Gorgeous sunny days are meant to be enjoyed outdoors. However, that sun can create a great deal of heat that transforms an afternoon of relaxing in the warmth to an unbearable feeling of being overheated—or even becoming sunburned—that can quickly drive even the most devoted sun worshipper indoors. A pergola can be the solution.
A pergola is an attractive and functional architectural structure for residential and commercial outdoor space. The frame is made up of columns that support a latticework of beams, rafters, and stringers with designs that range from simple to elaborate. A pergola may become a backyard oasis that’s made even more inviting with the addition of patio furniture, lounge chairs, or outdoor rugs. That versatility makes a pergola a place where kids can play, friends can visit, and families can eat together.
The best pergola kits offer an outdoor experience combined with indoor luxury and in a setting where you can receive protection from the elements, privacy, and cooling shade. In this guide are the various factors to consider as you shop for a pergola kit and review the following selections for some of the best pergola kits on the market for your outdoor space.
- BEST OVERALL: Backyard Discovery Cedar 12 Ft. x 10 Ft. Pergola
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Coolaroo Aurora 9’ W x 9’ D Aluminum Pergola
- BEST RETRACTABLE CANOPY: Sunjoy Naples 108″ x 144″ Steel Pergola with Canopy
- BEST WITH SEATING: Backyard Discovery 14 ft x 10 ft Oasis Cedar Pergola
- BEST FOR LARGE YARDS: Paragon Outdoor 11 ft. x 11 ft. Aluminum Pergola
Before You Buy a Pergola Kit
Understanding the difference between a pergola, a trellis, an arbor, and a gazebo ensures you choose the ideal type of structure for your needs.
- A pergola offers a shaded outdoor living space. It features columns that support a latticework of beams, rafters, and stringers that lets the sun shine through the openings.
- A trellis is a piece of latticework. It can stand alone or attach to a pergola, enabling vines or roses to climb up the side of it.
- An arbor is a structural element similar to a pergola, except it is much smaller; an arbor is intended as a place to walk through rather than sit under.
- A gazebo is a freestanding round or hexagonal garden structure with interior bench seating, low walls, and a complete roof.
Pergolas aren’t suitable for every outdoor space as they tend to be quite large. In fact, purchasing a pergola requires additional research of municipal or township laws. Some laws prevent structures from blocking the view of residential neighbors or neighboring buildings. Before buying a pergola, find out whether there are restrictions in your area for installing freestanding or attached structures, and see if a permit is required.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Pergola Kit
Choosing the best pergola kit relies on a variety of considerations. First, it’s essential to select the right material, size, and aesthetic for your outdoor space, taking into account the intended purpose of the pergola. Ease of installation and additional features that may be included with a pergola kit also play a role in the decision-making process. When searching for the best pergola kit for your needs, keep the following key factors in mind.
Pergolas can be made of wood, aluminum, steel, fiberglass, cellular PVC, and vinyl. Each material offers distinct characteristics and a host of pros and cons that are important to consider as you shop for the best pergola kit for your outdoor space.
Characteristics of wood:
- Can be stained or painted, but fades over time
- May eventually rot or be infested with termites
- Requires ongoing maintenance
- Generally less expensive than metal
- Hardwood generally lasts longer than treated softwoods
Characteristics of aluminum:
- Highly customizable, lightweight metal
- Nonporous surface that resists rotting and rust
- Requires minimal maintenance
- Available in many colors
- More expensive than wood
Characteristics of steel:
- Durable and versatile
- Much heavier than aluminum
- Withstands the elements
- Covers a wider area with fewer support structures
- Requires annual maintenance
- More expensive than wood
Characteristics of fiberglass:
- Long lifespan
- Customizable colors
- Offers hollow components to easily install lighting, fans, and patio heaters
- Requires minimal maintenance
- Can crack in extreme temperature changes or conditions
- One of the most expensive options
Characteristics of cellular PVC:
- Manufactured material
- Resists moisture penetration, splitting, and rotting
- Nearly impermeable to elements
- Easy to paint
- Maintenance is virtually nonexistent
- More expensive than wood
Characteristics of vinyl:
- Weaker than other materials
- Virtually maintenance-free
- Withstands the elements
- Can become brittle and crack over time
- Least expensive option
Purpose and Type
A pergola kit provides an upgrade to underutilized lawn or patio space while also offering shade and privacy presently lacking in a backyard. Some attached pergolas may even increase the value of a home or property, making this purchase a long-term investment. Pergolas create a homey outdoor space for social events, quiet solo time, or family dinnertime. While the purpose of a pergola is only limited to your imagination, there are certain types of pergolas that may be more aligned with your particular needs, including open top, sail, gabled (which are all freestanding structures), and attached.
- Open top pergolas have an open roof, leaving the interior exposed to the elements. They’re traditionally designed for climbing plants to wind around and provide additional weather protection as the vines grow thicker over time.
