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12 Pergola Planning Tips For Best Results

When planning to build a pergola, there are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure that your structure turns out exactly the way you want it.

From the functionality you use to the location of your pergola, these 12 pergola planning tips will help you plan the perfect addition to your outdoor space.

Planning for a Pergola

A pergola often referred to as a “pagoda,” is a garden feature that provides a passageway, shaded walkway, or an area for people to sit and stroll beneath.

A trellis is a framework with horizontal and vertical supports that support cross-beams and a solid open lattice, which is covered in wooden vines.

The term comes from the Late Latin pergula, which referred to a projecting eave.

Related Article: How To Choose The Best Roofing For Pergola

As pergolas are becoming increasingly popular, many people are looking to add one to their own home. If you’re thinking about adding a pergola, here are 12 tips to help you plan the perfect structure for your outdoor space.

1. Where to position the pergola?

One of the most important things to consider when planning a pergola is the sun’s position. You’ll want to make sure that the location you choose gets plenty of sunlight so that you can enjoy spending time outdoors.

The main purpose of a pergola is to provide shade, so you’ll want to avoid placing it in an area that is already shady.

*If you want the most shade throughout the day with an open-roof pergola, position it so that the rafters point north and south.

Except during the middle of the day, when the sun is directly overhead, rafters project wide areas of shade beneath the building as the sun travels.

2. What is the most popular pergola size?

Another important consideration is the size of your pergola. You’ll want to make sure that the structure is large enough to comfortably accommodate the furniture and people you plan on using it.

If you’re planning on using it for entertaining, you’ll want to make sure it’s large enough to comfortably seat your guests.

Pergolas are available in a variety of sizes, from 16×16 to 20×20. A 12X16 pergola is suitable for a small group of no more than 6 people.

If you want to seat 12 persons, we recommend a big 16X20 foot pergola.

motorized pergola

3. What is the best height for a pergola?

The height of your pergola is also important to consider. You’ll want to make sure that the structure is tall enough to provide ample shade on hot days.

However, you don’t want it to be so tall that it blocks out the sun completely.

The typical pergola height is 8 to 12 feet. However, that isn’t necessarily the case.

For example, if you want an 8-foot head clearance and the beams reach 9 feet at least, then the rafters total 10 feet or more.

In the end, it’s critical to get the pergola height correct since if it’s too tall, it won’t be able to provide enough sun or rain protection.

However, if it’s too low, air circulation and brightness within the structure may be jeopardized.

4. Direction it should face:

The direction your pergola faces is also important to consider. If you live in an area with a lot of wind, you’ll want to make sure that the structure is facing away from the prevailing winds.

This will help to ensure that your pergola doesn’t get damaged by strong winds.

It’s critical to orient the beams of a traditional pergola north and south, with an angle toward the east, for maximum morning and afternoon shade coverage.

This will protect you and your furniture from the harshest sunlight and heat.

pergola metal roof

5. How much budget should you prepare?

Just like any other home improvement project, you’ll need to consider your budget when planning a pergola.

The cost of materials and labor can vary depending on the size and complexity of the structure. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of any additional features you plan on adding, such as lights or fans.

The average cost to construct a pergola ranges from $4,000 to $5,900, or about $2,200. You may spend as little as $1,300 on a basic structure and as much as $10,000 on a custom one.

Before you prepare a budget, you’ll first need to have a clear idea of what exactly you want your pergola to look like. Once you have an idea of the size, height, and features you want, you can start to get an accurate estimate of the cost.

6. Do you need a building permit when building one?

In some cases, you may need to obtain a building permit before constructing a pergola. This is especially true if you plan on attaching the structure to your home.

As with any other home renovation project, the permitting procedure aims to ensure that the building is safe and sturdy.

You should never cut corners in your property search. It may be tempting to try to get away with not having the appropriate license, but you should never do so.

When you’re ready to sell your property, a lack of a permit will come back to haunt you in unpleasant ways, not least because the structure of your pergola may collapse.

Check with your local building department to see if a permit is required in your area.

7. Will it affect the features of the house?

It’s crucial to think about how the pergola will tie into your home’s design.  Will it be an extension of your home’s existing style or a completely separate structure?

If you plan on attaching the pergola to your home, you’ll need to make sure that the two structures complement each other.

The most common way to connect a pergola to your home is by attaching it to the eaves. This method is straightforward and doesn’t require any special skills or tools.

