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Your pergola looks great, but is that all it needs to do?

Sep 14, 2017

There are two main reasons people choose a pergola: looks and shade.  Of course you want your pergola to look good! Nobody wants to add a new addition to their outdoor living space that they don't want to look at on a daily basis. The problem is that many people don't look too far past this initial thought... meaning they end up with a great looking pergola that has no utility and needs maintenance on a yearly basis.  We can touch on the maintenance factors in another post - let's focus on shade!

Types of Shade

There's a few different ways to create shade on your pergola roof:

  • Go all natural and grow plants
  • Install some sort of poly vinyl or aluminum cover or roof on the top
  • Buy a canopy to go with the pergola
  • Select a pergola that has a shade system integrated
  • Buy extra materials and space them out on the roof

Each of these options may or may not work for your application. They all have their positives and negatives associated with them as well. Let's take a look at each!

Growing plants

All-natural shade coverage can look amazing when done correctly! It's also quite cost effective versus all the other options. Plants can give a great touch to a pergola roof - especially if it's in a garden or located in an area with a lot of vegetation surrounding it. The drawback of this approach is that you must wait for the plants to grow enough to create the shade you desire. You also can't directly control the exact direction and volume of the growth.  There may be a couple seasons of maintenance and trimming until you can deem your plant project successful.

Installing a cover or roof

Many people come up with their own creative material and/or installation ideas on how to cover their roof. This can also be quite cost effective depending on what you choose. The biggest benefit if you're capable of coming up with an effective and safe method of installation would be rainproofing the area under your pergola. Not having to worry about rain is usually the biggest driving factor in people wanting to put their own materials on the top of the pergola.  If you can make it work, this may be a great option. There's one big issue with this application: safety. If you need a permit or to pass local code - this is not going to work. There is likely no testing for whatever materials you are using in this particular application. The biggest no-no for installing your own cover or roof materials is if you're in an area that is prone to snow in the Winter.  The last thing you want is a collapsed roof or portion of your roof after some snow build up. There may also be some trial and error during the installation of materials since you are making it up as you go.

Buy a canopy

Canopies have a lot of benefits! You can pick the length, width, and color of the canopy going over top of your pergola. There are also canopies of varying quality and utility levels. Some canopies can retract and move around at your leisure, whether you're manually moving those or perhaps there's a motor-powered unit that moves the canopy for you. If you're in an area that receives a lot of snow you can usually remove the canopy during Winter so you don't have to worry about heavy snow loads.  Canopies have their downsides as well. The most prevalent being their typical cost. A nice canopy or canopy system is a lot, not just a few hundred bucks, we're talking in the thousands. It's hard to put a nice canopy on a pergola if the canopy itself costs half as much as the pergola.  Some of the fabrics on more affordable canopies are prone to deteriorating over the years, leaving you to buy a new one and reinstall it. The ability to retract the canopies are great, until the motor shuts down or your product doesn't slide smoothly back and forth like it did that first year it was installed.

Integrated shade system

A pergola with an integrated shade system means it has two things: an efficient way to put it together and testing that proves it's safe and functional. This is how the Heartland Pergolas vinyl pergola kits are set up. With the integrated system you receive a tried and true method of shade coverage. One of the best feelings that people take for granted when they purchase a pergola is peace of mind. Purchasing an engineered system means you can see pictures of what it will look like before it's done - you see how it's done - and when it's completed it actually looks just like the picture and videos did! You can ask the tough questions to companies or brands that have an integrated shade system. These questions can be: how does it hold up to snow, what about wind ratings, how many of these are out there, what is your experience in instance XYZ? Any reputable company should have someone readily available to answer these questions for you in a timely manner. Purchasing everything together ensures a peace of mind knowing that you're going to get what you paid for, and someone has already thought through the installation and application portion of the project. The only real negative to an integrated system is that you likely won't be going back and changing the shade level after it's installed. It is possible, just not practical in most instances. Almost all integrated shade systems on the market do not allow for you to change around the shade level once they are installed. Some systems can allow for that, if your pockets are deep enough and you're willing to maintain the system that allows the shade pieces to move around.

Extra materials

Extra materials are middle of the road when it comes to shade coverage. This is what you would see on most wood pergolas out in the market.  The more materials you buy and fasten over the roof - the more shade coverage you have. This can be cost effective if your pergola does not have low maintenance, lifetime warranty-type materials. If the pergola is simply for decoration and you're looking to keep your cost as low as possible - this is usually the route to go. The main downfall here is that you have to figure it out as you go. How many extra pieces of materials should you put every XYZ inches to make it look good... and how much shade coverage will that actually give you at 5PM mid-July when you'll be using this pergola for your party?  The answer is tough to know because you're kind of making it up as you go. You don't know how snow or wind may impact these pieces because your spacings, quantities and materials are all custom to your job.


