Many outdoor structures can be built to decorate and improve your home. Patios and decks are the most common improvements people make to their outdoor spaces, but pergolas can achieve a similar effect for a fraction of the cost—making it a gorgeous yet cost-effective option for backyard remodelling.
What is a pergola?
A pergola is an outdoor structure composed of four beams. Wikipedia reports that Pergolas were inspired by Italian Renaissance masonry, it may or may not have (but most often does) shade or a roof of some sort. It can be open or closed to protect you from the elements, depending on the layout; generally, pergolas have two to four open sides.
Pergolas can be made out of a variety of different materials, most commonly wood, aluminium, and steel. These are large structures that can fit multiple people or cover a wide space as if to define an outdoor living area or act as an extension of your home. They can also be combined with latticework or trellises to create a shaded walkway or pathway.
While similar, pergolas are different from arbours. The Spruce suggests that arbours are small and simple structures that are used to decorate or support vines. They often have curved arches, and can be freestanding or attached to gates/fences as decor.
Gazebos are closely related, but also have some major differences. Patio Productions report that gazebos will always have a closed roof and are round in shape. They provide much more shade and protection compared to pergolas. They also usually have both flooring and a roof.
Pergolas, on the other hand, are square or rectangular in nature. It may have its own floor, or use another surface (such as your deck or patio) as its base. It’s breezier and more open than a gazebo, since most, if not all, the sides are unobstructed.
These outdoor structures are relatively cheap. Hipages suggests that a completed pergola can cost anywhere from $3,000-6,000, already including labour, materials, and other coasts. Compare this to gazebos which can run for almost double the price at $5,000-10,000 per project.
Just like how there are many different ways you can design your backyard, there are different ways to build a pergola.
A pergola attached to the house
An attached pergola looks like an extension of the home itself, similar to how a front or back patio functions. At least one of the sides of the pergola is “attached” to or shares the same wall, flooring, and/or beams as the home itself.
The pergola provides privacy even outdoors while still allowing ample sunlight and breeze to come through its open sides. You can decorate it with a lounge, a table, and some plants to create a relaxed space to entertain guests.
Freestanding is the general term for any outdoor structure, including pergolas, that are not connected to any other structure. You can erect a freestanding gazebo at the front, side, or back of your home.
These independent structures allow you to carve out your own space, giving you a garden nook of sorts to read, relax, and unwind in the summer months. You can lay a path to it from your home with bricks, stones, or cement to add contrasting features to the pergola and its surrounding landscapes.
Pergola with built-in deck
Building your pergola on a floating deck quite literally elevates it. This easily turns it into a backyard statement piece. Use light-coloured wood to make it pop, or dark-coloured wood to have it blend in with the rest of the background. Add a few chairs and a dining table for an outdoor eating area to die for.
On a concrete patio
Cheap, easy, and less destructive than constructing a full patio, putting a pergola on concrete flooring creates its own separate space while allowing it to feel connected to your home. Mix it up with colours, patterns, or tiles to add fun and flair to an otherwise drab concrete slab.
Of course, there are also hybrid pergola types that shoot off from the house without being directly connected to it. Often, in these cases, one of the pergola’s corner posts is “shared” with the house (or omitted altogether). This allows you to maximise the space even in a less-than-ideal layout.
What are the steps involved in building a pergola?
Building a pergola is a lot simpler than it seems. In fact, it’s a lot cheaper and easier to build gazebos.
You can adapt these instructions to build bigger, longer, or taller pergolas, or pergolas made out of different materials.
Construction materials for a DIY freestanding wooden pergola
Installing a wooden pergola by your home will require many tools, resources, and equipment, such as:
- Four long beams of your choosing, usually 4x4 (standard) or 6x6 (for more heft)
- 2 x 4 beams
- 2 x 6 beams
- 2 x 10 beams
- Galvanized deck screws
- Circular saw
- Other tools
Step by step pergola construction guide
Here’s your foolproof plan to building your dream pergola.
- Consult with your local council if they have any rules or regulations concerning backyard renovations, outdoor remodelling, or pergola construction.
- Begin designing your pergola. This step includes researching potential design ideas, figuring out what kind of material/s you want to use, etc.
NOTE: For even more convenience and cost savings, consider buying a DIY pergola home building kit. These customized kits supply everything you need to build your very own steel pergola at home, with very little effort and planning.
- Mark out where you want to place the pergola. You can use chalk, tape, sand, ribbon, or anything to demarcate the space.
- If you need to stain or paint your materials, now’s the perfect time to do so. You can touch them up again later, if necessary.
- Dig four holes, one in each of the corners of your designated space.
- If you’re doing the traditional method, dig two feet deep and nine inches wide. Add a bit of gravel to the bottom of the hole to absorb moisture. Place one of the beams in the hole, straight and upright, before pouring in pre-mixed quick-dry concrete. Repeat with all four beams.
- If you’re using steel brackets (which we highly recommend!), you can get better height or use less materials.
- Cut the 2x10 beams and fasten it to the pergola posts to create a base for your roofing.
- Cut the smallest beams into thin rafters in your desired size, and attach those stringers to the top beams.
Pergola designs and ideas
You can choose to decorate and build your pergola in any way you want, but we do recommend that you stick to classic designs, shapes, and colours so that you are always “on trend”. You can also stain and paint your pergola beams when you want to bring new life to an old structure.
Use a shade cloth on the pergola
Instead of a pergola roof, why not save yourself some time and money—use a cloth shade instead. It’s equal parts homey and chic, especially if you use a dark-coloured fabric. Complete with fairy lights, wooden furniture, and even sheer side curtains for a romantic, bohemian night under the stars.
This flat roof pergola provides ample shade and comfortable wooden seating for family and friends. Position in a cool, shaded area of your backyard, preferably next to trees or foliage. Decorate with accent pillows, a carpet, and hanging lights for ambience.
Add to a pool or patio deck
If your deck or patio extends out from your home, you can use your pergola as a transition piece. It turns a plain hardscape into something much more whimsical and visually appealing. Plus, it makes for a much cozier spot to hang out for sunset cocktails. Here are 50 stellar design ideas from Reno Guide.
Cover your pool or jacuzzi with a pergola
Pergolas are the perfect size to add privacy and shade to your pool or jacuzzi spot. Keep neighbours’ prying eyes out while still having a fantastic view of the skies, in both daytime and night.
Go for a hybrid pergola
Looking for a cheap and stylish way to set up a pergola in your yard? Try building the structure out of steel, and fitting a shadecloth roof and curtians to the frame for a light, airy and breezy place to relax during summer. It can then be taken down to reduce damage during winter.
Any handyman who enjoys a challenging, hands-on project will find that building a pergola a very fulfilling DIY project. They may be cheaper to build than gazebos, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less beautiful or useful. Learn how to build a DIY pergola!
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