Pergola Designs and Plans – DIY for Unique Styling

Looking at pergola designs and plans may seem straightforward as the structure is exposed, but there are subtle factors that need to be taken into account to ensure that your new pergola will be the best it can be. Taking the time to learn about how these little adjustments can make a big difference to the comfort of your deck or patio, and even the energy efficiency of your house, will really pay off in the long run.

Because pergolas are such an exposed and open structure, a lot of information about them can be gleaned from photos. Pictures of pergolas will help you to get a sense of the aesthetic influences that design decisions will have too. But when it comes right down to it, you’re still going to need some designs or plans for your pergola. A pergola’s deck ends up being quite a lot of weight, and you wouldn’t want it to all come crashing down if it’s not built right.

Luckily there is software out there where you can design your own pergola. These programs have much of the engineering built in, so they can check to make sure your plans will be up to muster. They also tend to come with sample designs that you can modify for your own purposes. If you want the software for free, Google sketch would be a good place to start. It can’t check the physics involved, but you can get a good picture of how the pergola will work at least.

Wood or Metal for your Pergola?

When doing it yourself, often wooden pergolas are the most likely candidate. Every handyman has enough woodworking tools to get the job done, and it doesn’t take much skill either. With metal pergolas though, it’s less common to find the welding skills and tolls necessary to build such a structure in the garage.

That doesn’t mean that metal pergolas are out of reach for the average do it yourself type though. You can find metal or even vinyl pergola kits that can be built by just about anyone. All it takes is having the strength (and a few helpers) to get the structural pieces in place to be bolted together. While this may not be the most DIY type of build given how everything is already prefabricated, it can be a rather simple way to cut out labor costs by doing it yourself.

The real decision about the materials involved generally comes down to how well they will hold up to the stresses of being outdoors, and how they will fit in with the rest of the home and garden decor. Again, this is something that pictures of pergolas can really help out with, as can visiting some of your friends’ or families’ houses to see what they’ve done with their own pergolas.

In general, materials like aluminum, uPVC (not just PVC), or vinyl hold up very well to the elements. They don’t rust or corrode, which is a big drawback for steel and potentially for wrought iron as well. Another area where they stand out is in how strong they are for their weight. This allows greater freedom in formulating your pergola designs. Structural elements can be kept to a minimum, which can result in a pergola that is very open and airy.

The problem with these materials is they don’t look very natural, and for a pergola design that can be a big deal. For some contemporary or modern houses, or even next to the pool, the man made materials can look right at home though.

Wooden pergolas may not have the flexibility in design that metal ones do, but they look great whether attached to the house or standing alone as a trellis in the garden.

Unique Pergola Design Elements and Styles

We’re all pretty familiar with the standard pergola. 4 posts with some cross-members, and then slats or boards on end spaced evenly across the top. This is a very simple and rustic design that can look beautiful in natural surroundings, but it can also be a bit boring.

For those who want to take a bit more of a chance in designing their pergola, there are some lesser used styles that can really spice up the look … and in some cases may make the pergola more functional as well! Asian styled pergolas, such as a Japanese pergola, can bring a bit of an almost mystical feel, and would go great with a rock garden in the backyard.

Other styles are more dominated by the architectural design, such as spacing of the slats or even the level of the deck. Intricate patterns can be created simply by varying the spacing of the slats.

Another way to change things up a bit is to go overboard with some of the traditional design elements. This could be done by extending the cantilever further than is commonly done, or by using slats of abnormal thickness (or thinness). Other pergola designs focus on the general shape, such as with triangular or round pergolas. This can be quite a striking effect given how rare it is to see anything other than the square or rectangle.

For a really unique look, the top deck can be rolled into an arch or wave either by arching the crossbeams, or simply tilting the slats at different angles on different portions of the pergola.

Energy Efficiency with Solar Pergola Designs

Tilting the slats is another way to modify pergolas, and when done right can even help them perform better. Because the sun moves throughout the sky, it’s inclination is always changing. This means that at different times of day, and even different times of year, the shadows from your pergola will change.

Tilting the tops of the slats towards the East (for slats running North and South) will make it so there’s more sunshine below during the mornings than afternoons. Similarly, with slats running East and West, tilting the slats South (in the Northern Hemisphere) will help increase the shade in the hot summers while still allowing the warming sun’s rays through during the winter when they’re needed most.

Another way to achieve a similar effect is to use your pergola as a trellis. During the summer when the plant is growing, it’s leaves will shade the area below. Then once cooler temperatures set in, the plant will lose it’s leaves and you can make the most of the sunlight you get.

For pergolas joined to the house, or nearby on a deck or patio, this can make a big difference in energy efficiency for the home. Sunlight applies about 1 kilowatt of energy per square meter, and most pergola designs will affect several square meters. Plus if you’re growing plants on your pergola, they can be productive gardens in their own right! Imagine spending a hot summer afternoon out on your porch, shaded by a grape vine growing over your pergola. Not only is the shade creating a comfortable outdoor living space, but giving you something to snack on as well!

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