At its most basic, a pergola is a simple structure. It consists of a roof on top of columns. Such a structure is considered a pergola whether it’s attached to the house or freestanding.

Two similar structures are the arbor and the carport, both of which are also roofing grids supported by posts. However, an arbor is smaller and never attached to a house. A carport is essentially a long pergola with a specific purpose — storing a car.

Pergola styles vary widely. Contractors can leave the roof open to expose a grid or make it solid. The posts can be simple beams or elaborate columns.

Uses for a Pergola

One use for a pergola should be obvious — protection. Whether you leave the roofing open to expose the grid or have it made solid, the roof offers some measure of protection from the sun and rain. You can amplify this protection by enclosing one of the sides or hanging weatherproof blinds.

Even if you opt for a lattice roof to let in the sunlight, you can get rain protection with awning covers or fiberglass panels. If sun protection is more important than rain protection, consider training plants to grow over the roof.

Pergolas also offer a sense of privacy, especially if your incorporate side screens or even lattices. This setup makes them ideal for hot tub areas or if your backyard is in the neighbors’ sightline.

A pergola is also a good way to define spaces. For instance, you can have one built over a dining or food preparation area while leaving the rest of a deck or patio open. The pergola can also serve as a simple cover for an outdoor bar.

Size and Location of your Pergola

Your desired use for the pergola will help drive the location of the structure. When trying to decide on a location for the pergola, consider where you spend the most time when you’re outdoors. Or think about where you want to spend the most time but don’t because of weather or privacy issues. Either of those spots is ideal for locating your pergola.

Usage and available space will also drive the size of the pergola. That said, don’t skimp on the size because you want to keep your outdoor space open. The main purpose of a pergola is to protect you from the outdoors — a too-small structure will be less effective. Therefore, if you must err, err on the large side.

Pergola Materials and Styles

Pergola styles vary widely, and much of that stems from the material choice.

The classic material is hardwood, often cedar. Other hardwoods commonly used for pergola construction include teak, pressure-treated pine, and redwood. Natural wood pergolas can be stained or painted. Wooden pergolas require regular maintenance. To avoid such maintenance, many homeowners have opted for wood-look materials, including composite and vinyl.

Wooden pergolas tend to look traditional or rustic. If you favor a more modern style, you could choose metal instead. These pergolas tend to feature clean lines characteristic of contemporary architecture. You can even make them look industrial with a metal grid ceiling or wall.

For a more classical option, consider mixing materials such as wood with stone. Typically, the contractors construct the posts out of stone or place the columns on natural stone bases. The columns and roof are also more elaborate. Such a pergola is ideal if you’re using it for dining or cooking, especially if other parts of your house feature natural stone.

Consider incorporating a pergola into your backyard design for protection — and beauty. A&W Custom Carpentry and Roofing can design and install a beautiful pergola that complements your home. Call us today to learn more.

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