Thinking of constructing a pergola? Pergolas can transform your unappealing outdoor into a welcoming space where family and friends can enjoy spending time together. You can build it as a DIY project, but if you want it to last, we recommend you leave it to licensed, certified, and insured contractor. For many years, The Landscape Expert has designed and built hundreds of beautiful pergolas throughout Orange County, CA, and can help you to build these shade structures in your home.

What is a Pergola?

Pergolas are open beamed structures that are bigger than arbors. They are not only gorgeous but also versatile. They offer shade, allow vines to grow, and can be used as a backdrop of your photographs.

The section below will discuss benefits, popular designs, and styles that make this shade structure unique. But first, have a look at the difference between pergolas, arbors, and gazebos.

The Difference Between a Pergola, an Arbor, and a Gazebo

The terms arbor, gazebo, and pergola are used interchangeably to describe similar outdoor structures that are used to relax. So what is the difference?

An arbor is a free-standing shade structure that acts as an entrance to a garden or a backyard or a shelter for a bench. It has two or four posts with a roof. Its sides are open over the cover with lattice that helps vines attach.

Gazebos are very popular in backyards and parks. The main difference between a gazebo and pergolas is the shape. A gazebo is octagon in shape and has a roof that is supported by eight symmetrical pillars. They are made of wood while their frames are made of aluminum. They are also easy to assemble.

A pergola, on the other hand, is often constructed over a patio as a shade structure. When attached to the house, it extends from the roof or exterior side. It creates a sheltered space that connects your home interior to the landscape. In simple language, it forms a roof for your deck or patio.

Pergolas can be linked to your home on at least one side or can be a free-standing structure. When connected, it has many independent columns that create an open roof. As a free-standing structure, a pergola has four or more columns, and it supports a flat roof and beams left on one side. The roof can be left open or covered with a weatherproof material. If the vines cover one side of the shade structure, it can act as a privacy screen.

Why You Should Consider a Pergola For Your Home

  • It adds definition to your exterior

One of the benefits of a pergola is adding practicality to your landscape. Moreover, it creates an absolute space like an entertainment lounge or dining area in the yard. This is useful especially if you don’t have a patio or deck.

  • Allow creativity

You can choose to have your new pergola to compliment your home’s architectural design and style or allow creativity to drive you crazy. Either way, the aim is creating an outdoor space with ambiance.

  • Improves your home’s security

No one enjoys being on display when resting on their backyard. If you can’t afford to construct a privacy fence, a shade structure with lattice, screens or drapes on one side can be the best alternative. When well positioned, a pergola creates privacy and minimizes unappealing views such as a dirty shed next door, neighbor’s rusted playground, or an open road.

  • Creates more garden space

The open latticework allows you to hang plants from the boards.  Besides, pergolas are perfect for climbing vines since they grow from the ground, intertwining themselves on the boards and creating a beautiful natural ceiling. It can only take one planting season for the climbing plants to create a full ceiling. 

  • Protects you from sun’s rays

Once your climbing vines have created a ceiling, you automatically get an instant shade and protection from sun’s rays. Moreover, since people are now conscious of the impact of the sun exposure, most modern pergolas come with an optional canopy that can be opened during the day and closed at night when you are enjoying the sight of stars. It also creates a shelter against wind and rain.

  • Working the angles

Unlike a patio, you can regulate the amount of shade and sun that the pergola offers. The secret is knowing how to position your rafters. Putting factors such as the area you want to construct, the season, the time of the day, and the angle at which the sun shines into consideration should help you. You determine the amount of shade or sun the pergola offers by varying the spacing, orientation, and rafters’ size.

  • Add value to your home

Another benefit of pergolas is making your home a valuable investment. A well-maintained pergola with hanging flowers means a lot to a person hunting for a house. So if you live in a gated community, your pergola can be the only structure that sets your home apart from others.

Common and Trendy Pergola Styles

There are several different styles to meet your needs and match the environment to choose from. Here are nine classic pergola styles:

  1. Open-top pergola: An open-top pergola is perfect for a garden. It offers a feeling of being inside a room that is open to breeze and sunlight. Most of the open-top pergolas support vines that later create an organic and beautiful canopy;
  1. Arched pergola: For a modern and sophisticated look, you might consider constructing an arched pergola. Although they are expensive to construct, they create a welcoming appeal to your home with the attractive frame design;
  1. Gabled pergola: A gabled pergola has a downward sloping rooftop which is supported by corner posts. This creates a perfect sitting area that allows you to enjoy the outdoor scenery with shelter and shade;
  1. Pitched Pergola: A pitched pergola is linked to another standing object forming a slope down towards the other end of the shade structure. When well fitted, it creatively increases your home’s living space. This is because it replaces your veranda or patio without incurring any expansion costs;
  1. Promenade pergola: A promenade pergola offers a focal point to any walkway. And with the addition of climbing plants, it transforms a boring backyard into a pathway that draws attention;
  1. A pergola made for lounging: This is a custom-made shade structure with hanging daybeds. This creates a relaxing space for your loved ones to gather;
  1. A poolside pergola: Instead of adding umbrellas to the poolside, why not shade the area with a pergola? A poolside pergola brings a Mediterranean feel to your home;
  1. Open and shut slides: Unlike most pergolas, this option allows you to increase privacy on sides. This type of pergola uses three trellises on one side;
  1. A contemporary pergola: The main feature of a contemporary pergola is structure and boundary offered between the exterior space and the rest of your landscape. This is what defines large landscapes.

