Outdoor Elegance

Pergola 9

Spring is almost upon us, and in a few weeks we’ll emerge from sun-starved hibernation to behold the fragrant, colorful rebirth of the magnificent outdoors.

For many of us, the most immediate and intimate access to Mother Nature is our own backyard.  The recent surge in popularity of custom outdoor living spaces confirms that now, more than ever, homeowners are embracing the fun and excitement of backyard living.  With the goal of spending more leisure time outdoors, an easy and affordable first step to enhancing your landscape is the addition of a garden pergola.

Pergola 8

The Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture defines a pergola as, “A garden structure with an open, wood-framed roof, often latticed, and supported by regularly spaced posts or columns.”  In fact, the word pergola is from the Latin pergula, meaning “projection.”  Pergolas were used in ancient Rome as early as 80 BC!

Pergola 3

A well-placed pergola has many benefits:

  • Defines an outdoor space without restricting it;
  • Provides a focal point in the backyard;
  • Extends living space while creating a connection to nature through the pergola’s open form;
  • Adds value to the property;
  • With the addition of hanging baskets and/or flowering vines, creates an explosion of color and increased shade; and
  • Creates a true haven for lounging and dining al fresco.


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While pergola designs are virtually limitless – confined only by the size of your outdoor space and breadth of your imagination – there are some best practices to consider when creating the right pergola for your space:

  • Make it large enough to accommodate lawn furniture, a barbecue, or even a hot tub, but scale the pergola so it will blend into the environment rather that dominate it.
  • If you’re using it to provide shade, space the joists roughly ten inches on center, and run the rafters perpendicular to the angle of the sun’s arc.  Another great way to increase shade is to interlace flowering vines through the rafters, or weave canvas between the beams and purlins.
  • Head room should not exceed 9′-0″.  Any taller than this, and you risk losing the appealing sense of enclosure.
  • If your pergola will be adjacent to your home, be aware of window and door heights so no views from inside are obstructed.

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After choosing the right design for your pergola, the next crucial decision regards building material.  In the past, a painted or stained wood – like Western Red Cedar – was the most common material used in the construction of pergolas.  While natural wood is still a fine choice, advancements in construction material technology have given homeowners many other affordable, low-maintenance choices.

Hands down, the best columns for pergolas are PolyStone®, a mixture of fiberglass, resin, and marble dust.  They are impervious to weather and insect infestation, guaranteed for life and, once painted, have the same architectural beauty and integrity as a custom wood column.

Regarding the overhead beams, rafters, and purlins, new technology has made pultruded fiberglass an exceptional choice, due to its easy customization, light weight, durability, and affordability.

Each material has its positives and negatives.  Speak with your Chadsworth consultant to ensure you are using the best possible material for your project.

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Regardless of size, design, or material, adding a pergola to your backyard will certainly increase the length and enjoyment of time spent outdoors.  So fire up the grill, gather friends and family, and prepare to love your new pergola!

Pergola 1

Pergola 2


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