If you're looking to add a fixture to your outdoor space that will blend into the surroundings or be a standout feature, a pergola may be the answer. You may be asking yourself what exactly is a pergola, and what are the most popular options in the UK?
In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about pergolas, including their purpose, different types, pros, cons and more. This will help you work out what type could be most ideal for you.
What is a Pergola?
A pergola is an outdoor structure that’s typically made up of four vertical posts, crossbeams, and a roof that is open-air or can open and close.
You’ll find there’s quite a bit of variation when it comes to the elements that make up a pergola. This includes :
-How much shade and shelter the roof provides
-Manual or electronic system (if roof opens and closes)
-Free standing or semi-attached to a building
-Level of privacy
-Embellishments – lighting or plants
By reading this article, you will understand what defines each pergola type and like anything you’re comparing, there are pros and cons to consider.
We’ll summarise the benefits and challenges you may find with each so you can decide for yourself which one ticks the boxes.
What is a pergola used for?
A pergola can be used in many ways, depending on how you want to utilise your space.
Pergolas can act as a design feature, they can also be used to shelter from the sun and rain so you can continue to stay outside to relax, entertain or dine.
Depending on the size, you can place a pergola over a table, chairs, and garden. They can also be placed over a hot tub,swim spa or pool.
If you’re thinking of placing one where there is limited privacy, one with attachable privacy blinds can also act as an outdoor room.
This may be useful if you’re placing over a hot tub or swimming area and want to use the sheltered space to change in
Garden pergolas are situated in a garden setting and has a framework on top that is made with simple cross beams or lattice.
They are usually designed to complement surroundings and can be made with wood, metal or vinyl. They are typically decorated with plants or handing baskets.
Pros and cons of garden pergolas
-Variety of material options
-Can be both functional and design focused
-Will suit modern and country homes
-May require more maintenance if adorned with plants
-Less shelter, more exposed from above compared to other types
-Less privacy than options that have blinds attached
-May not be as wind resistant as other options
Wooden pergolas are one of the most popular options in the UK. They're versatile, easy to build, and can be customised to fit any size or shape. The wood on wooden options can also be treated.
This means they have a better chance of withstand the elements (and British weather!) and make them a durable option for your outdoor space. A wooden pergola can also be referred to as a garden pergola.
Pros and cons of wooden pergolas
-Common type in the UK
-Can be custom designed and built to fit different sized outdoor areas and gardens
-Kit sets available to assemble yourself
-Variety of wood options to suit different design wants and budgets
-Can be adorned with lights and plants
-Wood needs to be treated to be durable and prevent rotting
-Less durable and wind resistant than metal options
-Open air structure won’t provide complete shelter from rain, sun or wind
-May cost more if custom built
Metal pergolas are a great option for those looking for a sleek, modern design. They're often made of aluminium or steel, which makes them durable and long-lasting.
Metal pergolas can be powder-coated in a variety of colours to blend in with your outdoor decor. Depending on the brand and model, some will come with some or all of the following - manual or electronic louvre roof, LED lighting and an internal drainage system.
Pros and cons of metal pergolas
-Powder coating provides protection and prevents rust
-Can provide more shade and shelter than other options on the market
-Rotating roof slats can be electronic or manual
-Freestanding or semi-attached to a building
-Colour, size options available
-Metal options may not look the part in country home settings, compared to a wooden option
-Not common to decorate with plants
-May look less subtle in outdoor setting
-Will show up scratches and dents more than a wood option
An aluminium pergola, as the name suggests, is made from aluminium and finished with a powder coating to make it durable to sunlight, rain and prevent rusting.
They typically come with a louvre roof that will open and close manually or electronically, depending on brand and model, making them both a shade and shelter solution. You will find they come in a range of colours, dimensions and some can have blinds attached so you can make the area underneath a private space. Aluminium pergolas are a modern option that can be both functional and stylish.
Pros and cons of aluminium pergolas
-Powder coated aluminium is durable and long lasting
-Less maintenance than a wooden option
-Rotating louvre roof means you can make the space a sheltered or exposed area for all-round use
-Wind rating for durability (check specs for more details)
-Range of colours and sizes available
-No lattice designs that you will find on wooden options
-May not blend into country style spaces as well as a wooden option
-Aluminium may show up scratches and dents more than a wood option
-Kit sets are less customisable than wooden options
A pergola with a retractable roof can provide a lot of flexibility in your outdoor space. These structures allow you to control the amount of sunlight and shade in your area, making them a great option for those who love to entertain. These structures can be made of metal louvres or fabric, giving you the option to customise the look and feel of your outdoor space.
Pros and cons of pergola with retractable roof
-Shade and shelter when you want it
-Quality options can add value to your home
-Cost – Can be pricier than other options
-Designs may not suit all outdoor spaces
Pergola with Roof
A pergola with a roof provides more protection from the weather than those with a cross beam or lattice structure on top.
They can be made with metal or fabric and can be fixed, rotating or retracting. If you are looking for an option that will allow you stay outside when the sun is beating down or the rain starts pouring, a pergola with a roof will be ideal.
Pros and cons of a pergola with roof
-Shade and shelter from the weather
-Variety of options on the market
-Adaptable and can get more use out of them
-Some options may not have the same design appeal as a rustic wooden or garden option
-Fabric roof will provide less protection and be less durable than metal roofs
-Some roof options will be better at water run-off and drainage than others
Corner pergolas are designed to provide the benefits of a regular sized wooden option in a small space. They are typically made from wood and have a combination of a cross beam and lattice framework. They can bring an eye-catching design edge to what could be a boring or ill-used space and can be customised to fit corner spaces that are unique to every property.
Pros and cons of corner pergolas
-Best of both worlds – pergola in a small space
-Can be customised to add seating
-Eye-catching design element in garden
-No or minimal water drainage features
-Minimal shade and shelter
Pergolas come in all shapes and sizes, they can be the standout feature in a large space or an eye-catching corner fixture. Deciding which option is best comes down to a couple of factors.
If a seamless and subtle looking structure is what you’re after, perhaps one that you can thread greenery through and aren’t so bothered if you need to go inside when the weather changes, a garden pergola, wooden pergola may suit you well.
If you have your heart set on buying one but space is a barrier to having one that comes in fixed dimensions, you should be able to find a corner pergola that can slot into a tiny area.
If you’re looking for one that will last for many years, can provide shelter, shade and privacy – a metal pergola, aluminium pergola or pergola with a retractable roof could be ideal.