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Over the years, as part of my garden maintenance and landscaping business (we have a family-owned nursery/garden centre). I have built and had a chance to see how a pergola can transform many garden areas. If there is one thing for certain, the easiest way to install a new pergola, especially if you want to take the DIY route, is by simply buying the best pergola kit. This is even easier than ever with products like Blue Circle Post Crete. You don’t need to mix concrete anymore, you have steel post supports to support the wooden uprights, and if you buy in kit form, all the holes are even pre-drilled in the timber. You can have one up in an afternoon, even with very little experience.
Pergolas are also a great alturnative to cantilever parasols which can take up to much space with the base. They are also an excellent alturnative to shade sails if you want more structure. Now, I do like gazebos, but hardtop gazebos are always covered, and popup gazebos can be a hassle to put up and take down. At least with a pergola with a retractable roof, you can close the retractable canopy for shade and open it if you prefer to bask in the sun.
Traditionally, I’ve built wooden pergolas. There’s something about the traditional and natural appeal of wooden pergolas like my favourite, this Arbor Garden Solutions Wooden Garden Pergola Kit. It’s a great piece of kit and comes with everything you need, including clear instructions. The timbers are all pre-drilled. Unlike some pergola kits, it comes with good-quality screws and fixings. You can honestly have this up in 2-3 hours. I highly recommend Arbor Garden Solutions. We’ve used them a few times over the years for various products, and they’ve never let me down.
That being said, I’ve found that wooden pergolas can require a fair bit of upkeep to keep them looking their best. Usually, a couple of coats of wood stain every couple of years can do the trick.
More recently, I’ve been asked about metal pergolas, but my experience is somewhat limited with these. However, they have proved to be very easy to assemble, and as I mentioned earlier, some have a retractable roof, so you can choose between shade or sunshine. One particular pergola I think is well worth considering is this Purple leaf 3m X 4m Metal Pergola made from aluminium and features a retractable roof. This also features a waterproof 240/GSM Yarn-dyed Polyester Fabric with UPF of 50W/M. To compare, the more affordable Angel Living metal pergola, is also a great pergola for the price and very similar. However, the fabric on the retractable roof is rated at a lower 180/GSM. It’s water resistant, NOT waterproof like on the Purple leaf Pergola. Overall, between the two, I think you will find the Purple leaf pergolas are just slightly better in both build quality and design. Well worth considering!
Before I get into the main reviews below and my buyer’s guide, I want to cover the installation quickly. These days, Pergola kits are super easy to assemble. If you have a metal pergola, you can bolt them to the patio floor or decking. It takes 10 minutes to do once it assemabled. With wooden pergola kits, securing them in place requires a little more work. However, they are usually easier to assemble.
For wooden pergolas, if you assemble them on a patio, there are a few ways to do this. One is to buy steel post supports that you screw down onto a solid foundation and then fix the upright timbers of the pergola to the post supports.
The second way is to remove the paving stones where each post will be secured (do this carefully as you will use them again, or make sure you have spare replacement pavings in case you break them). Dig a hole for each post that is around 50cm (20 inches) deep using a narrow shovel or a post hole digger. Then insert steel post supports into the holes with the timber uprights fsecured. Make sure the pergola is level using a spirit level or laser lever.
Finally, backfill the hole around the supports with some stone in the bottom, then pour water into the hole and then fill with enough Blue Circle Postcrete to cover the water and mix. Double check the pergola is still level before the concrete sets. It will then take around 30 minutes to set. Finally, if you removed any paving, cut them to allow for the new post and cement them back in place.
