Have you noticed the difference it makes in a hot day, standing (or sitting) in the shade rather than in the sun? What if, aside from shade, your patio could benefit from an addition that will draw the attention of every visitor? It’s all fairly easy to accomplish—all you need, is a pergola!
Privacy, Comfort, Distinction
The pergola design—four (or less, I’ll explain later) support beams, latticed roof—has been around for literal millennia, having been found incorporated into ancient plans believed to be intended for a high-ranking personage in BC Egypt. Theories as to the cause of its enduring (and, lately, resurgent) popularity vary between its functionality, aesthetic appeal, and a combination of both.
An Eye-Catching Addition
Be it because of its design, chosen location, or color, a pergola is all but certain to turn heads—and that’s before you or your guests get comfortable underneath it.
Some Sunlight, Not All Of It
A pergola’s unique roof design allows you to add climbing plants, so less light will make it through—to say nothing of the accent it provides.
Simply add curtains, and your space becomes that much safer from prying eyes—and it looks great, too!
- Not All Structures Are Pergolas
It can get confusing (trust me, I know). There are so many terms out there related to patio structures, it’s easy to mistake one for the other. Here’s a short list of things a pergola is not:
A gazebo: This one features a full roof, whereas a pergola’s roof is slatted, thereby allowing some sunlight through (this is not universal, as some pergolas are designed to completely block the sun—but more on that later).
An arbor: Much smaller than a pergola, the two can actually be placed in tandem. An arbor’s shape is intended to work as a sort of threshold, a way through (often, into the pergola), laced with climbing plants.
A trellis: Like a pergola’s roof, this structure is built in a latticed pattern (like a grid, if you will), but this one is only a wall. Intended to provide a framework for plants to cling to, you will find them incorporated into pergolas, and also into arbors.
Back in the day—such as in Ancient Egypt, Renaissance Italy, or 18th century England—, pergolas were built with materials like stone, brick, and wood. Nowadays, you will find them made in wood, and these other alternatives:
Metal: Fairly resilient, and often easy to put together thanks to the click-together design many pergolas of this type incorporate. The specific metal used may vary a little, each option coming with its own pros and drawbacks. Aluminum, for example, has nothing to fear from water or salt air, but it requires proper anchoring since it’s so light it could be warped by sufficiently strong winds. Steel is stronger, but it can rust if not properly maintained.
Vinyl: A favorite of many, due to its inherent resistance to the elements and how easy it is to keep clean (hose it down, you’re done). It will last a long time, too. One caveat: pergolas made in vinyl will almost universally come in white.
Fiberglass: Exceptionally long lived (even more than vinyl), it is great at holding paint and does not absorb moisture, so you can be certain that any coating you give it is there to stay. As such, this material would be wildly popular—if it weren’t for its steep price. It’s somewhat rare, too: not many manufacturers work with it.
The format you go for, will depend almost entirely on the location you choose for it. Your options are as follows:
Freestanding: Similar to your average canopy, you can place it wherever you want, and move it whenever you want. Locations without strong winds are better, so your pergola won’t be at risk of flying away.
Wall-mounted: One side gets attached to the wall, and two legs prop up the other. Some pergolas in this category come with four legs, but only because they need them due to their length.
Anchored: Intended for being placed in open field, it won’t be going anywhere once it’s been set.
The pergolas of today differ from the ones the folk of old enjoyed. Here are a few innovations you can find:
Canopy: Weather-resistant fabric that hangs between slats, to provide shade and a certain degree of protection against rain.
Louvers: An alternative to a canopy, these are specially angled slats to regulate the amount of sun (and rain) that makes it through.
Arched roof: For most of its history, a pergola’s roof was perfectly horizontal. Nowadays, some feature an arch that provides a distinct visual accent.
- Some Great Prospects For Your Patio
To help you on your search, we’ve put together a short list of options we believe you might find fitting for that empty outdoors space.
1. Yardistry YM11783 Pergola with Sunshade And Bar
Made in cedar lumber, its design is fairly certain to turn heads with its grey finish, and it comes with other perks too: it includes a sunshade which can be snapped on and easily removed, made in PVC for optimal resistance to the elements, and the additional balusters at the corners create a certain feeling of seclusion even if one does not add curtains. It’s got decent room (14′ x 10′), and not only in terms of ground, as one of the sides incorporates shelves for your drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
Built-in bar and shelf.
Not very easy to put together—requires power tools and carefully following instructions so wood won’t split.
2. PURPLE LEAF Retractable Pergola with Sun Shade Canopy
This is a good one if you like variety, and also if you’d rather move your pergola at will, as it is retractable and it comes in 4 colors and 3 sizes, so you may choose the best match for your living space. When I speak of colors, I should clarify I don’t mean the frame—all options come in gray—but of the canopy this pergola includes and which will provide adequate shading and some protection from the rain. The frame is aluminum, and therefore fairly light, and should you want it to stay where it is, it comes with a locking system to anchor onto a variety of ground types.
- Easy to move around.
- Variety of options for size and color.
- Frame known to bend easily, even during shipment.
3. Dura-Trel Queensbrook Pergola
This one is all vinyl and, therefore, only in white (as implied in a previous section), which is likely to fit rather well into a variety of spaces. Design is fairly standard: four spots, slatted roof, and anchors to secure the pergola on soil. It may not stand out in terms of format or features, but it is still a decent option which, per the manufacturer, will provide shade to a 115 sq in area. If customer impressions are to be believed, it’s likely to earn you quite a few compliments on your good tastes, too.
Easy to put together.
Known to sway a fair bit under strong winds.
4. New England Arbors Freemont Attached Vinyl Pergola
Limited space is no problem with this one, as it will enable you to quickly create an outdoors retreat straight out of your back door. Made in vinyl, it will cover (and require for placement) an area of 12′ by 12′ feet, which should be well enough for a few chairs and a table. Per the manufacturer, it is best not to hang anything from the pergola, so as to not imperil the structure. It is also quite likely a permit for construction might be required before installation.
- A practical way to create an outdoors space almost anywhere regardless of patio size.
- Complicated assembly; will often require buying extra supplies and hiring professionals for proper installation.
5. PURPLE LEAF Outdoor Louvered Pergola
If you’re looking for the quickest path to a shaded, private outdoors space, then your search might be over: this pergola includes louvers, i.e. additional slats that, unlike those comprising the roof, can be angled to provide protection from sun and rain. There are, in fact, two sections that can be independently adjusted, so you can have varying degrees of shade between one half of your space and the other.
This one goes further in pursuit of privacy, too, as curtains are built into all four sides; as soon as your pergola is put together, you are ready for a moment of isolation. Frame is aluminum, roof is galvanized steel.
- Great for creating a secluded space right out of the box.
- Instructions for assembly can be confusing.
- Throws The Best Shade: PURPLE LEAF Retractable Pergola with Sun Shade Canopy
What we want, is shade; if it comes with convenience, all the better. This one not only provides as much (or as little) shade as you want—and at a lower cost than louvers require—, it provides it in more than one color. You also have a few sizes to choose from, which is likely to simplify your search for the one that will best fit into that space you’ve set aside.
Something should be said about its portability, too: while it probably won’t fit in your truck so you can take it to your next outing, it’s still lightweight, and it is also retractable, so it is supremely easy to move around. And, if you want to keep it in one place, the anchors will let you do just that. From nearly any angle, this one is hard to beat.