The beginner’s guide to pergolas

A pergola is a structure in the garden that provides a walkway over a flat plane, or in some cases, it could go up and down. Pergolas are also useful in adding shade to parts of your garden where there might not be any other form of natural shading available. For example, they’re great if you have areas in your garden where the lawn meets the flower bed, as they add an extra dimension without obstructing either area.

Pergolas are designed to be built onto an already existing structure, which might mean attached to your house or building on some kind of patio. You usually do this using brackets and screws, but it’s also possible to bolt the pergola directly onto the structure. This is more common if you’re attaching it to brickwork as bricks are less flexible than wood.

The beginner’s guide to pergolas, Zazzy Home

A pergola can be attached at both ends or just one. The obvious advantage of attaching it at both ends is that the structure provides shade on both sides, but there are also disadvantages to this – for example, if you attach a pergola at both ends, it isn’t very movable and will therefore take up permanent space in your garden. On the other hand, if you only attach a pergola to one end, you’re able to slide it out of the way when necessary.

The size of your pergola will depend largely on what you want to use it for. The first step is to measure the space you have available and plan where you would like a pergola and how long it should be. You’ll also need to think about the design – do you want a flat or sloping roof? Do you want any decoration attached to it? What finishes would look best in your garden – perhaps something rustic that compliments your brickwork, or alternatively metal might provide a modern look that is part of an extension.

The materials that are commonly used for building pergolas are wood, metal, or plastic. Wood provides beauty and warmth but may rot if not protected with some kind of preservative, metal will provide an industrial look, but also rust (which needs to be treated regularly), and plastic is usually more of a novelty than something that’s designed for long-term use.

The beginner’s guide to pergolas, Zazzy Home

Whichever material you choose, the construction of pergolas follows three basic steps: firstly, install posts; secondly, fit crossbeams; then finish with rafters (the bit that provides support for the roof). You can buy premade or ready cut kits, which make this process a lot easier – in fact, many shops only sell these kinds of kits nowadays because they’re so much simpler and take a lot less time to build.

What are pergolas used for?

Pergolas are most often used for aesthetic purposes, but sometimes they can serve practical functions too. For instance, you might want one to provide shade when sitting outside on sunny days, which would mean installing ground-level lighting to make it useable at night.

Pergolas are often used as part of patios – if they’re not attached at both ends, you can slide them out of the way during patio parties, for example. Also, suppose you have a garden that doesn’t already have any shading. In that case, pergolas are a practical solution to providing some without having to install an unsightly fence or another kind of structure.

A flat-roofed pergola will provide shelter from the rain but won’t be able to protect against strong winds or heavy snowfall, so choose wisely depending on what you need it for and where your garden is located. A sloping roof provides protection from all kinds of weather but obviously isn’t as effective as other structures such as sheds or gazebos.

Pergolas can also be used to display climbing plants like wisteria, jasmine, and ivy – the latest trend is for ‘living roofs’ where vines are grown up a pergola instead of conventional roof tiles. You can do this without building an entire structure if you attach existing nails or hooks onto the posts – it’s probably best not to make your own holes in your house, but there should already be suitable places for attaching your preferred plant.

You could take the concept even further by using post caps originally designed to mark out boundaries around flower beds. They’re usually made from stone or wood and carved into shapes such as obelisks, circles, hearts, crosses, and so on. If you wanted to go for an industrial look, you could use old steel bed legs, which are bent into the shape of a circle and then bolted to the post – just paint them black or grey if necessary.

You can also decorate your pergola with wind chimes, solar lamps, birdbaths, wind spinners, and other garden ornaments. The sky’s pretty much the limit as long as they’re not too heavy, as this will make them difficult to move around at certain times of the year. It’s best if they’re lightweight, sturdy, and designed for outdoor use because some things that sound good in principle might not stand up well to exposure to sun, rain, and snow over time.

What kind of design should I go for?

Before you start anything, sit down and really think about what kind of design you want. This is something that can’t be changed later, so take your time – it has to be exactly right; otherwise, you might have to move the posts or remove them completely if they don’t fit anymore.