8 best pergolas which I have reviewed are listed below
- Purple Leaf Metal Aluminium Pergola With Retractable Roof – Probably one of the best metal pergolas, great quality frame, waterproof 250/gsm polyester canopy
- Arbor Garden Solutions Sculpted Wooden Garden Pergola Kit – One of the best wooden arbours, predrilled for easy assembly. Very good quality
- Outour French Style 4-Sided Iron Birdcage Pergola – Something a little different, great for a bistro two seater set, wrought iron, excellent quality and very sturdy
- Angel Living 3m x 3m Aluminium Pergola – A great alternative to the Purple Leaf Metal Aluminium Pergola
- Purple Leaf 3m x 3m Wood Grained Metal Pergola With Retractable Roof
- Rutland County Garden Furniture Wooden Garden Pergola
- Forest Garden Forest Radial Pergola
- Rutland County Garden Furniture Store Wall Mounted Pergola 3m x 3m
Best Kit Pergola Review
1. Purple Leaf Metal Aluminium Pergola With Retractable Roof
This Purple Leaf 3 X 4 M Metal Pergola with its retractable roof is a stylish metal pergola made from aluminium and powered coated that suits any garden. First, let me just say this is slightly more expensive than similar alternatives. However, overall this is better quality, more sturdy and probably what I would discribe as not cheap but also not as expensive as some of the ones sold in Garden centres.
This is worth the extra cost to get something manufactured to a high standard. It’s worth pointing out that Purple Leaf are renowned for its quality garden products. Their products are premium but affordable, and their customer service is also outstanding.
It’s one of a few pergolas with a retractable canopy, so you can bask in the sun or get a little shade. And not only that but a choice of canopy colours. You can also choose between the grey I review or beige, terra red and a stunning turquoise blue. It’s also worth mentioning that the pergola I review here is 3m x 4m, but they also sell several other sizes, including 2.7m by 4m, 3m x 3m and a couple more sizes.
So let’s talk about the built quality. This pergola is constructed of powdered-coated aluminium in a mid-grey colour that goes with all the canopy colours. And speaking of the canopy, it’s made of a sturdy 250/gsm weight polyester. Compare this to the Angel Living pergola, which looks very similar but has 180g/m² polyester that is water resistant, not waterproof. The 250/gsm canopy on this purple leaf canopy is actually waterproof. The polyester in this Purple leaf canopy has also been yarn dyed. This means that the yarn is dyed first before being woven into the fabric. This results in an even coloured fabric without places with light and dark patches of colour.
The fabric canopy won’t fade fast from the harsh UV rays. The canopy also offers you a sun protection factor of 50 UPF. The fabric comes with a one-year warranty too.
One of my favourite features is that the whole canopy itself is retractable. You use a pulley mechanism to pull the canopy across the roof beams. There’s a safety lock mechanism that holds the canopy in place when it’s not extended and when it’s fully extended. You can sit under the pergola safely and comfortably, protected from the sun.
- Premium pergola is constructed of powder-coated aluminium in grey.
- Easy to build and install, takes around 4 hours for the average DIY’er.
- Grey yarn dyed polyester fabric canopy is of 250gsm weight and waterproof.
- Canopy is retractable via a pulley with a safety lock.
- Fabric canopy is waterproof, UV- and fade-resistant and has an one-year warranty.
- Stable in up to winds of 48k/hr.
- Large enough for a full dining table or a sofa.
- Dimensions: 3.63m (outside length); 2.58 (outside width); 2.55 (outside height).
What an amazing pergola for the price. This model is well worth considering and I love that it comes in kit form with easy installation. The materials used, and the fact it uses 250/gsm heavy-duty canopy make it hands down one of the best metal pergolas for the price. Despite the time-consuming assembly, it’s fairly simple, everything is marked out it will take most people around 4 hours plus a second pair of hands to help establish it while fastening parts together. The final result, once erected, is well worth the effort.
Overall this Purple Leaf Metal Pergola is well worth considering if it’s this or the Angel Life version. If you have an extra budget, I recommend this one as it comes with a waterproof canopy.
2. Arbor Garden Solutions Sculpted Wooden Garden Pergola Kit
The Arbor Garden Solutions Sculpted Wooden Garden Pergola Kit is the largest wooden kit pergola in our review. It’s substantial enough that you can create a large outdoor living space using much of your patio furniture.
