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Your Guide to a Beautiful Pergola

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The literal meaning of a pergola is an extended roof. Derived from the Latin word "pergola," the concept of a pergola hails from the mid-1600s Roman background. Despite its long-standing place in history, the idea of a pergola has been misrepresented and misunderstood by millions of people. Most of them equate the pergola to similar structures, but not quite the same. The pergola is often thought to be the same as an arbor or a pavilion, or other structures.  Even pergolas by themselves have a motley of styles and types to choose from. You must remember that the first and foremost purpose of a pergola is to accentuate the aesthetics of your backyard. Whether a metal pergola blends with your home or whether a wooden one would be better suited is a decision that must be taken before deciding to invest in it. Here is your ultimate guide to a beautiful pergola.

What is a Pergola?

The essence of a pergola lies in its open-to-sky design despite having an overhead canopy of sorts. It is a structure supported by pillars or posts, usually resting on the ground, forming the base for an overhead network of beams. This does not mean that pergolas cannot have varying structures. The basic concept lies in its open-to-sky design that is created by a network of columns and beams. Now, traditionally, the pergola has 2 basic components: - 
  • 1- Columns These standing poles or structures usually rest in the ground or on it and create the frame for the complete structure. Of course, their quantity can vary, and in more modern ones, they may be very few since they could be hooked to a wall. 
  • 2- Beams Beams are the structures that run parallel to the columns but rest on top of them. Since they have spaces between them instead of a traditional rooftop, they create an open-air ambiance that is hard to rival. 
In addition to columns and beams, landscapers and DIY amateurs often choose to add shades in the form of purlin sheets or nets. It is also worth noting the differences between pergolas and the structures they are normally confused with, simply to understand them better. 
  • Starting with an arbor, the sheer difference in placement location should be your first clue that it is not a pergola. An arbor is most typically used to frame a doorway. It may or may not offer an option of a bench within it. Another point of difference is that a pergola is much larger than an arbor.
  • Another similar structure that most people mistake for a pergola is a pavilion. A pavilion is quite like the pergola except that it usually sits on raised ground, and the roof is, unlike the pergola, which simply has a network of beams for its roof, is an actually closed roof. 
  • Gazebos are also quite popular with people looking to add a bit of cozy glamour to their gardens and backyards. This is primarily because of the enclosed structure. Gazebos are different from pergolas because they have closed roofs and an enclosing perimeter and, instead of having their base rest on the ground, gazebos are constructed on raised platforms. 
Now that you know what a pergola is, a little exploration of its various types would help you pick the one that fits your home aesthetic the best.  Below we have curated a list of the various types of pergolas you can choose from - from the aluminum pergola to wooden designs! 
  • 1- Standalone pergolas – A pergola constructed and placed in your garden as an independent entity. 
  • 2- Arched pergolas - These types of pergolas, instead of following the conventional roof structure, choose to create a roomier appearance by making the roof arched, allowing more space in the structure. 
  • 3- Attached pergolas - This type is typically connected by one end to your house wall or something similar with the other end's column resting on the ground.
  • 4- Louvered pergolas - A modern rendition of the pergola. This version offers the option of modulating the amount of sunlight that can pass through the overhead structure by angling the moveable cross beams on top, referred to as louvers. 
  • 5- Awning pergolas - Like the attached pergola, the awning pergola has one end of it attached to a wall of your house or building. The other end, unlike the traditionally attached pergolas, remains free of support from the ground.
While pergolas can be made of different materials such as wood, vinyl, steel, fiberglass or concrete, the most versatile material used for modern-day pergolas is aluminum. Read on to find out why this is the case!

What are the benefits of an aluminum pergola?

A wooden structure is best appreciated for its stable setup. Plus, wood constructions are extremely sturdy. Vinyl pergolas can be a good choice because it is a low-maintenance material and durable in construction. However, it cannot withstand harsh environments, and it does not look as sophisticated as wood does. Steel is not the ideal choice for any place which receives rainfall or has a humid weather pattern. Plus, even though it is a sturdy material, you would be compromising on a lot of aesthetic value for its build. Fiberglass and concrete are fantastic in terms of durability and aesthetics, but both require a considerable investment.   Aluminum, however, brings together the absolute best of all these materials and some more. An aluminum pergola will undoubtedly be the best option for you if you are looking for a versatile material that is stable and sturdy and aesthetic, and customizable. Aluminum is as stable, maybe even more, as wooden constructions do not require much maintenance, much like vinyl. However, unlike vinyl and steel, aluminum can withstand heavy snowfalls and rains owing to its inherent strength and anti-rust properties. To top it off, aluminum is not nearly as expensive as fiberglass or concrete and is highly customizable.  Here are some of the most significant benefits of aluminum pergolas:
  1. They are extremely cost-effective.
  2. They offer high stability and sturdiness.
  3. With low maintenance work, which usually involves just a thorough washing once a year, long term costs are practically nil
  4. Aluminum pergolas create a sophisticated and clean aesthetic that can be customized to meet your preferences - you could motorize the overhead beams to function like louvered pergolas and add outdoor blinds in case it's a sunny day or manually work them. 
  5. Aluminum fits well with the most modern-day architecture.
  6. Owing to its lightweight, aluminum pergolas are far easier to set up than most of the others.

Pergola designs for your patio

While pergolas can be set up anywhere, really, a fantastic contemporary practice is to set one up specifically for your patio. If you have a patio connected to your house structure, then having an attached-louvered pergola would convert your patio into a spot where you can relax after a long day of work and unwind with a glass of wine. For patios disconnected from the structure of the house, having a standalone or an arched metal pergola with a rocking chair or a standing swing would amplify the aesthetic of your patio. If, however, you live in an apartment building and have an extended patio, it makes more sense to invest in an attached or a louvered pergola so that the setting of your patio remains customizable per your desire. You could pair this structure with simplistic patio furniture and add a barbecue grill for those Sunday morning get-togethers with your friends and family. The most important principle is to ensure that whatever design and color you choose is a welcome sight for sore eyes because, at the end of the day, your patio must be your special spot to take a break. 

What are the things to consider while buying a pergola?

The first consideration that you must bear in mind while hunting for your ideal pergola is the difference between pergolas and gazebos. Ergo, when you approach a landscape artist, ensure that he is aware of your desire for an aluminum pergola and not an aluminum gazebo. To be fair, Aluminium gazebos do look splendid as standalone structures amidst a vast backyard. Still, most people do not have space and resources to be able to maintain one. Secondly, buy a pergola that has a design conducive to your purpose for it.  If you wish to enjoy a lavish meal outside or have a romantic date, having a louvered or slightly shaded pergola is ideal. On the other hand, if an attached pergola is ideal for your house's landscape, then it would be wise to invest in outdoor blinds that shield the interior of your house from the patio. Whether you will maintain your pergola plays one of the most crucial roles in your decision to buy one. Based on your economic consideration, choose a material that suits your life the best. Be sure to buy a pergola that fits your desired space's measurements perfectly; else, you stand a risk of ruining the aesthetic with a pergola that is either too big or too small.  Browsing through the various styles of pergolas goes a long way in choosing one that pleases your eyes. Bear in mind that this is a particularly important consideration since pergolas are long-term installations and will be in your line of sight every day. So, make an informed decision after carefully considering all the important aspects.