Patios are interesting outdoor areas for relaxing, dining and entertaining. They are extensions of the kitchen and dining room in the backyard. They can also be havens that provide shade and shelter and places to grow flowers, fruits and vegetables. Patios in full sun can be uncomfortable locations to sit and eat or entertain guests. Pergolas are attractive solutions to dress up bare, sun-soaked patios.
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Build a basic pergola over a patio with 4 x 4 inch posts anchored in cement and topped with 1 x 2 inch lengths of wood. Use pressure-treated lumber, cedar or redwood, or paint all wood with a primer coat and white paint before installation. If the patio is close to the house, a pergola can be attached to the house in place of two of the supporting posts. Vinyl and metal pergola kits are easy to install, long-lasting and low-maintenance alternatives to constructing your pergola from wood.
If you want more shade over your patio, build a covered pergola. Build a basic pergola and drape lengths of landscape canvas over the top. Inexpensive wood lattice is another shade option for the top of a pergola. If you can wait a year or two for shade, plant large vining plants, such as trumpet vines, climbing roses or grapes, that will climb over the top of the pergola and provide leafy shade canopies. Annual vining plants, such as cucumbers, green beans, gourds and zucchini, will climb and cover a pergola in a season and provide a vegetable crop as a bonus.
A lighter, easy-to-install pergola can be assembled from different widths of bamboo for an interesting outdoor structure over a patio. Use the largest diameter bamboo poles for the four corner posts anchored in cement and use smaller poles for the top of the pergola. Tie the bamboo with rope or nail or screw it together. Experiment with groups of poles for different looks, crossing poles, tying bunches of smaller poles together, or using many poles together placed closely next to each other for a solid pergola roof. Soak thin bamboo poles in water overnight and bend them into curves and circles.
To cover half the patio and leave the other half open, build a half-size pergola. Instead of anchoring posts at all four corners of the patio, anchor the posts at two corners and four feet in from the other two corners. Building a pergola this way creates the decorative structure and provides partial shade for half the patio area while leaving a sunny section.
Build an unusual arched pergola with bent metal piping. Anchor the pipe bases in cement footings; then use a pipe bending tool to gently bend the piping into a rounded arch and either clamp or screw the arched piping to a central pipe in the middle for support.
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