High-quality construction-grade pressure-treated timber forms the six rafters and the two runners, and the four corner posts are of redwood. The wood is rot-resistant and guaranteed for an impressive 15 years. The “sculpted” part of this pergola’s name refers to the design cut at both ends of each rafter. This adds some style to an otherwise plain rectangular structure. Assembling this Arbor Garden Solutions pergola is straightforward because all of the holes are pre-drilled, the timber is pre-cut and all the necessary fittings are included.
The dimensions given for any pergola can be confusing. In this Arbor Garden Solutions one, the height of each of the four (9cm by 9cm) corner posts is 2.7m. You leave the posts at this length if you’re embedding them in concrete; however, you can cut them down to 2.3m if you’re planning to have the pergola freestanding on a patio or lawn. Plan to buy feet for the pergola if you’re using it free-standing, or just put the posts on your ground surface.
Also confusing are the length and width numbers. The 3.6m (length) and the 3m (width) are the widest points of the rafters; the inside dimensions are slightly less. This manufacturer says to take 1m off the length and 0.8m off the width to find the interior dimensions. You end up with 2.6m by 2.14m of inside floor area to work with. Some online reviewers found the pergola was smaller than the described measurements. But the manufacturer is quite clear about where the numbers apply to.
The Arbor Garden Solutions Sculpted Wooden Garden Pergola Kit doesn’t come with a canopy or sails for shade. If the rafters don’t provide enough shade, consider purchasing any canopy that fits that could be put together with shade sails or even just polycarbonate sheets if you want to provide a dry environment while still letting plenty of light in.
- Dimensions are 3.6m in length, 3m in width, and 2.7m/2.3m in height.
- Also available in around 20 other sizes.
- The redwood corner posts and high-grade pressure-treated timber rafters are rot and weather-resistant for low maintenance.
- A light green or rustic brown finish lets you coordinate with your garden design.
- The four corner posts, 6 rafters and the corner cross braces are easy to assemble.
- The warranty covers 15 years of rot resistance so you don’t have to keep re-staining the pergola.
- Good customer service in case you have any questions or need some extra fittings.
- Can be made to measure if this is not the size pergola in this brand that you’re looking for.
- Doesn’t come with feet.
- No canopy.
The Arbor Garden Solutions Sculpted Wooden Garden Pergola Kit is a significantly sized pergola made of high-quality timber and redwood. Its 15-year rot-proof warranty shows how confident the manufacturer is in this high-quality pergola. With a pergola of this size, be sure to carefully measure the garden area you plan to put it in. Don’t forget this pergola also comes in around 20 other sizes so you can easily find the right length and width for your garden.
The Arbor Garden Solutions Sculpted Wooden Garden Pergola Kit is the Best Pick in our review of kit pergolas. We like it for its size and the long warranty on the wood as well as the general high-quality construction.
If you want to create a sizeable outdoor living space with a stylish rustic or back-to-nature vibe, this Arbor Garden Solutions pergola could be what you are looking for.
3. Outour French Style 4-Sided Iron Birdcage Pergola
This Ooutour French Style 4-Sided Birdcage Pergola is designed to house a couple of garden chairs, maybe a small bistro table with two chairs. However, this could also be used as a centrepiece as a focal point in your garden, maybe featuring a water feature in the centre or a sizeable stunning statue. However you choose to use it, it will look amazing.
There are many very similar and cheaper alternatives to this birdcage pergola. However, most are very flimsy. Once erected, you will not be disappointed with this one, it’s very sturdy and I think, it’s worth the extra cost.
You have a strong structure to train climbing plants of all kinds – clematis, wisteria, even rambling roses and so on – all around you. And from the inside of the dome that forms the top of the “birdcage” consider hanging a hanging basket that’s just bursting with colour.
This birdcage pergola has four side panels with horizontal bars spaced apart and an open arch pattern at the bottom. These are where the plants grow up. Between each of these panels are openings to enter the pergola. I really like thats it’s a symmetrical pergola that looks more chaotic and organic when it’s covered with flowers and other plants.