The Heartland Pergolas Way

Our big advantage is the ability to customize our shade levels based on your needs. We can orient the roof based on where the sun is in the sky at the time you want to use your pergola! On top of this, we can find that sweet spot you are looking for in terms of sunlight. A vast majority of our customers pick our 75% shade level - it's still mostly shaded but allows some sun to get through. Some people would find it too cold in early Spring or late Fall if all of the sun was blocked out - so they extend their pergola's usable time by allowing some sun in. Others may require as much sun as possible to be blocked out.  If your pergola is poolside and you need some serious shade when it's too hot out - the 90% level is for you!  Words can only describe so much, so here's a couple picture examples of our shade levels.

This display pergola has a left-side 90%, right-side 75% shade level roof! We do this for a lot of pergola displays to show customers the difference in shade levels. You can also stand in the two different patterns and feel the temperature difference!

How are the levels so different? Looking down on the pergola from above is a great way to see the difference in material quantities on the roof. Once again, left-side 90%, right-side 75% shade levels on this display.

Here's the difference while under your vinyl pergola kit and looking up at the sky. The left side is the 90% shade, which blocks out almost all the sky. The right side shows some blue sky as it's only the 75% level! Maybe your pergola is sitting over your hot tub - remember that 75% or 50% is better for stargazing!


Questions about our vinyl pergola kits?

Give us a ring here at the office! You can reach us directly at 563.345.6745!

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Pergolas for many different scenarios!

Jul 24, 2017

Our vinyl pergolas add that finishing touch to many outdoor spaces - no matter what application they are used in!  Over the last couple of weeks we have sent out a large variety of pergolas, here are some examples!

1. Over the garage

Heartland Pergolas vinyl pergola kit over customer's garage

Some people want a finishing touch to their garage. It's a great look and casts a nice shade pattern across their garage doors.

2. Over the hot tub

Heartland Pergolas vinyl pergola kit over an existing hot tub

Adding privacy by connecting a privacy fence panel or a privacy trellis is common on a hot tub. Notice on the backside how the view into the neighbor's yard is blocked and looks great. This pergola was a fantastic finishing touch to this outdoor area that did not quite feel finished without the pergola.

3. Lighting up the night

Heartland Pergolas vinyl pergola kit lit up at night

This customer elected to go with lighting on the landscaping pillars instead of in the pergola - giving a ground-lit effect that looks great. All of our vinyl pergola kits have holes drilled out in the center of the posts in case you want to run wiring for lights in the roof or a fan mount - it still looks great without them though!

4. Spanning big on a deck

Heartland Pergolas vinyl pergola kit attached to a deck

We can span far! Like, 22' clear span making for a 24' roof far! This deck was covered using only two posts and our attachment method.  Our roof can span far and still look great with no deflection due to our fully extruded aluminum interior frame.


5. Decorating the walkway

This customer decided to make their walkway a little more classy and it worked big time! With everything able to be trimmed - this DIY install happened over the weekend - he was easily able to trim his 10' long posts to the correct height and make the pergola he was going for.


We love to help out our DIY customers along with any and all professionals that are installing our kits. We have a comprehensive set of written installation instructions along with an efficient and to-the-point video series located on YouTube: Click Here for Install Playlist

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Happy 4th of July!

Jul 03, 2017

Enjoy your outdoor space with a Heartland Pergola this 4th of July!  Check out this recently completed pergola project with a vinyl Heartland Pergola kit covering the entrace to the basement of the house - and the start of the outdoor living space!


Also, check out the Hoellein's pergola installation video as they complete their pergola installation, DIY style! The pergola installation starts at the 6min, 52second mark.

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Answering FAQs with PDFs!

May 22, 2017

We receive some of the same questions for our Heartland Pergolas vinyl pergola kits all the time! So to best answer them we have made som great visuals in PDF form! Whether you're doing an attached vinyl pergola or a freestanding vinyl pergola - there may be a couple unique spots where a picture would best answer your question.


See here how our 5x5 post installs:

vinyl pergola kit post installation

Ordering 7" Columns? See the difference here:

Heartland Pergolas vinyl pergola kit 7

See what our beam attachment bracket options look like for the more friendly DIY installation:

Heartland Pergolas vinyl pergola kit DIY installation brackets

What about the Hurricane Clips that give the wind warranty? What will they look like?

vinyl pergola wind warranty clips

Attaching your pergola to a house or structure? Take a look here to see how it's done:

Heartland Pergolas attached vinyl pergola kit installation diagram

Sharing a middle post on a large pergola? You'll need to splice your beams on that post - here's how:


Heartland Pergolas vinyl pergola kit beam splic picture


As a family business we strive to provide our customers with all the help we possibly can. If you have a question, all you have to do is ask! If your question is best answered by a picture or diagram, we will absolutely make it for you.


You can call 563.345.6726 7 days a week and find the answer to your question now.

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Does your pergola pass the International Building Code?

