Pergolas are amazing backyard structures that emphasize your landscape and provide a perfect area to lounge and enjoy your backyard.
Pergolas can be made of wood, vinyl, fiberglass, or metal. Wood is the preferred material due to its classic touch. Vinyl and fiberglass are just similar as they are durable materials that can withstand weathering elements. Although metal is the most modern and sturdiest one, it is prone to rust.
Before building a pergola, you must consider a few things. First, you should check if a permit is required and check with your local utility companies for any ground hazards. Then, pick the right spot for it and decide what material you are going to use.
In this article, we will tackle the things you need to consider when building a pergola. We will also discuss what’s the best and common material to use and its characteristics.
What Is a Pergola and Why Build One?
Pergolas are common backyard structures made of vertical posts that support cross-beams, and sometimes, sturdy latticework. They can be mounted in your garden, backyard, porch, and doorway. The beams offer a perfect place for vines to crawl and give a dappled shade above.
Pergolas have been popular since the early 1600s in European gardens and pathways. They is used as incomplete shelters, shady pathways, and places for growing vines, flowers, shrubs, and fruit-bearing creepers. Pergolas became even more popular during the Renaissance and were widely adopted by people around Italy and France.
Technically, pergolas have a roofing grid consisting of beams and rafters that are supported by columns. A pergola can be attached to your home and extend to the patio or can be free-standing at your desired place. It can be an entertaining spot and a perfect place for a getaway and unwind from stress.
Pergolas can also provide little shade from the harsh sun while allowing a cold breeze to pass through. Here are some reasons why pergolas are used nowadays:
- Provide shade in the garden
- Make a stunningly covered walkway
- Create additional garden space
- Offer privacy in an open garden
Six Things to Consider Before Building a Pergola
A pergola is a great addition to your backyard. It can increase the appearance of your yard and let you enjoy your outdoor experience. Before constructing one, here are six things to consider.
- Check Your Permit
Before building your pergola, ask your local building authority if you need a permit for your project. Although pergolas aren’t technically completed structures, you still have to verify if installing one requires a special permit. In some cases, people build pergolas with fans, lights, and other power-induced accessories, in which case they are more likely to need a permit.
If you want to avoid permits for electrical work and accessorizing, you can use low-voltage items intended for outdoor use. If you are living in HOA, make sure to verify with the board that building a pergola is acceptable.
- Contact Your Local Utilities
Many homeowners have started digging holes for their pergola beams only to run into electric or gas wires. It is very dangerous and expensive to fix, so make sure you reach out to your local utility companies before launching your new backyard project.
The utility company will check your ground for any hazards and will mark the lines in your yard to avoid accidents and injuries.
- Get to Know the Frost Depth in Your Area
Frost depth is the level where the ground freezes each year. When constructing a pergola, you insert its beam into the ground. With this, you have to make sure that you’re going to insert it below the frost level.
If the beams sit within the freezing level, the freezing and thawing that happens every winter will thrust the beams up and out of their holes. It can then ruin the structure of your pergola. You can ask your local building authority to help you verify your area’s frost depth.
- Pick the Right Spot
When building your pergola, you need to pick the right place. Decide if you want it built in your garden, patio, walkway, front porch, or in other areas. Draw a structured plan of your pergola before working on it. Choose a flat and leveled spot so you can easily establish your structure.
If you have an uneven landscape, you can remove or add some soil and level it before setting up the structure. You might want to set up your pergola near a shaded tree or close to a supporting structure, like a wall.
- Consider the Best Materials
Nowadays, pergolas are made of cedar, pressurized pine, redwood, and other kinds of woods. Pinewood is the best and most cost-effective, but also an unattractive wood. Known to be rot- and insect-resistant, redwood and cedar are also radiant and good-looking woods.
Considered stylish and expensive, ipe and redwood are mostly used in modern architecture backyard designs. Here are other factors when choosing the wood for your pergola project:
- Environment humidity
- Temperature fluctuations
Of course, there are other options if you don’t want a wooden pergola. You may notably find cost-efficient and ready-to-assemble kits that come in aluminum, fiberglass, and vinyl, offering consumers a stylish and practical pergola.
- Rain and Sun Protection
Pergolas can only provide minimal shade because of their open beam design, making them unmatched for summer and rainy days. However, you can layout your pergolas by partnering them with canopies to protect them against harsh elements.
A canopy custom solution lets you enjoy your pergola while protecting the furniture and accessories set up in this outdoor area.
What’s the Best Material for a Pergola?
Pergolas are usually made of wood, fiberglass, vinyl, or metal. Each material has its distinct characteristics and prices.
Wood is the most customizable and sturdiest material for a pergola. It can be stained, painted, or naturally evolve with the weather. However, wood is expensive in all areas, from shipping to customizing it, and takes time to install.
Timber wood is popular because it adds a more rustic look to your garden. If you are settled around beaches, timber is a good choice for pergolas since it is salt- and humidity-resistant. Some other woods often used in pergolas are redwood and oak.
However, wood has its disadvantages as well. For one, it requires annual maintenance. You have to protect it against termites and natural elements.
Fiberglass is quite similar to vinyl and is easy to maintain. Although, it may crack when exposed to strong wind, snow, freezing temperatures, and thawing conditions. However, it is strong and sturdy, so the fiberglass beams have a longer distance span compared to vinyl or wood.
Vinyl is easy to maintain and doesn’t require staining. However, it isn’t as strong and sturdy as fiberglass and wood. It is also exclusively manufactured to add beauty, performance, and durability to your pergola’s structure.
Vinyl pergolas usually come in kits, which means the shapes and sizes are predetermined, although some customization is still achievable. Vinyl is a good choice for a rugged outdoor environment as it won’t crack, warp, nor split and can still look new for years.
The construction process is easy, and labor is inexpensive since all its pieces are pre-cut and pre-measured. One of the disadvantages of a vinyl pergola, however, is that it gets soft and sag lightly when hit by big loads of snow.
Steel is a modern metal material used for building pergolas. It has excellent weather protection and can be easily assembled and dismantled whenever you want. Steel can also be bent or extended depending on its layout and design.
Of course, you can use other metallic materials to build pergolas, such as aluminum. Although metals tend to be more expensive than wooden frames, they require less maintenance.
Most builders use metal materials that are easy to mold and hold against degradation factors and rust. Once your metal pergolas are painted and erected, you have nothing to worry about.
The price of a pergola varies based on its design, size, and the materials used. A typical vinyl pergola costs around $3,800 to $9,500, depending on its size. Meanwhile, fiberglass pergolas cost $3,500 to 8,000, and wood pergolas typically cost $43 to $49 per square foot. So, if you want a 10×20 pergola, it will cost you about $8,700.
What Size of Pergola Do I Need?
Pergolas can be attached to your kitchen, house, or roofline. You are the only one who can determine how high yours should be. If you are part of the homeowners’ association, make sure to verify if existing regulations could affect the size or location of your pergola.
Vinyl pergolas usually come in kits, which means their shapes and sizes are predetermined. The typical sizes are 10×10 feet, 12×12 feet, or 10×16 feet. The most custom-built pergola can be found in any shape and size you like, and it takes two weeks to have a custom pergola constructed.
The size of your pergola depends on the capacity you will shelter. If you have a big family or group, you’ll need a bigger pergola. On the other hand, if you only entertain a small group, you can build a small one.
A pergola is an amazing addition to your backyard and increases the value of your outdoor setup. With the tips and guidelines mentioned above, you can build your pergola safely and make it up to the code and comfortable.