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Pergola vs. Patio Cover: The Complete Guide

Pergola vs. Patio Cover: The Complete Guide

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One of the best aspects of moving into a house is having a beautiful backyard. You can use the space as a lounge area or even install a pool for the summer.

However, no outdoor space is complete without a little shade. With all the options available on the market, choosing just one can be challenging.

So, if you’re trying to decide between pergola vs. patio cover, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll walk you through the major similarities and differences between the two.

Pergola Basics

A pergola is an outdoor structure that can provide a bit of shade in your backyard.

Typically, it’s a wooden frame that consists of four columns. We place the poles in the ground to secure the pergola into position.

Then, using horizontal beams, we connect the columns to each other. This provides extra stability to the building.

Finally, we place an open roof on the top to round out the structure. The roof consists of a few wooden slabs that offer partial shade.

Moving on, the sides of the pergolas are usually bare. That means you can enter and exit from multiple locations.

This open design blends into your backyard and makes the area appear larger.

Sadly, since the top contains some gaps, pergolas can’t protect you from the elements. Both sunlight and rain can make it through the cracks and fill the space.

Types of Pergolas

Since pergolas have been around for many years, there are a few different iterations. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular varieties.

1 – Stand-Alone Pergolas

Stand-alone pergolas are free-standing structures that you can install outdoors. You dig a few holes and plant the columns in your garden to secure them in place.

Once that’s done, you place a flat roof on top. This simple construction makes pergolas incredibly versatile.

Generally, people will place them in a corner of their backyard along with a fire pit. That creates a small, cozy spot for you and your family to gather.

Other than that, you can use pergolas as pool covers. The little shade they provide is an excellent way to protect yourself from the sun as you splash around.

They’ll also add a touch of privacy to the space.

2 – Arched Pergolas

These structures are similar to stand-alone pergolas. The only visible difference is the shape of the roof.

Instead of a standard flat top, these buildings have arched roofs. This creates a much wider open area under the pergola.

That’s why these structures are popular with people who have smaller backyards.

Other than the increased space, these pergolas also add an interesting design element. The arch can make your garden look more modern and sophisticated.

3 – Paneled Pergolas

As we mentioned, traditional pergolas use open roofs. To produce this effect, we use a few rafters and grates to create a lattice with sizable gaps.

This is aesthetically pleasing, but once you install the roof, you can’t change it later on.

For slightly more control, you can opt for a paneled pergola. It has the same foundation as the stand-alone variety with a twist.

The roof consists of panels instead of grates. These are solid surfaces that you can maneuver and slide around.

That allows you to decide how much sunlight, if any, makes it into the pergola.

Patio Cover Basics

As you can guess by the name, these are any structures that can cover your patio. Traditionally, they attach to a secondary building and rely on it for support.

Instead of a stand-alone structure, patio covers are extensions of your home. This allows you to create a seamless passageway between your home and the outdoors.

For shade and protection from the weather, they come with a fabric cover.

To make using the structures easier, they have three open sides. Besides that, patio covers can be foldable or removable so they don’t get in your way.

Types of Patio Covers

There are hundreds of ways to cover your patio. Some of them are incredibly elaborate and ornate, while others are simple and classic.

Depending on your needs, the type of patio cover you install will change.

1 – Patio Awning

The most common cover is an awning. It attaches to the wall and drapes over your patio.

This will provide an interesting design element as well as shade.

The awning will exclusively rely on your house for support. It won’t have any vertical columns to help it stay in place.

That means the construction is a bit wobbly, which makes it difficult to hang objects like lights.

For the roof, awnings will have a fabric cover, which is waterproof and opaque to keep the sun out.

2 – Patio Canopy

Canopies are almost a cross between a pergola and a tent. Just like an awning, we connect these covers to the wall.

However, they also have other supports that help them stay upright. A canopy can have anywhere from one to four additional columns.

Once the poles are in place, we drape a large sheet of fabric over the whole structure. The material can cover the sides or just lay on top.

This provides a lot of shade and protection from the elements.

Pergola vs. Patio Cover: What’s the Difference?

While both structures provide shade, they’re not the same. There are quite a few differences between pergolas and patio covers.

1 – Support

One of the main differences between the two structures is the support. Pergolas normally have four or more legs to stand on.

As for patio covers, since they attach to the wall, they may not have any columns at all. So, the weight distribution is uneven, which can mess with stability.

Unfortunately, that means patio covers can’t handle as much wear and tear.

With pergolas, you can hang items, like swings and lights, off the horizontal beams. You can try to do the same with patio covers, but they may collapse under the weight.

2 – Roofs

The roofs of pergolas and patio covers are also wildly different.

When you look at pergolas, you’ll notice that the roof consists of wooden planks with gaping holes.

This allows the sun and a small breeze to pass through. That makes it seem like you’re in the outdoors while still enjoying some protection from the weather.

On the other hand, patio covers come with a fabric roof. As you can imagine, this is much more effective at keeping sunlight and rain out.

In addition, since the fabric is separate from the actual building, you can switch it out at any point.

That makes patio covers much more customizable than pergolas.

3 – Construction Materials

Traditionally, patio covers and pergolas consist of a wooden frame. However, over the years, we’ve come up with many more options.

Even though wood provides the most natural finish, it’s not all that durable. You’ll need to polish and wax the structures multiple times throughout the year to maintain them.

For that reason, nowadays we use less reactive materials like stone and aluminum. These offer excellent durability and an amazing final look.

Still, for even more stability, you can opt for fiberglass.

Both structures are available in these materials. Yet, pergolas tend to be wooden, while patio covers are metallic.

4 – Cost

When it comes to price, it’s difficult to decide which one is more expensive. There are a few different variables that come into play when figuring out the cost of a structure.

First off, size is a major deciding factor. The larger your building is, the more expensive it’ll be.

Most of the time, pergolas are slightly more sizable than patio covers.

Another crucial factor is articulation. If your patio cover is movable or foldable, it’ll require some type of mechanism to operate it.

This involves extra materials and maybe even a motor. In that case, the patio cover will be far more pricey than a pergola.

Finally, you also have to take into account the construction materials. On average, wood tends to be a little more affordable than metal.

Final Thoughts

When deciding on pergola vs. patio cover, there are a few factors you should consider. To start off, you have to think about the support each structure has.

Pergolas usually have columns, while patio covers have a free edge. This makes the latter slightly less stable.

Moving on, the roofs of both structures are also distinct. Patio covers offer much more protection from the elements than pergolas.

Finally, when it comes to construction, both of them come in a variety of materials.

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