- Sail pergolas use fabric material that is stretched taut between several poles of varying heights. This style offers more UV protection than an open top, but it may catch strong winds and tear over time.
- Gabled pergolas have a pitched roof with triangular gables at the ends. This shape offers more interior height and space than flat-roof designs.
- Attached pergolas use a structure, usually the side of a house, to support one or more sides in place of additional columns. They create a smooth transition from indoor to outdoor space but may require a permit.
Size and Shape
A pergola should be the appropriate size for a yard, patio, or deck, meaning that it doesn’t crowd out other yard elements. Sizes range from as small as 7 feet by 7 feet to as large as 20 feet by 20 feet. Pergolas can be quite tall, so ensuring that there is enough clearance to avoid touching tree branches, awnings, and other obstacles is vital. Column placement is also crucial so the structure has the support it needs to keep from collapsing.
Pergola shapes vary, and the choice should be based on both personal style preference and the best fit for the yard.
- Square pergolas are quite common, with two to four columns that are easy to place in a yard or on a deck or patio.
- Rectangular pergolas are becoming much more common for yards, especially as a home attachment. They create enough space for an outdoor dining table and additional room for entertaining.
- Hexagonal pergolas are less common than square or rectangular shapes as they’re generally for larger deck spaces or poolside areas. They take up much more room and may have additional columns, which makes placing them more difficult.
- Circular pergolas are a more specialized option as they tend to be larger and may require more columns to support the circular shape. These more intricate showpieces are intended for larger spaces and feature material for arches and other curved shapes. They are suitable for vast yards, outdoor gardens, or large barbecue areas.
Pergolas tend to fit into a traditional, modern, or contemporary aesthetic.
- Traditional pergolas are more decorative and are usually made from wood treated with a protective sealant. This aesthetic employs elements such as scrolled ends on the beams and rafters, even spacing on the roof, and decorative columns.
- Modern pergolas utilize a simple box frame with clean lines. Made of a variety of materials such as metal, fiberglass, and PVC, this aesthetic creates a streamlined look with blunt ends and minimal details.
- Contemporary pergolas incorporate a variety of design elements such as arched tops, curves, and I beams. This aesthetic may mix parts of traditional and modern aesthetics, using several materials to create a new and noteworthy style.
Adding vines, trellises, or curtains can enhance the aesthetic of a pergola.
- Vines can climb a trellis or the flat top of a pergola, creating a living wall or structure.
- Trellises on the sides of a pergola contribute to additional privacy and shade while giving vines a place to climb.
- Curtains can be installed in a pergola’s frame for privacy and a cabana-style aesthetic.
Specialized pergolas may offer extra features such as bench seating, built-in tables, and motorized screens.
- Bench seating may be built into the side of a pergola, much like a gazebo. It provides a place to enjoy the outdoors without investing in additional outdoor furniture. These seats are typically made of the same material as the rest of the pergola.
- Built-in tables solve the issue of where to set up a bar, place appetizers, or play cards. As these tables are generally taller than a standard dining table, users can stand at or sit on stools around the table.
- Motorized screens come in handy when the sun dips low. The flat top of the pergola only provides shade when the sun is higher in the sky. With a click of a button, a motorized screen lowers to just the right height to keep the sun out of your eyes as it sets.
Pergola kits typically include the necessary precut and predrilled materials, including anchors; all that’s required is time and space for assembly. In most instances, you will need just a few tools, such as a wrench and a screwdriver.
There are two installation methods, depending on whether you purchase a freestanding or an attached pergola.
- Freestanding pergolas are independent of other structures—their placement is more flexible for this reason. They need to be properly anchored to a patio or a deck or into concrete footers that sink into the lawn to prevent them from falling over. These pergola kits offer easy-to-follow instructions for DIY installation.
- Attached pergolas are a bit more complex as they secure to a home or building via a ledger board. Based on the unique features and dimensions of the home or building, attachment methods may vary. Unless you’re confident in your DIY skills, consulting with a contractor may be the best option for installation.
Our Top Picks
The best pergola kits turn available lawn, patio, or deck space into an outdoor oasis. The first step to purchasing this idyllic outdoor area is understanding which factors are important to keep in mind—and how those factors align with a shopper’s personal needs and preferences and outdoor space. Based on the above considerations, the top picks represent some of the best pergola kits available today in a variety of categories to bring a backyard to life.
An elegant structure for a backyard, this Backyard Discovery cedar pergola provides plenty of space for outdoor lounging and entertaining. The posts have resin feet and concrete anchors for stability and weather resistance, making them safe even when wind and rain blow in. Providing shade is what this pergola does best; it offers over 120 square feet of overhead shade. With plenty of space for vines and plants, this pergola’s aesthetic can easily be enhanced, and providing additional shade is easy for a user with a green thumb. Measuring 12 feet by 10 feet and with an interior height of 7 feet, there is an available 63 square feet inside this rectangular pergola for hanging lights and adding planters, outdoor furniture, a barbecue grill, and more.