Simple Tips to Get the Best Pergola Design

It is a dream of many homeowners to have a garden with a creative and beautiful pergola. A simple and innovative design brings an aesthetic touch to the garden, making it a perfect place where your loved ones can come together. It is, therefore, vital to find the best design that makes the most of your space and budget. Here are simple tips to help you find the best design:


One of the costly mistakes a homeowner would make is digging post holes without making sure that there is nothing underneath. You should know where electricity, water, and sewer lines are. This is because the consequence of breaking any of them is disruptive and expensive.

Fortunately, every state in the US has a ‘’Call Before You Dig Line'' that you can contact, and the utility service providers will mark the lines for you at no costs. 

Be familiar with your Frost Depth

It is also vital to know your area's average frost depth that happens seasonally. Frost depth is the level of ground your area freezes annually. Understanding this level is essential, particularly when digging and placing your pergola's post. To stop frost heave (that occurs when the ground freezes and thaws) from pushing your shade structure out of the ground, you should dig below the average frost leave.

The direction of the sun

The primary purpose of a pergola is to protect you from the scorching sun. It is therefore essential to conduct a careful analysis of the sun's path before finalizing on the location and design.


The shape is another important factor that needs to be put into consideration when choosing the design. Most pergolas are rectangular, circular, or square in shape. Round pergolas are very beautiful yet the most expensive to construct.


The scale and size of your pergola's design depend mainly on the size of your garden. Choosing a model that is too small or too huge does not serve the primary purpose. Therefore, the best way to go about it is getting your garden's exact measurement before deciding on the pergola's design measurements.


Wood is one of the best materials for building pergola design. It is readily available, cost-effective, and beautiful. Cedar and redwood are insect-resistant and organic but expensive while pressure treated pine is pocket-friendly. Most pressure treated wood is available in hardware stores and lumber yards.

You can also consider modern materials like aluminum for the post, fiberglass and synthetic vinyl for the roof. Although synthetic vinyl is a bit on the high-end option, it is easy to clean and requires little maintenance.


Do you know it is easy to do unrealistic budgeting when you see stylish and beautiful photos of pergolas online? To avoid this, hire an experienced contractor to assemble the kit for you. Probably, it will take him/her a day so it won’t be as expensive.

Do You Require a Permit to Build a Pergola in California?

This is one of the frequently asked questions asked by homeowners when constructing a pergola. A pergola is an open structure with an open covering which is not considered as a complete roof. It does not alter the house’s structure and its posts don’t penetrate deep into the ground. Consequently, pergolas usually don’t need a building permit.

Nevertheless, that does not mean you should start building it straightaway. It is wise to check with the appropriate authorities as well as different homeowners’ associations near you because there may be regulations you should comply by or risks that you are unaware of.

How to Choose Plants for Your Pergola

Also known as climbers, vines offer floral and splashes of color, privacy, shade and allow the blue sky to peek through. Moreover, they provide vertical interest outside. Some of the vines grown on pergola structure include grapevines, ivy, morning glory, clematis, passionflower, trumpet vine, bougainvillea, wisteria, and honeysuckle.

The most stunning way to cover your pergola is choosing one climber. Don’t let them grow wild; otherwise, your pergola design and form will be lost.

Alternatively, you can create a visual connection between your garden and home by adding hanging baskets of flowers and vines to your pergola. They offer the same decorative benefit as climbers but with less maintenance.

The Cost of Building a Pergola: Hiring a Professional vs DIY

You might be wondering how much it cost to build a pergola. Whether you hire a professional or choose to do it yourself, the answer varies depending on the size of the pergola, its features, and the material used.

A pergola is a simple shade structure, and that tempts most homeowners to try building their pergola on themselves especially if they are on a tight budget. To calculate the cost of DIY, you need to look beyond the initial cost of purchasing a basic kit. Make sure you put the following factors into consideration:

  1. How much time will you invest? Remember your time and labor is valuable
  2. Do you have the necessary tools? Are you purchasing or renting them?
  3. Are you physically fit to handle the work involved? Do you know how to handle the tools? Construction is risky, especially for amateurs. Additionally, injuries are expensive. Therefore, be honest when assessing your abilities.

Hiring a landscape expert will cost more because you will pay for labor and materials, but it will offer more value for your hard-earned money. When you hire a renowned contractor, make sure you get a high-quality final product.

Experts know what materials work best in your home décor and are aware of factors such as maintenance that most homeowners don’t put into consideration. Besides, they will create custom designs that compliment with your home. This is because the builders have handled numerous projects earlier. They will also ensure the project complies with local building codes especially if the pergola is attached to the house or you are installing additional electrical features.