When it comes to the build quality, this is the reason it is a little more expensive than some alternatives. The structure is made of wrought iron tubes rather than thin steel tubes. These are powder coated in a dark rust colour to add extra protection. This fits into any garden landscape scheme, especially more traditional and rustic ones. The tubes might feel a bit flimsy on their own, but when they’re built altogether, this is quite a sturdy pergola. Just be sure to use the ground stakes (included) to add to the strength and stability.
- A stunning french style birdcage shape pergola, ideal for a small bistro set.
- Four side panels come to a dome at the top.
- Structure of dark rust-coloured powder-coated wrought iron with four panels and four entrances.
- Ground stakes included.
- Excellent structure to train climbing plants up.
- Dimensions: 2m (diameter) and 2.69m (height).
This Outour French Style 4-Sided Birdcage Pergola is for you if you’re looking for a statement garden structure to display your prowess with climbing plants. Climbing roses would be my choice. Imagine you and a friend or loved one sitting in this pergola, completely surrounded by lush, fragrant and colourful roses. The dark-rust colour of the structure blends into the background of all the plants and your garden landscape, putting nature front and centre. Overall, when it comes to these birdcage style pergolas, this is a good example and very sturdy. Excellent value for money.
4. Purple Leaf 3m x 3m Wood Grained Metal Pergola With Retractable Roof
This Purple Leaf 3m X 3m Wood Grained Metal Pergola with the retractable roof is smaller than the Purple leaf pergola I reviewed earlier. The main difference between the two is that it also has a nice wood grain effect finish. It also comes with a protective cover that you can use to protect the actual retractable canopy. The plain black version I reviewed earlier does not include this extra cover. Now this wood effect version is more expensive. I’m not sure it’s worth the extra cost of around £200 extra. I suppose it depends on how much you like the wood effect!
This model is also made of powder coated aluminium, but it has a beige textured finish to resemble teak wood. The aluminium remains rust-proof and durable.
There are other differences. The canopy only comes in a beige colour (to match the metal frame), and the polyester is a lighter weight at 180gsm. However, it’s still yarn dyed fabric so it retains that even-coloured look. The fabric is water repellent so you can shelter under it in light showers. It does offer UV-protection to 50 UPF to save your skin from burning.
While the canopy is retractable, it’s not by way of a pulley as with the previous Purple Leaf pergola. This time you use powerful magnets to hold the canopy in place.
There’s an additional small canopy that shelters the main canopy when it’s not in use, protecting it from rain and sun. The fabric in your canopy lasts longer this way, taking longer to fade. With this model of a PURPLE LEAF pergola kit, you receive all the tools you need to assemble the structure.
- Pergola is constructed of powder-coated aluminium in beige with a textured teak grain-like finish.
- Beige yarn dyed polyester fabric is 180gsm weight.
- Retractable canopy is held in place with magnets.
- Canopy is water repellant and offers protection from UV rays.
- Assembly is straightforward and tools are included.
- When not in use, canopy is protected from the rain and the sun.
- Dimensions: 3.m (outside length); 2.58 (outside width); 2.55 (outside height).
- Rain pools on the top of the small canopy.
If you like the look of wood but don’t want a heavy real wood pergola, then the PURPLE LEAF 3m X 3m Wood Grained Metal Pergola With The Retractable Roof is well worth considering. With both the aluminium frame and the canopy in the same beige colour, this pergola matches any patio decor or garden landscaping you have in place. Just pull the canopy out to where the magnets are, and you have coverage from the sun and light rain.
5. Angel Living 3m x 3m Aluminium Pergola
The 3m x 3m Aluminium Pergola by Angel Living is almost as large as our Best Pick, the Arbor Garden Solutions Sculpted Wooden Garden Pergola Kit. However, it’s very different in that it’s made of aluminium. Aluminium is resistant to weather, rust, rot, mildew, fading and warping and is probably the best low maintenance alternative.
