Pergolas are perhaps the most misunderstood backyard structure there is. When you look at a pergola without considering the area underneath and around it, you start to wonder what use it has. After all, pergolas don’t actually have a roof, therefore they don’t protect against rain or snow. Some of them look like they don’t even protect against sunlight. The fact is that pergolas are more than the sum of their parts, but they’re not for everyone. So read on to discover 8 reasons why you may want a pergola and 7 reasons why you wouldn’t.
What is a Pergola?
If you stumbled upon this post and you’re not sure exactly what I’m talking about, I’ve got you covered. Pergolas can be confused with other outdoor structures, as well, so it’s best to have a clear definition from the get-go.
A pergola is an outdoor structure, typically made of wood, that consists of posts supporting a latticework of slats parallel to the ground. Pergolas can be used over walkways or sitting areas. You could say they look almost like an unfinished awning, but for their uses, they’re perfect as is.
Reasons You May Want a Pergola
There are plenty of pergola pros. They are perfect for what some people want in their yards, and not ideal for others. First, we’ll go over the pros and then we’ll move to the cons.
#1 Pergolas Provide Character
Big or small, it’s hard to miss a pergola. They provide character to what might be an otherwise lackluster yard. Many of these outdoor structures are beautifully crafted with many different types of wood or composite materials that can match your style and aesthetic preferences.
They provide a focal point that can either become the main focus of the yard or can accentuate a beautiful garden, courtyard, or patio area. If you decide to use it as a place for vines to grow, it can almost become a part of the yard, covered with green leaves and blossoms.
#2 Pergolas Provide Shade
Despite the fact that pergolas don’t actually have roofs, they do provide some shade. How much shade depends on the size of their slats, their location in the yard, and any modifications you choose to make.
In the summer months, you can have a pergola provide plenty of shade, while in the winter months they can allow a pleasant amount of sunlight through. Many people like to build a pergola poolside for lounging, or as a dining area to enjoy mild weather.
#3 Pergolas Allow For a Breeze
Another reason you may want a pergola is their open-air structure. Without walls or a solid roof, you can enjoy the breeze, the birds, and the smell of the great outdoors.
#4 Pergolas Can Support Plants
If you only have limited gardening space, or you simply want to try your hand at growing some new plants, pergolas can help. Even a small pergola can provide an excellent structure for plant growth and space.
You can choose climbing plants like honeysuckle, ivy, or even grapevines for your pergola. They can eventually grow over the whole structure, giving you a unique and beautiful area underneath. You can also choose to hang plants from the slats, giving yourself more garden square footage and plenty of options for new plants.
#5 Pergolas Are Affordable
When compared to other projects like awnings, covered decks, and patios, pergolas are a very affordable option. Their simple design means that they don’t require a ton of materials to complete. You can install a nice DIY pergola for under $1,000 with basic materials. Otherwise, the average for professional installation sits right around $3550.
#6 Pergolas Can Add Value
In certain cases, installing a pergola can add value to your home. While this isn’t a sure thing, if it’s well done and properly maintained, you may get a decent return on your investment. However, you’ll see this mentioned again in the “cons” section, because it depends on many different factors that are hard to predict. To find out if a pergola will add value to your home, you should do research on your area.
#7 Pergolas Are Easily Installed
Easy installation is also an attractive factor. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities for you to do it yourself if you have some basic DIY skills. The ease of installation also contributes to the low cost and limited hassle of having a professional do it. Pergola installation is usually less involved than that of a deck or a patio.
#8 Pergolas Can Complement Your Home
By adding a pergola next to your house or as a patio extension, you can complement your home. It’s almost an outdoor extension of your home’s space, even if it’s not quite an enclosed structure. A pergola in the right place can also provide shade for your home’s windows, bringing down your heating bill a bit during the summer months.
Reasons Why You Wouldn’t Want a Pergola
Now that we’ve covered the reasons why you may want a pergola, let’s discuss some reasons why you wouldn’t want one.
#1 Pergolas Require Maintenance
Nearly all pergolas require some form of maintenance. Wooden pergolas require the most, usually in the form of resealing, re-painting, and general cleaning. Pergolas made of other materials, like composite, aluminum, fiberglass, or vinyl may require regular cleaning and occasional resealing.
#2 Pergolas Fade With Time
Even a pergola made out of the toughest material will fade with time. The sun beating down, the rain pounding it, and weather, in general, will eventually wear it down. If you keep on top of proper maintenance, you can put this off for years, but nothing lasts forever.
Plus, if you have vines growing on it, you’ll have a hard time accessing the pergola for maintenance. Vines will provide a bit of protection, but they’ll also trap moisture and cause it to wear down faster, in some cases. In addition, vines will require pruning and shaping to keep the pergola looking good.
#3 Pergolas May Attract Pests
Wooden pergolas in particular may attract pests. Termites can get inside and eat it from the inside out. Wasps, carpenter bees, and even some beetles may view a wooden pergola as a nice place to take up residence. Some of these insects, in turn, can attract woodpeckers, which can further damage your structure. Not to mention the latticework of a pergola can be a great place for spiders to spin their webs.
#4 Pergolas Don’t Provide Protection From Weather
Since pergolas don’t have complete roofs, they don’t provide any real protection from the weather. Rain and snow will come right through. This means that you can’t store anything under your pergola that isn’t built to withstand the elements. You can purchase additional protection in the form of water-resistant cover, but that won’t help with the open sides of the pergola.
#5 Not Everyone Sees the Appeal
While most everyone sees the benefits of a deck or an awning, pergolas don’t seem to share that appeal. While you may envision a beautiful shaded area in your yard, your partner or spouse may see a waste of time and money. For some people, the cons simply outweigh the pros when it comes to pergolas.
#6 May Not Add Value
Whether or not a pergola adds value to your home depends on several factors, many of which are out of your control. Even the nicest, most expensive pergola you can buy may only get you an abysmal 25 to 50-percent return on investment if you sell the house. It depends largely on the housing market, where you live, and how old or well-maintained the pergola is.
#7 Vines May Be More Trouble Than They’re Worth
It’s easy to see a picture of a vine-covered pergola and think that it looks nice. From afar, it doesn’t seem like too much work, right? But you’d be surprised at the time and effort it takes to maintain a great looking pergola.
Sometimes, getting the vines to grow can be difficult. Once they do start growing, it can be hard to keep up with them. Plus, unless you choose an evergreen species, you’ll have to deal with a bunch of extra dead leaves when autumn comes. If you want a pergola simply for plant space or vines, be sure that you have the time and inclination to keep up with it.
To Pergola, Or Not To Pergola?
As you can see, many of the very same things that some people like about pergolas are the very same things others don’t. Their open slats can provide shade but can’t protect against the weather. They are relatively cheap to install, but the value they add to your home is tentative, at best. A pergola covered with vines and blossoms can be amazing to one person and a hassle to another.
Hopefully this post has given you an idea on whether or not a pergola is right for you. These common pergola pros and cons are guidelines to help you make a decision that is right for your and your particular situation.