How To Choose A Pergola

If you're looking for an instant way to add some shade and style to your backyard, you might want to look into pergolas. These are structures with two or four posts and a roof component that provides shade or style in the backyard. Sometimes they are open in style and sometimes they have an awning that provides shade. 

Visually, pergolas help create a distinctive space for socializing. People often place outdoor furniture under them, cook under them or even use them to hold weddings in the backyard. 

Like many products, pergolas come in a wide variety of materials, styles, sizes and features. Below we'll look at how to select that right pergola for your backyard.

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How Are the Best Materials For a Pergola?

The most defining feature of a pergola is the type of material it is made out of. Each type of material comes with its pros and cons. Each material often matches different types of yard styles as well. Pergolas tend to come in three main types of materials.

Metal

Metal pergolas come in aluminum or steel most commonly. Metal's main benefit is that it tends to be weatherproof. For instance, aluminum is rust-free, as well as fairly lightweight. Metal is also low maintenance.   

From a style standpoint, metal pergolas work well in modern, urban or industrial yard spaces. The metal gives a sleek look and when combined with light canopy, it creates a feeling of understated elegance. 

Some drawbacks to metal are that it can look too austere in more classic yards, steel that is not properly weather-resistant can rust and metal styles can be more expensive.

Metal Pergola with Canopy
Long White Metal Aluminum Pergola
White Metal Short Pergola
Black Metal Pergola with Canopy
Large Metal Pergola in White
Metal Pergola with Canopy in Black

Wood

Wood styles are a classic for pergolas. You can find them in a wide variety of wood types and textures, like bamboo, Fir or Cedar. The main benefit is that wood gives a wonderful natural texture, so it looks like it belongs in a wide variety of outdoor spaces. It's especially good in rustic backyards, but modern wooden designs will also work great in contemporary style gardens. Wood can also be more affordable than other materials.

Wood's main downside, however, is that it takes maintenance. Without proper care like sanding, sealing and staining, it can rot, warp or crack. Different types of woods can also drive up the price, like Cedar may be more expensive.

Large Solid Wood Pergola
Orange Solid Wood Pergola
Slim Solid Wood Pergola
Rustic Solid Wood Pergola
Solid Wood Pergola for Two
Large Grey Solid Wood Pergola

Vinyl

Vinyl is a favorite because of its sleek, modern look, making it good for more modern backyards and home styles. It often comes in a pristine white. It can also look new for longer than wood. 

The downside to that style is it will show dust and dirt, requiring power washing or a hose wash. It's also not appropriate for natural or rustic outdoor spaces. Vinyl as a material also tends to be on the more expensive side.

Vinyl Pergola with Antique Legs
Vinyl Pergola With Mounting Kit
Elegant Backyard Vinyl Pergola
White Classic Vinyl Pergola
Simple Short Vinyl Pergola
Modern White Vinyl Pergola

How to Choose Pergola Size?

When looking at the size, your first step is to assess where you want to put the pergola. You have a few different options. You can anchor the pergola over a full deck space to add style and shade. Freestanding pergolas are also popular. You might also think about placing one over a small patio

You have different sizes to choose from, so start by measuring the space where to plan to put your pergola. The other option is to make a pergola addition part of a whole new backyard remodel.   

When it comes to different uses, the main sizes that are available tend to be around:

  • 12 by 16 feet: Best for small to medium decks
  • 16 by 24 feet: Best for larger decks
  • 12 by 16 feet: Best for freestanding, though you have more flexibility with this option
  • 12 by 12 feet: Can work well for a small patio space

These are, of course, common sizes and averages. Pergolas come in a truly wide variety of sizes to fit any backyard space and design goal. Shop around to find which option makes the most sense for your backyard.

12 x 12 Wooden Pergola
12ft x 12ft White Pergola
12ft x 12ft Classic Pergola
12ft x 10ft Solid Wood Pergola
12ft x 16ft Wooden Pergola
12ft x 16ft Wall Mounted Vinyl Pergola

What are the Different Pergola Installation Types?

It's also important to consider the installation type. Installation can run from DIY models to possibly needing contractors to lay cement. Some of the main installation types include:

  • Spiked: These have rods that drive into the bottom of the pergola posts and anchor them to the ground. It's one of the easiest installation methods.

  • Buried: These simply have poles that you put into a shallow hole and surround with dirt to keep in place. It's also the type to look for if a low-fuss method is a priority.

  • Anchored: These are usually placed on top of posts that are set into the ground in concrete or mounted to a solid surface. It's also common to see pergolas, especially wood models, anchored with L-brackets. Post skirts may hide these brackets.

  • Wall-Mounted: Some styles have two posts and then one top side mounts to a wall using a kit.

Dark Solid Wood Freestanding Pergola
Solid Wood Freestanding Pergola
Wall Mounted Patio Pergola
Wall Mounted Small Patio Pergola
Solid Wood Arched Pergola
Large Metal Arched Pergola

What Features Should You Look For in a Pergola?

You also have a variety of different features that add to the style or function of pergolas. Some possibilities include:

  • Canopy included: If shade is a priority, get a model that has a canopy included in the design. Otherwise, pergolas tend to be slatted and open on the top. Some models also have a canopy that slides back and forth, giving the best of both worlds.

  • Weather-resistant: Make sure the model is weather-resistant for longevity. It especially helps to make sure wood models are treated. Added canopies should be rated as weather-resistant, too.   

  • Freestanding or wall-mounted: A key design feature to keep in mind is whether the pergola is wall-mounted on one side or has four freestanding poles. If you plan to put the pergola on a deck or patio right off your home, the wall-mounted model can look sleek and well-integrated with the space.

Quick Tips

A pergola can be a big purchase for a backyard. It often becomes a focal point and prices can run in the hundreds to thousands of dollars. To help you make sure you select the right one, below are some key takeaways. 

  • The three main materials pergolas come in are wood, metal and vinyl. Choose wood if you want a more natural and rustic style, and you don't mind the maintenance. For lower-maintenance and a more modern look, choose metal of vinyl.

  • Pergolas come in a wide variety of styles. Start by measuring the space you plan to place it in or look at remodeling plans for your backyard. That will inform you about what type of size you are looking for.

  • For installation types, buried and spiked are easier. Mounted and anchored styles can get more complicated and might require a contractor if you're not comfortable with drilling or pouring concrete. 

  • Be sure to assess the different types of features and how they fit into your needs. For instance, a canopy might be a must if your backyard doesn't have much natural shade.

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