If you want to create more than two levels, include curved sections, or cover larger areas, you’ll need metal posts that are much stronger than wooden ones – even then, they might not be able to withstand high winds without twisting or bending. This kind of damage is usually repairable, so you won’t have to buy new poles, but it’s still a waste of money if they get damaged before you’ve had your first barbecue!

Wooden posts can rot after several years if they’re left out in the rain, so put them away when autumn arrives unless you live somewhere with mild winters where there’s no risk of frost. You may also need to re-stain them periodically depending on how many times they’re exposed to the elements and how well you maintain them.

Vinyl posts covered in a thin plastic coating will last for up to twenty years before they need replacing, so there’s no worry of rot or algae eating away at the material – just wipe them down with a wet cloth every few months leave them out during winter. If you want something even more resilient than this, stainless steel is ideal if your budget allows it, but of course, it comes at a price that some people might not be able to afford.

If you don’t care about making your pergola as weatherproof as possible, then wooden posts and metal ones with vinyl covers will do fine for smaller structures on patios and lawns where they won’t be exposed to the elements.

The kind of design you choose will be largely dictated by your available space, budget, and personal preference – it’s impossible to accommodate everyone’s requests because there are so many different ideas floating around at any given moment!

However, you should also keep in mind the materials that are suitable for your design and remember to take down everything you’ve put up before winter arrives.

You could just buy a premade pergola that’s suitable for your property or use simpler designs such as trellis panels to create the kind of look you want without spending too much money.

The beginner’s guide to pergolas, Zazzy Home

Just make sure it doesn’t block out any light because this could damage anything growing underneath its shadow – especially if they’re delicate plants like strawberries or raspberries! Also, bear in mind how much headroom you’ll need so people won’t bump their heads on posts made from vinyl posts which can be almost two meters high.

How many posts will I need?

This is partly down to the size of your property, the design you choose, and how much money you want to spend. A simple square or rectangle with wooden posts will take up less room than a more complex one involving curved sections and metal poles, for example – bear in mind that bows come as two-piece structures which can be semi-folded if need be.

If you’re looking for something small enough to fit into a tight space, then there are some smaller designs on sale that will suit your purposes perfectly without taking too long to install. For larger structures measuring three meters by four meters or more, it’s best to buy premade pergolas from an online retailer – these have been specifically designed according to standard sizes so they’ll slot together quickly and easily.

As we said earlier, you’ll need more posts for bigger structures and curved sections to anchor them securely in place. Posts measure one meter at the base, and they usually come as standard with premade designs that can be expanded or contracted if your needs change.

They may look like thin poles at first glance, but they’re actually quite sturdy because they’ve been designed according to strict standards, so they won’t slip apart even when subjected to high winds. This is a common complaint among people who use DIY pergolas that have been knocked over by gusts of wind after a few months – often without any warning signs whatsoever!

You should also remember that metal posts sometimes have rust spots on them that affect the entire structure – covering them with vinyl sleeves will stop the problem in its tracks unless it’s caused by localized damage.

If you’re certain that you won’t expand or contract your pergola, then wooden posts are ideal because they’re inexpensive and easy to install without tools. However, you’ll need to oil them every few months to keep them looking their best for as long as possible – this is especially important if they’ve been treated before shipping so you can be sure that no chemicals have affected the appearance or durability of the wood.


Pergolas are an excellent way to create a shaded outdoor living space for your home. They offer privacy, protection from the elements, and plenty of space for entertaining or just relaxing with family members.

A pergola can also be used as a focal point in any garden design because they provide height and depth that is often lacking in other landscaping features.

Additionally, you don’t need to worry about this type of structure being taken over by vines like many trees tend to do when left unpruned, which means it will stay looking neat year-round without requiring much care on your part!


Gardening doesn't have to be hard. Even if you don't have a lot of space, there are ways to make the most of it. My name is Brian and I'm a garden design and maintenance blogger. I've been gardening for years, and I'm an expert at getting the most out of a garden of any size. If you're just starting out, the first thing you need to do is figure out what kind of gardener you are. Are you the type who likes to get their hands dirty? Or do you prefer to sit back and let things grow on their own? Once you know that, it's easier to decide what kind of garden to create.

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