This Aluminium Pergola has measurements of 3m by 3m. But remember that these are the dimensions of the outside of the pergola to the ends of the rafters. The inner space is a bit smaller. The pergola has a standard height of 2.3m so you don’t need to worry about anyone bumping their head on the top because it’s got plenty of height underneath.
The powder-coated posts (four), runners (two) and rafters (three) are a grey colour to fit any garden design. The corner posts are 10cm by 10cm to give stability to this structure. The bases of the corner posts provide extra stability through footplates. These spread the weight of the pergola through a larger area. Another significant advantage to a metal pergola is that it’s much lighter than its wooden counterparts are but is just as strong once positioned and fixed in position. This one weighs only 35kg which makes it easy to move.
This square pergola is suitable for installing on lawns (tent pegs provided) and on concrete. However, online users report that you need to buy your own screws to install it on a hard surface but this isn’t a deal-breaker. The roof is flat, which is fairly standard for pergolas. But there’s a difference – this kit comes with a cream-colour canopy. A pulley mechanism smoothly opens and closes the canopy to keep out, or let in, sunlight. Don’t worry about the pergola being made of metal if you’re planning on training greenery up the posts – it’s planting compatible.
- Grey powder-coated aluminium fits into any garden style.
- Four corner posts and five rafters make up this structure.
- Canopy included for bright sunny days or damp rainy ones.
- Pulley mechanism for easy opening and closing of the canopy.
- Suitable for lawns and concrete so you can place it almost anywhere in your garden.
- Resistant to mildew, rust and rot as well as fading and warping.
- The installation kit is included so you don’t need to supply anything.
- Very good customer service.
- Vague instructions.
The 3m x 3m Aluminium Pergola is a highlight in any garden with its contemporary style and grey colour. Although an aluminium pergola is a great deal lighter in weight than a wooden one, don’t worry about stability with this pergola. The metal corner posts are 10cm by 10cm and have footplates that give extra stability. This pergola comes with a canopy that works on a pulley system and diffuses the bright sunlight so you don’t need to worry about adding shade sails.
The Aluminium Pergola is the Runner-up in our review. We like that it is lightweight and comes with an easy-opening canopy. It’s also our Best Pick of Metal Pergolas and if you’re looking for a minimalist style pergola, and wood doesn’t appeal to you, take a long look at this 3m x 3m Aluminium Pergola.
6. Rutland County Garden Furniture Wooden Garden Pergola
The Rutland County Garden Furniture Wooden Garden Pergola is completely made out of Northern European Redwood timber that’s certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council. The 15-year warranty on the wood covers insect and fungal attacks.
This Rutland Wooden Pergola is 1.8m by 1.8m and comes in a rustic brown/natural colour. Its smaller size lets you fit it into any size corners and nooks of your garden. The four corner posts are 2.7m long and you use them at this length if you embed the pergola in cement. You may want to cut them down to the standard length (2.3m) if you place the pergola on a flat surface such as your lawn or a concrete pad. Remember that the length and width dimensions are to the tips of the rafters and runners, not the inside area.
The corner posts are 10cm by 10cm to give the structure the freestanding stability it needs. Extra stability can be provided by metal bolt-down plates or spike feet for the corner posts (both are an added cost).
This pergola kit comes with 20 different components and illustrated step-by-step assembly directions. All the posts come pre-notched to make assembly easier. However, some online users complained about the lack of instructions. They weren’t aware that the instruction book was only available online to download, so if you choose this model this is something worth knowing because it will make assembly much easier.
- Wooden pergola made solely of FSC-certified North European Redwood timber.
- Square shape and measures 1.8m by 1.8m for a compact pergola.
- Also available in other sizes.
- Rustic brown/natural colour wood to be unobtrusive in your garden.
- Corner posts are 2.7m long but you can cut these down to your preferred pergola height.
- A 15-year warranty is against insect and fungal attacks on the wood.
- Optional metal plate feet or spikes for added stability.
- Detailed assembly instructions are available online.