Assembly and installation are simple thanks to the manufacturer’s BILT app, which guides users through the pergola’s setup step by step. The pieces come prestained, precut, and ready to assemble—the only other requirements are the right tools and an extra set of hands to assist.
The Aurora pergola by Coolaroo fits well in outdoor areas without being too imposing in the yard or on the wallet. Featuring a modern style, it can transform a yard or deck into a quaint space. Made from a lightweight aluminum frame with a removable polyethylene canopy, the pergola can equally suit a formal or a more casual setting. Easily remove the weather-proof canopy for more sunlight or for occasional cleaning to keep it looking fresh.
Measuring 9 feet by 9 feet, it provides enough space for comfortable outdoor dining, while the assembled 7-foot height offers enough headroom to stand comfortably without having to slouch. This pergola kit includes deck fasteners for stability, and the pieces have precut and predrilled holes for easy assembly.
This steel pergola from Sunjoy offers users the ability to manage the amount of direct sunlight they receive via a retractable canopy. The adjustable and weather-resistant polyester canopy pairs with the rust-resistant and powder-coated steel frame for a classy yet durable outdoor entertaining space. The rectangular 9-foot by 12-foot footprint offers plenty of space for an open-air living room or dining area. The pergola’s height is a comfortable 7.5 feet, offering adequate room to comfortably stand and socialize.
While the steel frame does not require much upkeep, the canopy does need to be occasionally hand-washed with a mild detergent to keep it looking its best. The pergola is simple to set up, only requiring a screwdriver and a wrench. It’s compatible with grass installation, but it also includes a mounting kit should users decide to place it elsewhere.
This Backyard Discovery freestanding cedar pergola is the toast of outdoor parties. A built-in bench with armrests comfortably seats four people, and chairs can also be added to the included bar/serving table if more seating is needed. The contemporary woodwork is durable, and the posts feature resin feet to prevent damage from ground moisture and concrete anchors to keep it in place. At 14 feet by 10 feet, this pergola provides plenty of room for family or friends to visit, while its 8-foot height ensures no one has to hunch over while standing inside. Since this pergola boasts a traditional style paired with a modern farmhouse flair, it easily complements the aesthetic of many yards.
Due to its oversize nature, it’s predominantly well suited for bigger yards, but don’t be intimidated by the size; assembly is rather easy as long as there are some extra hands to help. Following the 3D-guided installation instructions from the manufacturer’s BILT app makes putting together the pergola a breeze.
Large yards, especially ones that don’t have much shade from trees, can benefit from the perks of Paragon Outdoor’s oversize pergola. The square 11-foot by 11-foot pergola creates an entire outdoor room protected from the sun but with the benefits of fresh air that can be a play area for children, a hot tub cover, an outdoor dining room, or an entertaining space. The 7.5-foot height ensures enough headroom for sitting or standing.
The lightweight, powder-coated aluminum frame employs “embedded wood grain” technology, giving it the look of cedar but with the easy upkeep and rust-free durability of aluminum. The manual fabric canopy easily opens and closes for the desired amount of sun or shade. The installation kit for this freestanding pergola comes with bolts to secure it to wood or concrete, ground stakes for grass installation, and clear instructions for hassle-free assembly.
FAQs About Pergola Kits
A pergola is a functional and stylish addition to an outdoor space, giving utility to areas that may have previously gone unused. Once you’ve decided to purchase a pergola kit, you may have some additional questions on its purpose and how to best use it. Check out some of the most frequently asked questions and answers about owning a pergola.
Q. What is the purpose of a pergola?
A pergola extends living space to the outdoors, essentially creating an open-air room that helps protect users from overbearing sunlight and the elements while providing a place to entertain and relax.
Q. How do I choose a pergola?
The best pergola for your needs depends on the available outdoor space, the type of pergola you prefer, the material used to construct it, and any other personal preferences or desire for additional features.
Q. Can you put a cover over a pergola?
Yes. You can install a cover to provide more shade when spending time inside the pergola. Consider a weatherproof fabric that’s easy to maintain.
Q. Are pergolas considered a permanent structure?
Pergolas are an open structure for a yard or patio/deck space. In the majority of cases, pergolas generally do not require a permit, but in some municipalities if it is a pergola that attaches to the house, a permit may be required. Before purchasing a pergola, find out your specific municipal or township legislation about pergolas or similar structures.
Q. How long will it take to install my pergola kit?
Installation time for a pergola kit depends on the individual features and complexity of the assembly. Having one or more people help with the installation generally makes it easier and faster to put together.