DIY: Pergola Designs

Written by loi diaz
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DIY: Pergola Designs
Pergolas are wonderful family projects. (Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Designing your own pergola is a task unto itself, quite apart from building the actual structure. Consider the latest features and materials, whether it comes from a kit, or whether you will have it professionally implemented. Add enhancements on your own and at your own skill level, or get help as needed. There are two basic types of designs for pergolas: the stand-alone and the attached. Attached pergolas rely on the exterior wall of your house for support. Design on paper, not just in your head, and save yourself a lot of grief.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Internet
  • Calculator
  • Pencil
  • Graph paper
  • Ruler

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    The Attached Pergola

  1. 1

    Define the function of your attached pergola: is it to make a narrow alley attractive? Is it for lounging, dining or grilling? For providing shade at a particular time of day, or for stargazing? Providing shade from the heat requires a different roof from a pergola used to provide a clear view of the night sky.

    DIY: Pergola Designs
    Arbor pergolas connect to the main house or a bistro-style pergola. (Jupiterimages/ Images)
  2. 2

    Figure out the structure. Simple awnings provide a cafe ambience for lounging, dining and shade; the latest retractable canvas canopies can provide all that, plus give an unobstructed view of a starlit sky. Arbors connect the garage to the main house, or connect the house to a stand-alone pergola featuring a grill or a swing.

    DIY: Pergola Designs
    Canopies can be retractable, too. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)
  3. 3

    Decide on the enhancements. Install sofas and bistro sets on your own; barbecue grills and swings have doit yourself kits, but sinks and glass walls with heaters require professional help.

    DIY: Pergola Designs
    Attached pergola. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

    The Stand-Alone Pergola

  1. 1

    List the activities you intend to do in your stand-alone pergola. Enjoy the jacuzzi, party with a barbecue grill and bistro set, lounge near the fireplace and sofa or swing. Different activities require different stand-alone designs.

    DIY: Pergola Designs
    A fireplace or fire pit in a pergola. (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)
  2. 2

    Research new, unusual, and interesting structures available. The L-shaped latticework pergolas are charming and not common to see. Use galvanised steel bands and tubing for romantic, tunnel-like passageways year-round; vinyl, bricks, cedar and aluminium are also popular choices.

    DIY: Pergola Designs
    All-season pergolas use galvanised steel bands. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)
  3. 3

    Broaden your choice of enhancements with a stand-alone pergola. Fire is less of a hazard when the pergola is independent of your house, so include a fireplace or fire pit and grill in your design to create ambience for lounging, partying and soaking in the jacuzzi. Position the swings for maximum motion and design a bigger sink.

    DIY: Pergola Designs
    Pergola with jacuzzi. (Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Tips and warnings

  • Install the basic pergola yourself then ask for professional help only with the enhancements (jacuzzi or fireplace). Alternatively, get help with the pergola structure and add enhancements from a DIY kit (swings and grills).
  • Consider the time commitment and your skills level when designing.
  • Plot all your desired elements on paper, measure everything and budget. You might find that the sofa and fireplace may be too large for your pergola; a bistro set and fire pit might fit better.
  • Be consistent with your house's style and pergola design style. Do a quick consult with a designer if you want different styles.
  • Use only licensed electricians, plumbers and masons.

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