The terrace is a special place where you can invite the whole family for dinner in a summer evening, have a barbecue with friends or set out a small making your neighbours jealous. Thus, the terrace must be both appealing and functional. To stitch the style into it, designers widely use a pergola. In our article, we are going to get into its functions and construction specifics.

What is a pergola? How it is functioning?

Designing a pergola over a terrace is an old idea, but it is functional and appealing. How does it look? Simply put, a pergola is a canopy, with a temporary covering. Once upon a time, climbing plants protecting the area from the scorching sun were the very pergola. Its structure is either a detached framework unit or a floor extension. Over time, the climbing plants went out of fashion and green leaves became less usual in terraces, changed by bold minimalist wooden planks of pergola frame. Such structure allows more light on the terrace, while making a pleasant chilling shade.

The pergola placement depends on its functionality. It can be either a functional decorative element or a plant support as it was once, or a canopy substitute to shade over. One of the most popular design solutions is above the dining area on the terrace. It might not protect from the rain while functioning primarily to shade out and polishing up the design.

The types of pergolas

There are multitude of pergolas, depending on the function, style and placement. The conventional types are classified by:

  1. The type of construction:

– attachment;

– extension.

  1. The appearance:

– visor;

– awning;

– gazebo;

– canopy;

– bench;

– screen;

– tunnel.

  1. The style:

– a conventional with simple lines and symmetric roof (Country, Mediterranean, Eco, Rustic);

– a contemporary with line intricacy, shape and material diversity (e.g. either an Oriental concave roof or a Western convex roof, a high-tech and modern).

  1. The shape:

– round;

– square;

– polygonal

  1. The type of assembly:

– simple;

– functionally enhanced by lighting, floor finish, benches, etc.

  1. The type of the material:

– steel;

– wooden;

– plastic;

– forged;

– stone or brick;

– combined

  1. The assembly:

– garden (supporting climbing plants);

– arched (designed around the entrance);

– small (with 2 visors, perfect for small space);

– large (roofed architectural frame).

The very option best suiting your needs will depend on different factors like the size of space, your need in certain functions and correspondence to your exterior design.

What it takes to make it?

As any construction, a pergola requires a professional project. If you want to do it yourself, then consider the most important such as an appropriate place, dimensions, materials, and a ballpark to spend on it.

Just share your ideas if you want to hire a contractor instead, explain the result you want to get and mention an approximate budget you think of. The contractor will take care about the rest and provide you the estimates. We would be happy to save your time while carrying out the task of calculation and sketching.

How choose the wood and pre-process it?

Most often, pergolas are made of a solid wood or steel or a combination of those (for example, different materials for the rooftop and a support). As for a combination, the best is wood and steel. Usually the best wood to choose is oak, larch, maple, pine or spruce. Fruit tree wood is the worst choice for designing a pergola over the terrace, as it is not resistant and durable. It would disappoint you. Timber or round logs are perfect for the support and willow or pine would be great for the rooftop.

If you like, you can use harder and more expensive wood, thus ensuring durability of your assembly. However, even budget options will serve you long time if taken care properly. Proper care means systematic treatment with water-repellent agents (to withstand weather harshness) and protective compounds from quick temperature drops and insects. Use flame-retardants to comply with fire safety as well.

How to start a pergola?

First, choose the right type of structure. We have covered them above, so It might help to make a choice. Second, assess the scope of the design and your expertise to consider it will is possible to make it on your own. You might need the help of friends or relatives, or find a trusted contractor to delegate it. If you are confident in your expertise and insist on making a pergola over the terrace yourself, then prepare the necessary tools, materials and figure out the place to layout the structure.

The place matters most of all, since the angle of the sunlight towards it will influence the pergola frame layout for better shadowing. Not measuring the angle of the sunlight precisely can make your pergola dysfunctional in terms of shadowing from a scorching sun for your comfortable outdoor stay while serving only as a decoration element. The sunlight can be direct and burn through the holes.