- Great customer service.
- The manufacturer doesn’t make a canopy for this pergola.
- Not clear that assembly instructions are available online.
- More expensive than larger pergolas in this review.
The Rutland County Garden Furniture Wooden Garden Pergola is the smallest pergola in our review, however, they do have larger sizes to choose from too. The model we reviewed is a compact 1.8m by 1.8m (outside measurements) that sits easily on your lawn, patio, or any other hard surface. Its rustic brown colour suits a more traditional style of garden. Or use it as a contrast to your contemporary, minimal landscape. The 15-year warranty on the wood highlights that this pergola is entirely made out of certified North European Redwood timber.
We like the Rutland County Garden Furniture Wooden Garden Pergola for its efficient size and its long-lasting, totally Redwood timber, construction.
If you only have space for a small pergola and want one made from wood, the Rutland County Garden Furniture Wooden Garden Pergola fits the bill.
7. Forest Garden Forest Radial Pergola
The Forest Garden Forest Radial Pergola falls into the middle of the range of sizes of pergolas in this review. But it’s different from the other pergolas we discuss because it’s a corner pergola. It fits, literally, into a corner of your garden. Use it at the intersection of two hedges, walls, fences or perhaps in an awkwardly shaped area.
This Forest Garden pergola is made from pressure-treated timber (species unspecified) which is protected from rot, fungal decay, rust and fading. It’s also weatherproof. You don’t need to do anything to the wood after you’ve set up the structure. So confident is the manufacturer of the wood’s durability that the pergola comes with a 15-year warranty and does not need retreating.
Although this is a pergola that primarily fits into corners, it’s not the average triangle shape. The pergola is the shape of a ¼ circle, with a radius of 2.5m. The curve of the runner gives an elegant look to the structure. This plant-compatible framework lets you train climbing plants and vines up the four posts in the traditional way. Also consider trailing plants such as Wisteria over the flat roof to create a fragrant, shaded, enclosed space because this kit doesn’t come with a canopy.
The two straight “arms” of this pergola are each 2.5m long; its height is 2.4m. Be aware that all pergola measurements refer to the longest/widest/tallest points of the structure, usually to the tips of the rafters and runners. However, the interior dimensions of this structure are only a little smaller than the outside.
- A wooden pergola that fits into a corner to suit the awkward parts of your garden.
- Made from pressure-treated timber of unknown origin.
- A flat roof with rafters arranged like spokes of a wheel for a different look.
- Suitable for lawns or hard surfaces, even on your patio.
- Dimensions are 2.5m radius, length and width of 2.8 height of 2.4m (outside measurements).
- The shape is a ¼ circle that gives a stylish look.
- Classic roof rafters for growing plants over.
- The warranty is for 15-years and covers the wood’s condition.
- No canopy with the kit.
The Forest Garden Forest Radial Pergola is a mid-size pergola that fits into a corner of your garden. Whatever’s in that corner (hedges, fences etc.) forms two sides of the pergola. This gives you some privacy and makes the space feel safely enclosed. The curved front of the pergola along with the rafters arranged as wheel spokes give an elegant look and feel to this pergola.
We like the Forest Garden Forest Radial Pergola for its convenience in fitting into the corners of the garden or any awkwardly shaped places.
If you want to relax in an out-of-the-way corner of your garden, the Forest Garden Forest Radial Pergola is for you.
8. Rutland County Garden Furniture Store Wall Mounted Pergola 3m x 3m
The Rutland County Garden Furniture Store 3m x 3m Wall Mounted Pergola is another square wooden pergola but instead of a freestanding structure, it’s a lean-to pergola. This is the only pergola in this review that is directly attached to your house or other structure. We couldn’t write a pergola review without including at least one lean-to model.
Lean-to pergolas provide shade for an area just outside your home. Some people place it over their patio or deck. If you install it in front of any room that has French or sliding doors, the outside space becomes a direct extension of your home’s interior. Extend your dining room into the outdoors on warm evenings.