Apr 28, 2017

Engineer tested and approved, the Heartland Pergolas' system will hold up to the elements no matter what area you live in. There are many pergola kits and builders out there that can piece together something that looks good for a couple of years... but is it safe and will it last? What will it look like in 5 years?  At Heartland Pergolas, we've taken measures to ensure your pergola not only looks beautiful, but passes the International Building Code as well.  With a Heartland Pergola purchase you will receive a lifetime warranty on the interior and exterior materials of your pergola - you will also enjoy the peace of mind knowing that your purchase has passed the structural integrity requirements of the International Building Code.

vinyl pergola kit passing engineering testsvinyl pergola kit 16x16 passes engineering standards

vinyl pergola kit 20x20 engineeredvinyl pergola kit 20x20 engineer approved

There are two types of pergolas you can buy if you're looking for low maintenance pergola kit:

1. A box store pergola - this likely WILL NOT pass minimum requirements and will not span past 12'. The reinforcement is likely wood or air. It will look decent for the first 2-3 years you have it. It will be cheaper than everything else and you will get what you pay for.

2. A lifetime warranty pergola - there are a few different companies out there that offer lifetime warranty, low maintenance pergolas. Some of these pergolas are similar to ours, but they don't have the testing done, they can't span what we can, and they can't offer you the same installation support. At Heartland Pergolas we have positioned ourselves to offer you everything you may desire out of a high-quality vinyl pergola kit. This includes: customizable options, aesthetically pleasing final product, roofs up to 24' long without additional posts, lifetime warranty interior, lifetime warranty low maintenace exterior - and best of all - an aggressive price. You will get what you pay for if you purchase a Heartland Pergola - but rest assured you will not overpay. We are priced "in the middle" of the low maintenance pergola market - yet we offer you the best of the best when it comes to customer support, pergola design, engineering tests tangibles (ask the compeition for tangibles), video walkthroughs on installation, and a transparent sales process. We are a family business and we are successful because we care.

We are Heartland Pergolas. Call us at 563.345.6745.

A copy of our most recent engineering test results which covers any pergola sized 20x20 or smaller (yes, we said tangibles!):

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Create a beatiful outdoor room at night too!

Apr 18, 2017

At Heartland Pergolas our goal is to help create a beautiful outdoor living space for you - this goes for both day and night!  Our vinyl pergola system is designed for customizable shade levels during the day - and it's predrilled for wiring if you want to light it up at night!

heartland pergolas vinyl pergola with lighting

The above vinyl pergola kit is just completing the installation process (one more railing and then the railing on the stairs!) but our customer is so excited about the lighting they had to send us the picture early!  The aluminum post mounts of our system have a hole predrilled directly in the center - making it very easy and efficient to run wires up the posts or columns. The beams and rafters that make up the roof are hollow 2x6 or 2x8 aluminum profiles with vinyl casings - meaning you can drill a hole anywhere in them and easily pull a wire through.

Whether you want the lighting directly in your pergola or lighting on the decking or landscaping below it (pictured in these two) - a Heartland Pergola completes a great looking outdoor room at day and night time!

Give us a call at the office at 563.345.6745 and we can help make your outdoor living space look great too!

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New Minneapolis area dealer - Pro Deck Supply!

Apr 03, 2017

We are excited to announce the addition of Pro Deck Supply to our family of dealers!  They are located on Broadway Street in Northeast Minneapolis, MN!  Pro Deck Supply is a specialty retail lumber yard that carries a vast array of top-quality products. Their customer-centric focus makes them a perfect new addition to the Heartland Pergolas dealer tree!

Check out their beautiful website here: or give them a call at (612) 331-5487!

Want to become a dealer? Call us at 563.345.6745 or email us at

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Watch a 16x16 get built in 60 seconds!

Mar 14, 2017

Below is a video of our crew installing a 16x16 pergola display at ASP Enterprises in Kansas City, MO. The actual installation time took 3 hours and 45 minutes.  Thanks to a Go-Pro we can show you the whole install in 60 seconds!

If you are interested in installation of our pergola kits you can find our YouTube series on installation here:

We have a video for every variant of every step in the pergola installation!  If there is something unique or specific you would like to know - all you have to do is call and ask. Our office line is 563.345.6745.

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Beautiful new pergola in Rochester, MN area!

Feb 14, 2017

We just received some pictures of a fantastic pergola up in Minnesota! Our Rochester area dealer, Custom Retaining Walls, partnered with The Tree House Landscape and Garden Center to build this beautiful pergola! The landscape pillars actually have lights built right in them, making for some impressive lighting at dusk and night time!

vinyl pergola kit with 75% shade level

Vinyl pergola kit on landscape pillars

vinyl pergola kit zommed out view

vinyl pergola kit front view on landscape pillars

This pergola actually went in on an assisted living facility. We can help out with pergola quotes whether it's for your house, your business, or a city project! Contact us about a vinyl pergola kit at 563-345-6745.

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Special request, just ask!

Jan 31, 2017

DIY's or contractors - we have instructions and guides available to you in both English and Spanish! If you have a special request that you need to complete a pergola kit installation, contact us and we will make it happen!

Our email is or you can call the office at 563.345.6745.


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