The measurements

The measurements of the pergola depend on your free space available and the function of the first. A pergola design over a bench within lack of space differs from a pergola shading the dining table in the garden. The distance to the house matters as well. Consider the proportions in case if the pergola is an extension.

The materials

The materials influence the size of the pergola as well as everything must be proportional. If you have a lack of space, the stone pillars might not fit the interior. Consider that low pergolas with a small wooden crate might be discomfortable and make you feel inside a box.

Despite the variations of pergolas, the most used materials are wood and steel. That is why we are going to cover them in more detail. Sure, each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Steel works best for arched pergolas, as it is ductile. Depending on your budget, you can even use welded reinforcing steel bars. A steel structure lasts for decades if properly cared of, which is a mandatory anti-corrosion protection with primer and a metallic paint finish. By the way, you can repaint pergola if needed. Consider this if the colour fades or is unmatched after the exterior renovation. However, keep in mind that such a structure requires good welding skills. If you do not possess them, you might want to hire an experienced contractor putting him in your pergola budget.

Solid wood is the most preferred material for pergolas and arbours, hand-aged or unprocessed to fit in the fabric. Also, wood is perfect match for other materials, which makes it the most versatile option. Compared to metal, wood certainly requires some knowledge, yet making a DIY pergola is not that complicated.

The tools

The minimum set of tools depends on the selected materials. To create a wooden pergola, you might need:

– twist drill for wood and a drill machine;

– measuring tape;

– paring chisel;

– screwdriver;

– an adjusting tool;

– hammer;

– paint brushes;

– perforator;

– fine-grained sandpaper or electrical polisher;

– pencil or marker;

– carpenter’s square;

– panel saw or jigsaw;

– clamps;

– builder’s level.

If you decide to get into a welding adventure to erect a steel frame, then prepare the following:

– welding machine;

– perforator;

– builder’s level;

– measuring tape;

– carpenter’s square;

– pencil or marker;

– shovel;

– zinc-coated wire.

This is a required minimum list for a DIY pergola, yet quite possible that the list might be extended while working on it, depending on what you will want to achieve.

The specifics of pergola attachments

A pergola is a finishing element of the house design, which is its greatest advantage. You might not consider it during the initial construction or when buying a new home, yet you can always revise it without disrupting the house architecture or getting unexpected issues while renovating.

Other rewordings of a pergola design are:

– no base construction, which significantly reduces time and costs;

– no architectural roof and walls, which might be pro and con at the same time;

– open structure allowing access from any side;

– take an advantage of the fast-paced innovations with bioclimatic pergola allowing to enjoy outdoor until late autumn, and not just on warm summer days;

– a stylish exterior accent.

Steel-framed pergola

The greatest advantages of a steel-framed pergola are durability, unpretentiousness and fixity. Appropriate primer and paining finish eliminate all the issues for the next few years. In comparison, a wood pergola requires systematic moisture-insect proof coating replacement. Although a steel-framed pergola calls for mature welding expertise, you might chose a bolt-fixed assembly option.

One more con in favour of steel is flexibility, which allows a multitude of shapes. Steel is a perfect match for stone, brick and wood. Decorate the frame with roller blinds, wicker mats down or an awning roof – there are plenty of solution to roll a pergola up for an appealing atmosphere.

A DIY pergola or a contractor?

It depends on what skills you possess and complexity of your future pergola design. Construction of a wood pergola by a newbie may end up well. Yet, it might be much better when entrusted to an expert contractor. However, such a DIY option has right to live.

Speaking of steel-framed structures, the failure of a DIY effort is unavoidable without solid welding skills. Steel DIY pergola will hardly pop out fascinating, besides, there is a threat of inappropriate fixity. Therefore, before getting into it, score your skills and evaluate the DIY option versus hiring a contractor.


As with any repair issue, start from evaluating your expertise, since chasing low budget may result in a failure. Despite a pergola is a simple assembly, yet it requires precision and calculations, as well as some expertise. If you are hesitating about the material or the measure to fit in your pergola, we are ready to advice on the issues. Visit us to describe your idea, and let us handle the rest.


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