All You Need to Know About Pergolas

A quality shade cover is a great addition to any home unless, of course, you live where the sun never shines. If that’s the case, we recommend moving. A little sunshine would do you some good.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are those of us who live in areas where the sun shines over 300 days out of the year. There are no denying patio covers in Mesa, Arizona, or similar areas are a must!

There are several kinds of patio coverings on the market. One of the most popular types is a pergola. Pergolas have been around for centuries and still make beautiful, useful outdoor structures. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about this timeless design.

What is a Pergola?

Before diving any further, let’s first discuss what a pergola is. A pergola is a fairly simple outdoor structure consisting of columns or posts that support a lattice roof to provide a shaded area. These structures are most often found over patios or other gathering areas.

Many people like pergolas because they block a good amount of direct sunlight while still allowing some light to filter through.

As pergolas are often confused with other outdoor shade structures, it is important to note that a pergola is not the same thing as a gazebo, arbor, pavilion, or trellis.

Components of a Pergola

Pergolas are a fairly simple style of outdoor structure. In fact, the whole setup only consists of about seven components.


Also referred to as posts, the columns are the primary support or framework for a pergola. The columns run vertically from the footing to the beams. Attached pergolas have at least two columns, while freestanding pergolas need at least four columns.


As a support to the columns, footings are formed by pouring concrete into holes in the ground. The columns are connected to these small but strong foundations.


The beams and rafters are the pieces that make up the pergola’s lattice-style roof. Beams are placed on top of the columns and support the rafters and purlins.

In a freestanding pergola, two beams are needed, and those beams run parallel to each other. In an attached pergola, only one beam is required. This beam runs parallel to the ledger board.


The other main component of a pergola’s lattice roof is the rafters. The rafters sit on top of the beams and run perpendicular to the position of the beams.

In a freestanding pergola, the rafters are attached to both beams. In an attached pergola, the rafters are attached to the beam on one end and the ledger board on the other end.

Ledger Boards

One component that is only applicable to attached pergolas is a ledger board. A ledger board is a support beam that is anchored to the wall frame of the building. It will be the same height as the rafters and match the pergola’s length.


Purlins (or stringers) are an optional component for a pergola. Purlins provide additional shade as they are placed on top of and perpendicular to the rafters.


When constructing a pergola, the main types of hardware you will need are screws and brackets. You may also need some nails, bolts, and nuts.

Types of Pergolas

There are five main styles or types of pergolas. They include:

  1. Attached– If you want your pergola to feel like an extension of your home, an attached pergola is the way to go. This type of pergola has one side that connects directly to your home. Attached pergolas generally cover patios or decks.
  2. Freestanding– For shade in other parts of your yard, choose a freestanding pergola. This type of pergola is a landscape feature that is completely separate from your home. These are ideal next to pools, gardens, and more.
  3. Arched– The majority of pergolas are designed with flat rooftops. But you can opt for an arch design for your roof to create a more unique and elegant look.
  4. Louvered– To customize the amount of sunlight allowed to filter into your outdoor space, you may want to have louvers installed in place of the traditional rafters. Louvered patio roof systems can either be manual or automatic.
  5. Awning– Much smaller than other types of pergolas, an awning pergola is small in size and is attached directly to the wall without the need for columns. These go nicely over windows and doorways.

Material Options

As with nearly any structure, there are several options when it comes to choosing the type of construction material. Here are some of the most common materials used in constructing pergolas.

  1. Wood– The most common type of material for pergolas is wood. Wood provides a traditional, elegant look that is quite popular among homeowners. Keep in mind that while wood has a lower upfront cost than other options, you will need to restain or repaint the wood regularly to prevent rot or decay.
  2. Aluminum– Pergolas constructed out of aluminum provide a modern, sleek look without requiring much, if any, maintenance. Aluminum is lightweight, durable, and won’t rust.
  3. Steel– Another material that provides a modern look is steel. Steel is heavier duty, and just heavier in general, than aluminum. However, steel can rust, so you will need to apply some rust prevention.
  4. Vinyl– Vinyl pergolas are low-maintenance and long-lasting. However, vinyl isn’t super customizable and can be pricey.
  5. Fiberglass– Although it comes with a hefty price tag, fiberglass is a durable, long-lasting material that holds paint well and requires little maintenance.
  6. Concrete– Probably the longest-lasting of any of the pergola materials is concrete. Concrete lasts nearly forever. The main downside of a concrete pergola is that it is very permanent, so once it’s in place, it is hard to change.
  7. Alumawood– A hybrid of wood and aluminum, Alumawood provides the strength and durability of aluminum with the timeless beauty of wood. This material is low-maintenance with long-term affordability.

Now that you’ve got the lowdown on pergolas, the next step is finding a patio cover contractor near you to determine which design you want in your yard. If you live in the Mesa or Phoenix area, give our experts a call.


If you’re looking for patio coverings, you’ll find a variety of options available. Among the most popular choices are pergolas, which have been used for centuries and are still popular today. In this infographic, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to know about this classic design.

7 Components of a Pergola Infographic


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