However, it’s important to make sure that the eaves are strong enough to support the weight of the pergola.

For example, if you have a ranch-style home, you may want to consider a pergola that echoes that aesthetic.

Conversely, if your home is more contemporary in style, you may want to choose a sleek and modern pergola design.

Is it making your home appear darker?  If you want your pergola to provide shade, that’s fine. But if it’s making your home appear dark and dreary, then it’s not doing its job properly. 

wooden pergola

Design and Aesthetic

One of the first things you need to think about when planning for a pergola is the design. What kind of look are you going for?

Do you want it to be simple and functional, or more decorative? What material will it be made out of?

There are a lot of different options available, so take some time to browse and see what appeals to you. It’s important that your pergola looks good and compliments your home. 

If it doesn’t, then it’s not going to add any value to your property.

Note: Another important consideration is how you plan to use your pergola. Do you want it to be a gathering place for friends and family, or more of a private retreat?

Will you be using it for entertaining, or simply as a way to add some shade to your yard? Knowing how you want to use it will help you narrow down your options and make sure you get the right one for your needs.

8. Should you attach it to your house or make it freestanding?

You’ll also need to decide whether you want to attach the pergola to your home or make it a freestanding structure. There are pros and cons to both options.

  • Attached pergolas are more stable since they’re anchored to your home. They’re also easier to build since you won’t need to pour any concrete footings. However, attached pergolas can be more expensive since you’ll need to factor in the cost of attaching the structure to your home.

  • Freestanding pergolas are less expensive since you won’t need to attach them to your home. They’re also more versatile since you can move them around your yard. However, freestanding pergolas are less stable than attached structures and require more maintenance.

9. What are Overhangs?

If you live in an area with a lot of sun, you may want to consider adding an overhang to your pergola. An overhang is a roof-like structure that extends out from the main body of the pergola.

It provides additional shade and protection from the elements.

You can add an overhang to either an attached or freestanding pergola. However, it’s important to note that overhangs add weight and complexity to the structure.

As such, they can be more expensive and difficult to build.

10. What is the best way to keep a pergola safe and secure?

There are a few things you can do to keep your pergola safe and secure.

  • Make sure that the structure is well-built and sturdy.
  • Use high-quality materials that can withstand the elements.
  • Anchor the pergola to the ground or your home to prevent it from being blown over in strong winds.
  • Inspect the pergola regularly for signs of wear and tear.
  • Repair any damage as soon as possible to prevent further deterioration.

11. Is it worth the investment to construct or purchase a pergola?

A pergola can be a great addition to your home. It can provide additional shade and privacy, and it can also add value to your property.

However, pergolas can be expensive to construct or purchase. They also require regular maintenance and repairs. As such, you should carefully consider whether a pergola is the right investment for you.

DIY or Hire?

If you’re handy and have some basic carpentry skills, you may be able to build a pergola yourself. However, it’s important to note that this is a complex project that requires careful planning and execution.

You may be able to save money by building the pergola yourself. However, unless you have experience with carpentry or construction, it’s best to hire a professional.

Not only will they be able to build the structure more quickly, but they’ll also be able to ensure that it’s built to code.

If you decide to hire a contractor, make sure to get multiple bids and choose a reputable company with experience building pergolas.

Building a pergola is a big project. There’s a lot of measuring, cutting, and nailing involved. If you’re not confident in your ability to tackle the project yourself, it’s best to hire a professional.

12. Pergolas require a lot of maintenance, so should I paint or stain it?

Pergolas require regular maintenance to keep them looking their best. One way to reduce the amount of maintenance required is to paint or stain the structure.

This will protect the wood from the elements and make it easier to clean.

However, painting or staining a pergola can be a time-consuming and expensive project. As such, you should carefully consider whether this is the best option for you.

Final Thoughts

Building a pergola can be a great way to add value to your home and create an outdoor living space that you can enjoy for years to come.

However, there are a few things you should keep in mind before you get started.

  1. First, you need to decide what purpose the pergola will serve. Will it be used for shade, privacy, or both?
  2. Next, you need to choose the right location for the structure. It should be situated in an area that gets plenty of sun and is large enough to accommodate the size of the pergola.
  3. Finally, you need to decide whether you want an attached or freestanding pergola. Each option has its own set of pros and cons that you should consider before making a decision.

Once you’ve taken these factors into account, you’ll be well on your way to planning the perfect pergola for your home.