4 Expert Tips To Choose A Pergola

Providing an element of shade without shielding you from the warm sunlight and the pleasant breeze, pergolas are just what you need to define a separate space in your garden where you and your guests can enjoy the brightest afternoons. And why not use them as a climbing structure for your flowers and plants, too?

Since this is a sizable investment (in… well, both senses), we certainly don't want you to be stuck with a huge pergola that makes your garden look smaller or one that you have to replace after a couple of years.

Here are our expert tips to choose a pergola that lasts, complements your garden beautifully, and immediately wows your guests.

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1. What Size Pergola Do I Need?

In order to find the right size for you, you must first consider how big your garden is and how many people you want to fit under your pergola.

  • Decide where you're going to place it:

    • would you like to leave some room to chat with your neighbor or do you want your pergola to give you more privacy?
    • should you leave some extra room for plants and flowers around it?
    • measure that space so that you know exactly what you can play with;

  • Even better: if you're planning on using it to provide some shade while sitting at a table, lay out all your patio furniture and measure it in a straight line to know how big the pergola needs to be to cover it and to allow all your guests to sit under it comfortably;

  • 12x12" or 12x16" are some of the most popular sizes, and can easily seat 6 people;

  • Smaller pergolas are better suited for 2-4 people, and should be chosen for gardens that aren't too spacious (remember that a huge pergola in a tiny garden will make it look even more cramped);

  • Bigger sizes can easily host an entire party or fit a long table for some al fresco dining, but they should only be considered for particularly large areas;

  • As for their height, most pergolas are around 8 feet: you can easily go lower or higher, but make sure that you leave enough room for the tallest members of your households and that your pergola isn't as high as your roof (or, worse, higher!), or else it'll will feel too overwhelming and out of place.

2. What Is the Best Material to Use for a Pergola?

The choice of material will immediately give your pergola a specific look and feel, but you should also consider issues such as durability and weather resistance:

  • Wood: a timeless choice, beautiful wooden pergolas convey a traditional, warm and cozy feel, and can almost look like a natural extension of your garden;

    • however, you must be willing to look after them properly, as wooden pergolas need high levels of maintenance, especially when frequently exposed to tougher weather conditions;

    • the heaviest wooden structures must also be embedded into the soil or installed with a solid concrete-style foundation;

Solid Wood Pergola in Cherry Color
Light Solid Wood Pergola
Grey Wood Pergola with 4 Piece Sofa Seating
Cedar Solid Wood Slim Pergola
Large Solid Wood Pergola
Solid Wood Pergola in Grey
  • Wrought iron: solid and robust, this material is perfect to blend a nostalgic feel and a touch of elegance; it's particularly popular for pergolas that are attached to the house;

    • wrought iron pergolas are extremely durable, but you must make sure to maintain them properly and coat them with rust-proof paint;

  • Aluminum: this is a lightweight option that, being weatherproof and corrosion-resistant, could be a wiser choice in rainier climates;

  • Steel: another lightweight option, steel pergolas have a sleek and modern look;

    • make sure they're powder-coated and well-kept, as scratches could allow humidity to soak through them, leading to corrosion;
Grey Aluminum Pergola with Canopy
Aluminum Pergola with Canopy
Steel Pergola with Canopy in Dark Grey
Black and Red Aluminum Pergola with Canopy
Black Metal Pergola with Canopy
  • Vinyl: this is a great budget-friendly option; weather-resistant, vinyl pergolas can give your garden a bright and timeless feel thanks to their white designs;

  • Bamboo: this is a rarer material, but could be just what you're after if you're looking for a pergola that complements the existing style of your garden;

    • although it's a beautiful natural alternative, bamboo pergolas aren't the most durable and, when not coated properly and regularly, rather prone to mold and mildew; because they're particularly lightweight, they should be avoided in the windiest areas.
Brown Vinyl Pergola
Classic Vinyl Pergola in White
Modern Vinyl Pergola in White
Weather Resistant White Vinyl Pergola
Traditional Vinyl Pergola in White
Wall Mounted Vinyl Pergola in White

3. What is the Right Type of Installation for my Pergola?

This depends on how much room you've got in your garden, what material you like the look of, and what kind of atmosphere you're trying to create:

  • If you haven't got a large garden or if you'd simply like to achieve a patio-style effect, you should go for a wall-mounted pergola, which will look like a dramatic extension of your house, giving it an exotic Mediterranean feel;

  • Free-standing options are probably what you immediately pictured when thinking of a pergola: they're a majestic choice that can help you define a separate area in larger gardens;

  • An anchored installation involves pushing the structure into concrete to promote stability and durability, and it might be required for specific pergolas, especially those made of wood.

Anchored Brown Plastic Pergola
Anchored Solid Wood Pergola
Freestanding Brown Pergola with Canopy
Freestanding Black Metal Pergola with Canopy
Wall Mounted White Aluminum Pergola
Wall Mounted Aluminum Pergola in White

4. What Features Should I Look for When Choosing a Pergola?

Once you've identified the right size, material and installation type for your future pergola, you can start thinking about features that would make your life easier:

  • While some materials are better than others at withstanding adverse weather conditions, their efficacy can also depend on how they were treated: if you live in a rainy area, it'd be wise to look for weather-resistant pergolas;

  • Some pergolas come with a retractable fabric canopy, which is particularly handy in warm climates to enjoy the brightest days without having to deal with direct sunlight;

    • however, you'll need to be prepared for a higher level of maintenance, as the fabric will form pockets that can easily collect water, debris and dirt, often resulting in mildew;

    • they aren't a practical choice in very windy or snowy climates;

  • A stylish alternative to canopies, pergolas with louvers can offer you more flexibility: whether they must be moved manually or with a handy remote, they can usually be tilted at different angles to enjoy more or less shade and protect you from the rain;

    • they're a popular choice for wall-mounted pergolas in particular, adding to the covered patio-feel but leaving more room for sunlight;

    • louvered pergolas are, however, more expensive and their mechanism can result in breakages and more maintenance over the years.

Lily is a modern designer with great appreciation for sleek architecture, a love for art in its many forms, and a passion for sharing her experience with people. If you’re looking for advice on how to modernize your old-fashioned place or make your new restaurant a visual blast, she’s definitely the one to ask.