The Pergola is constructed from pressure-treated timber, except for the corner posts that are from long-lasting Redwood timber. This kit comes with only two corner posts as the other side of the pergola is held up by attaching a runner to your house. The posts are 10cm by 10cm for a sturdy frame. You also receive two runners and six rafters; you bolt one of the runners to an outside wall. The rafters are sculpted with a curve at either end to add visual interest. And all the fittings are included as well.
This pergola is 2.4m long, 2.4m wide and 2.56m high. These measurements are of the outside of the pergola; the interior dimensions are smaller. The two corner posts are 2.7m long when you receive them. Keep them at this length if you’re going to place them into concrete; cut them down to your desired length/height if you’re going to place the pergola on a hard surface. This model also comes in two larger sizes.
- Square wooden lean-to pergola that attaches to an outside wall to directly extend your living space.
- Rustic brown or green colour for a natural look.
- Made from pressure-treated wood but has Redwood timber posts.
- Sculpted rafters for an attractive appearance.
- Dimensions are length – 2.4m, width – 2.4m, and height – 2.7m.
- Use on lawn, concrete, wood, and other hard surfaces.
- Kit contains all fittings needed.
- No canopy.
- Need some extra tools to assemble this – a spanner and screwdriver.
The Rutland County Garden Furniture Store Wall Mounted Pergola is not a freestanding pergola. Like a regular lean-to, you attach it to an exterior wall of your house. It provides shade directly outside your home and will even stop the interior rooms from becoming too warm. The pergola’s rustic green or brown colours compliment many shades of brick.
We like the Rutland County Garden Furniture Store Wall Mounted Pergola because you attach it to your house to give shade over your patio or decking.
If you want to be in shade the instant you step out of your back door, the Pergola provides that for you.
Establish an outdoor living space for yourself, and perhaps your plants as well, with a pergola. Pergolas offer structure to outdoor spaces without enclosing it. With a pergola, you have protection from the sun, a place to establish outdoor living, and a frame to grow your climbing plants up.
This Buyer’s Guide points out the various features of pergolas and explains some of the options that you have. We start by explaining what a pergola is and isn’t.
Pergola vs gazebo vs arbour
People often use the terms pergola, gazebo and arbour interchangeably. But although they each have similar purposes, they are different structures. Here are our general definitions of these, though others may have different descriptions.
A pergola is like an outdoor room that’s light and airy. Four corner posts support a (usually) freestanding framework that doesn’t have any walls. The ceiling/roof is made of slats that cross the interior in one direction. The slats give you shade, though some pergolas also have a canopy for more sun protection. A pergola is large enough to sit under on your outdoor furniture, though the sizes of the structures vary. This garden room draws people’s eyes to it, especially if you grow climbing plants on it.
Think of a gazebo as a pergola with a permanent roof. The roof shelters you from the sun at all times. Some gazebos come with curtains or netting that you pull across all or any of the sides of the framework. This gives you privacy when you’re relaxing. You can also grow flowers over a gazebo.
An arbour is another similar garden structure but is not large enough to sit under. It usually is an open arch with lattice or trellis on its sides. It’s often placed over a path. Flowers and vines can grow all over the arch giving a colourful and fragrant walking experience.
Buying a pergola in a kit has several advantages: you can get it home from the store in your car or van; the delivery person can fit it through your back garden gate, and you can change your mind about where to place it partway through its setup and move it relatively easily.
In a pergola kit, you receive a minimum of the corner posts, the runners that go across on top of them, and the rafters. The numbers of each of these vary with the model of the pergolas. You should also find all of the fittings you need and some or all of the tools required.
The pergolas in our article are made of either wood or aluminium. Both of these materials have resistance to the weather and harmful elements such as rust, rot and mildew. Some wooden pergola manufacturers, especially if they use certified Redwood timber, give you a 15-year warranty against damage by these factors.
Aluminium pergolas generally have a powder coating as protection. If the coating wears off, you need to repaint that portion of the frame to avoid rust and mildew from forming. These pergolas are significantly lighter than wooden ones.
