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What Are the Different Types of Backyard Pergolas?

By Anna B. Smith
Updated May 16, 2024
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The different types of backyard pergolas include the standard design as well as the attached, enclosed, and arched formats. These designs may be constructed from any type of wood or outdoor vinyl composite, and are often available in a completed kit that can be ordered by mail and assembled on site by the homeowner. Blueprints may also be ordered without additional supplies for those do it yourselfers who prefer to add personal creative elements to their pergolas during construction, while still maintaining the basic elements of the original design.

A pergola is an element of landscaping design often used to create an outdoor living space. This structure is typically comprised of multiple upright poles which support an open, slatted ceiling. The ceiling is generally mounted on a perimeter support frame that has been attached to the upright poles. Base slats are then secured flat at wide intervals across the support frame, and crossed in the opposite direction with multiple overlaying slats.

This type of basic design, featuring a perimeter ceiling support frame and flat lying criss-cross overlay beams, is often known as a standard pergola. Different variations on these backyard pergolas tend to offer uniquely shaped perimeter support frames. The basic structure may be square, rectangular, circular, or octagonal, depending on the availability of space in the backyard area, and the personal desires of the homeowners. Some standard shapes may be attached to the side of a home to create a shaded enclosure that is designed around an existing patio or deck.

A standard pergola generally does not feature any type of siding that encloses the four sides of the structure. This detail may be added as a secondary feature to create the style of outdoor rooms known as enclosed backyard pergolas. The enclosures may be made from a wide range of materials, depending on the design preferences of the homeowners and the natural climate of their region. Heavy, outdoor canvas may be attached to the support frame of the pergola to create cloth walls and a cloth shade ceiling in areas that do not receive heavy winds. These canvas flaps are easily raised or lowered to allow more or less light into the room using a series of cords.

Other enclosure materials can include brick garden walls, wooden fencing, and lattices. Garden walls and wooden fencing are typically not attached to the pergola in any way, and may be placed around the perimeter to create privacy and shade. Wooden lattice work is a lightweight material and may be nailed directly to the upright wooden poles for similar purposes.

Arched backyard pergolas elaborate on the original design established by the standard frame to create an arch that typically peaks in the center of the ceiling. The support frame is constructed of two flat, horizontal beams that run the longest length of the structure, which are then connected by two specialized arching pieces. Arched wood is then placed at regular intervals down the length of the horizontal beams to span the width of the pergola. Crossing beams may then be placed over the arched pieces in a manner similar to the standard design, or flexible wood lattice work may be used instead.

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