A pergola is an outdoor room with cross rafters and no walls that provides a light, airy and inviting space to relax, dine or just admire. Pergolas are much larger than arbors and are generally freestanding, but can be attached to another building. You can also add lattice for more shade and to accommodate climbing vines. Because this structure can be freestanding, you won’t need to make any complicated connections between the house or roof and the pergola, which is a definite advantage for do-it-yourself homeowners and the budget.
A pergola creates visual interest, particularly if you have flowering and fragrant vines growing up and over the rafters and down the vertical posts. You can also dress up a pergola by hanging planters or other design elements from the rafters. Draping all-weather fabrics from one vertical post to another adds a soft flowing effect and a romantic appeal to your landscape while providing even more protection from the elements, a definite advantage over an open patio.
Adding a pergola maximizes your usable outdoor space by adding an area for outdoor furniture that is somewhat protected from the elements, particularly if one wall of the structure is attached to your home or an outbuilding. This creates a windbreak and shelter from the rain. A freestanding pergola can still afford you the same benefit by building it in a protected area, an advantage over a patio that can’t be moved.
If you love do-it-yourself projects, a pergola is a moderately easy project to tackle, as long as you have the proper tools and help to lift the posts into place and to set the rafters. If you don’t have the right tools, several manufacturers sell pergola kits with pre-cut lumber and all the hardware included. If neither option sounds appealing, most landscaping companies would be happy to help you design and build the perfect pergola. Patios don’t come in kits.
A distinct advantage to a pergola over a standard patio roof is that you determine how much sun and shade the pergola provides. By observing the area where you intend to build and taking into account the season, time of day and the angle at which the sun shines, you will know how to angle your rafters. You determine how much sun or shade the pergola provides by varying the size, spacing and orientation of the rafters.