Ultimate Guide to Pergolas

Pergolas are one of the oldest types of garden architecture. In fact, they have been used by the ancient Egyptians to beat the heat when walking from one building to another, and as well as to grow climbing plants, such as grapes. In the present time, with advancements in designs and materials, pergolas can serve people in many different ways. They can add beauty, convenience, relaxation, and more to homes and to people’s lives.

If it’s your first time to hear the word pergola and wondering what it is, or if you want to know more about it because you’re eyeing to have one in your garden, you’re in the right place. Today, we are giving you the ultimate guide to pergolas.

What Exactly is a Pergola?

A pergola system refers to a structure that usually consists of parallel porticos supporting an open roof of beams and cross rafters. They can be freestanding or attached to a building. Most of the time, pergolas are used to enhance outdoor living areas and decks. Aside from that, they can also act as a simple shade structure or an outdoor room or dining space.

They have unique designs, which makes them unique compared to other outdoor structures. They do not have walls, leaving all four of its sides completely open. The beans above are also spaced, and they do not form a closed roof. Pergolas are normally square or rectangular, but there are also a few other shapes you can find out there.

What are the Uses of a Pergola?

A pergola has a simple but intelligent layout, which makes it such a useful garden or patio structure. It has a lot of uses, and here are some of them:

  • A pergola can maximize the view and let you enjoy it.

Since a pergola does not have a wall, it means that you will have an unobstructed view of your yard. This is great, especially if you have an attractive view in your yard that you would like to enjoy while relaxing outdoors.

  • A pergola can keep you cool and give you shade.

Cool breezes can easily flow freely through a pergola. Aside from that, its slat style roof can also block the majority of the sun’s harmful rays, giving you a shady but still open space. This makes a pergola great to have for different activities, from eating with the whole family to sitting in the hot tub after work.

  • A pergola can be used to create a living structure.

One of the nicest things about having a pergola is that they are made with climbing plants in mind. As the plants creep up the columns and onto the roof, you will get even more shade and some added natural beauty and fragrance. You can also choose a lot of different flowers and vines that can make a statement.

  • Pergolas can block out unsightly views.

Not all gardens and yards are perfect. Sometimes, there are things that people want to block out from their views, and a pergola is useful for that. You can use it to keep your property out of view, or block out your neighbors, too. There are also many accessories for pergolas that you can use to do this.

  • Pergolas can add style to gardens, patios, and yards.

Pergolas come in many types, sizes, shapes, and materials. This means that it can truly add style to your garden, patio, or yard. From traditional to modern to the Mediterranean, you can create any style or theme you likeor add to your existing one with pergolas.

  • A pergola can increase the value of a property.

Since pergolas can add to the appeal and functionality of a home, it can also increase the value of the property. Meaning, they are an investment not only for your relaxation and enjoymentbut as well as for increasing the value of your house and property.

Parts of a Pergola

a wooden pergola

Here are the different parts of a pergola:

  • Columns: Most pergolas have at least three to four columns for a freestanding styleand at least two for an attached style. These support the beams that run the width of the pergola. They also have different styles to complement the design of the pergola.
  • Beams: These are supported by the columns, and they run the width of the pergola to support the stringers and the rafters. A freestanding pergola usually has two beams, while an attached one has one on one side and a ledger board on the side attached to the wall.
  • Rafters: These are installed across the beams. They run perpendicular to the beams. Their ends can be traditional or angledto be able to create the desired aesthetic.
  • Stringers: These are installed above the rafters. They run perpendicular to the rafters and parallel to the beams. They are evenly spaced across the top of the pergola and square in shape. There are other pergola structures that forego stringers, but they can create even more shade for an outdoor space.
  • Ledger Board: This is seen on pergolas that are attached to a structure. It is affixed to the support wall where a beam would have been on a freestanding structure. It also works just like a beam, supporting the rafters where they meet the support structure.


Different Pergola Materials

A lot of pergolas were traditionally made from wood or stone. However, pergolas today are created using different materials, such as aluminum, steel, vinyl, fiberglass, and as well as cellular PVC. To know more, here are the different pergola materials that you can choose from:

  • Wood

A wooden pergola is usually made from cedar or redwood, which creates a natural look in a garden. The wood can be stained or painted to match different design styles. However, weather can make wood pergolas fade. Therefore, maintenance is needed over the life of the pergola to repaint when needed. Also, sealing the wood is important to avoid rotting and termites.

  • Aluminum

Aluminum pergolas can be customized, and they are perfect for both residential and commercial use. It is also lighter compared to wood and requires very little maintenance. It has a nonporous surface, which can withstand the weather. There are also many different colors of aluminum pergolas when finished via anodizing, paint, or powder coating. You just need to clean it yearly using a non-toxic and non-corrosive cleaner.

  • Steel and Metal

If you want a durable pergola, then opt for a steel or metal one. However, it is twice heavier as aluminum. Steel and metal pergolas are usually larger, perfect for bigger gardens and yards. It is usually finished in a powder coat or liquid paint finish to prevent rust and oxidation.

  • Fiberglass

Fiberglass is another strong material for pergolas. Its strength also allows it to span a wider space between columns to make a larger and more open structure compared to wood. It is great for traditional and modern pergola designs. Fiberglass pergolas are also lightweight and made with hollow components, making it easy to install lighting and fans to them.

  • Vinyl Pergola

Among the different pergola materials, a vinyl pergola is the least expensive. But even if it costs less, it is durable and beautiful. It only needs periodic cleaning, and it can withstand the elements while making your garden look beautiful.

  • PVC Pergola

PVC is a manufactured material, which is often used as an alternative to wood. It can resist moisture penetration and will not split or rot. It is also almost impermeable to the elements and is 100% termite-resistant. It is also easier to paint than wood, and it can hold color very well. You just need to clean it periodically using a non-toxic and non-corrosive cleaner.

  • Concrete Pergola

This is probably the strongest of all the materials. Precast stone or concrete pergolas can stand the test of time and elements. It is also very easy to maintain, with only an occasional need to power wash or spot clean. It is also easy to repair cracks or chips with additional concrete.

Different Styles of Pergolas

Aside from the different materials, pergolas also come in different styles. Here are some of them:

  • Freestanding: A freestanding pergola is one that stands alone as a landscape feature separate from the house. It is perfect for gardens, by the pool, or to create a living space outdoors away from the house.
  • Attached: An attached pergola has one of its sides attached to the wall of the house. It is used for covering a space connected to the house, like a deck or a patio. It can be an extension of an indoor room, too.
  • Arched: There are also arched pergolas, which have arched tops. These look more romantic and can make an area look more elegant.
  • Louvered: Some pergolas have adjustable louvers as rafters. You can open and close them to let in more or less sun. You can also find automatic and manual ones.
  • Awning: There are also small, awning style pergolas that can be mounted onto the wall. Most of them do not need support posts or columns. It can be installed over a door, window, or garage for aesthetics and a bit of shade.


Having a pergola in the garden or yard is indeed great. Aside from adding style to your space, it can also serve a lot of purposes, such as giving shade and creating a living space outdoors. We hope the information we shared here helped you in further understanding what a pergola is and how it is used.