Pergolas are outdoor structures that provide shade for decks, patios, gardens and other outdoor living areas. They are typically made of wood. To prolong the life of a pergola, you can cover it during bad weather or cold weather months when not in use to protect it from the elements. There are a variety of relatively inexpensive ways to cover and protect your pergola.
Buy a large tarp to cover your pergola. A tarp can be purchased anywhere camping supplies are sold, or at home improvement stores. Purchase a tarp large enough to cover the top of the pergola and hang down on each side. It is not necessary for the tarp to hang all the way to the ground, but it can. Secure by tying it down on each side, or by using heavy rocks or breeze blocks on the ground to weigh down each corner. The tarp acts as a protective layer, keeping the pergola dry from rain or snow.
Cover your pergola with a portable canopy or shade tent. These canopies are often set up in car parks of professional sporting events. They are designed to protect people from strong sunlight or rain, and can have the same effect on your pergola. Set the canopy up over the pergola and secure the stakes, or use just the canopy part as a cover and attach it securely to the pergola.
Vines and other plants are a unique and inexpensive way to cover your pergola. They will not offer the same level of protection as a tarp or canopy, though they do cover much of the pergola's surface, especially after a few years of growth. Plus, the plants are much more visually appealing that a tarp or canopy. They attach to the pergola naturally by growing on and around its wood beams. Examples include grape vines and ivy.