Pergolas have been around for centuries and their early roots can be traced back to Latin times. Originally, they were used more for walkways and garden-types of uses, like growing grapes and vines. A pergola is a backyard feature forming a shaded walkway, passageway, or sitting area with vertical posts or pillars that usually support a roof-type structure of cross-beams and a sturdy open framework.
Today we commonly use them on decks and patios. We mainly use them for shading purposes but we have also used them just to “frame in” an area. This is to give it a sense of height and break up or define certain areas architecturally.
We design them into the original deck design, but more commonly we add them after the fact; after clients have invested in a deck or patio and they start using it. After going through a summer, they start to take notice of the sun and how it shines on their backyard. Some of our clients don’t spend time outside because the sun is just too intense in the summer for them to enjoy their outdoor living space.
In a perfect world, all this would be taken into account during the design phase but, we all know that not everything receives the due attention during the design phase. If you lived in a shaded setting before, you wouldn’t consider a pergola. Living there first gives you the understanding of the sun’s movement. So, adding one after the fact is generally not a big deal. Just consider the height of the structure and the relationship to your windows/views from the inside of the home.
We build pergolas out of a variety of products that fall into two major categories; low-maintenance and woods. The low-maintenance options have grown considerably over the years. We now have powder-coated aluminum, fiberglass, PVC and a variety of other plastic products. Of the wood options the most common ones are Cedar, Redwood, and pressure-treated Southern Yellow Pine.
As far as design and customization, there are a slew of options available. The low-maintenance pergolas are a little more limited but with the woods we are able to build a very custom pergola with specific spans and details. From curved pergolas to incorporating masonry, to adding fabric for shades, we have done it all. We can customize them to provide maximum shade, offer privacy from the horizontal directions, or with minimum shade. With the outdoor fabric industry giving us better products all the time, we now incorporate fabrics for a fun touch and to offer solid shade or privacy. We can pull the design more towards traditional, contemporary, or transitionally by changing the details and proportions.
This is what makes building and designing pergolas so fun; the rich variety of creative solutions that are available for us to use to meet our customers’ needs.