Style, shape and size
Most pergolas are a freestanding structures. This means that they can stand alone on lawns or hard surfaces, on their corner posts. Most kits have corner posts that are long enough that you can embed them in concrete and still have a standard-height structure. If you place the pergola on the top of the ground, you can cut the posts down to whatever height you want the pergola to be (usually 2.4m).
One pergola in this review (Rutland County Garden Furniture Store Wall Mounted Pergola 3m x 3m) is not freestanding; it’s a lean-to structure. This attaches to an outside wall of your home or any other structure and looks like a regular lean-to but without walls and a real roof. You only receive two corner posts with this style.
Some pergolas have a sculpted style. This refers to the design element that’s cut out of the ends of the rafters. This is frequently some kind of a curve that serves to soften the geometric look of the structure.
Most pergolas are either rectangular or square. This gives them stability in inclement weather. One pergola in this article (the Forest Garden Forest Radial Pergola) is in the shape of a ¼ circle. This model is designed to fit into a corner of your garden.
Pergolas come in a wide range of sizes. The smallest one in our review is 1.8m by 1.8m; the largest is 3.6m by 3m. But beware of the dimensions that you’re given about any pergola. They might not be what they seem.
Generally, and for all the pergolas in this article, the measurements given refer to the outside of the structure. These are measured from the tip of one rafter or runner to the tip at the other end. The inside dimensions are smaller and so is the floor area. Some manufacturers explain clearly how much smaller the inside measurements are, generally from 10cm or so to about 1m, while others don’t mention it at all. Look at the pergola’s accurate specifications for a clear answer. This will help you figure out if it has enough interior space for your outdoor living plans.
When you’re deciding where to put your pergola, it’s not only the size of the space that counts. If you want privacy, set it up in a secluded part of the garden; if you want to make a design statement, place it on the lawn; if you want it to blend in and be unobtrusive, cover it with flowers and vines.
Wherever you place the pergola, consider if it will affect any plants near it by throwing shade on them. It may even stop some sun from reaching your neighbour’s garden and that’s not helpful to good relations.
Five ways to add style to your pergola
Create more shade
The roof rafters of a pergola provide some shade. But the sun still shines down through the spaces between them. Put a canopy or sails over the rafters to add more shade. You can buy a canopy of the right size or make your own from materials such as fabric, Perspex, or clear polycarbonate.
Make it personal
The main purpose of a pergola is to be an outdoor living room. Decorate it as you would any room inside your house. Add accessories, artwork, tables, bookshelves, or a bar. It causes fewer problems in the rain if these are all waterproof.
Make it shine
Add lanterns, paper lampshades, or strings of light to your pergola to create a soft and romantic ambiance. If you have a lean-to pergola, plug electric lights into your outdoor socket.
If you’re sure of the sturdiness of your pergola, string a hammock between two posts and sway gently on a summer day. The hammock is easily unhooked if you need to make room for other furniture.
Become a vintner
If you’ve ever had the urge to make your own wine from scratch, you may want to grow your own grapevines over the pergola. It will add a mediterranean feel to your garden, even if you don’t get enough good grapes to make even one glass of vino.
With a pergola, you cannot help but relax in your garden. There’s room for a dining set for entertaining, perhaps a couch and armchair for lazy reading, or even a workbench for when you have to move your DIY outside. We’ve reviewed wooden and metal pergolas, freestanding and lean-to models. Wherever you want to establish your outside living space in your garden, the right pergola keeps you in the shade.
Perhaps you’ve reached this far and have decided that you don’t really want an outdoor room. Maybe you just want a decorative framework on which you grow climbing flowers. Check out our Best Garden Arbours and Arches and Best Garden Arches reviews to find the best of these structures. And we have reviews on what climbing flowers to grow on whichever structure you choose: Best Climbers for Pots and Containers and How to Train a Climbing Rose
Last update on 2024-02-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API