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!