Centuries ago, the first pergolas (from the Italian word for ‘a close walk of boughs’) were built in European gardens and walkways to provide partial shelter, shade, beauty, and were used as a place to grow flowering vines and fruit-bearing trees. While, during the Renaissance era, they became most popular in Mediterranean countries, they’ve now been widely adopted throughout Europe, mainly because they add an element of style, romance and sophistication to any garden as well as serving practical uses such as shade and plant support.

Whether you opt for a modern or traditional design, there’s no doubt that any garden – of any size – can benefit from the added structural interest of a pergola.

When it comes to choosing a style of pergola, you’ll be spoilt for choice! There are hundreds of pergola products available, including a wide range of relatively inexpensive, mass-manufactured styles which are available in standard, relatively small sizes (ie, under 25m²).

The most popular pergola styles are:

Flat roof pergolas: these are free-standing pergolas which feature traditional post and beam construction. Flat roof pergolas tend to be the most popular because they can be used almost anywhere. They also require less planning because you don’t have to coordinate the construction with another building due to its free-standing nature.

Arched roof pergolas: again free standing, the only difference with these pergolas is the fact that the roof style is different. Arched pergolas can also be made in any size, with many featuring lattice panel roofs that maximise shade.

Small pergolas: if space is tight or if you simply want a smaller structure, then small pergolas of around 3m x 3m can be an option.

When it comes to roof styles, the standard open roof is the most popular roof configuration, using roof slats with rafters perpendicular to the slats below. To maximise the shading capabilities of the standard open-roof design pergola, you should orient the rafters north and south. By doing this, as the sun moves from side to side over your rafters, the rafter height will maximise shade for most of the morning, giving you almost total shade for over half the day.

The lattice roof style creates the most shade and privacy for your garden and it’s also the lowest cost option to maximise shading, which is particularly important if you’re on a tight budget.

One final piece of advice: if you want your pergola to last for decades, make sure you get one that’s fully notched. In other words, every time two timbers touch, a notch should be added. This may take more time and it certainly increases the cost, but in addition to the fact that the stresses won’t sag or warp, notching also ensures that no timber ever moves an inch!

Get further ideas, advice & inspiration for your home by visiting the brand new Love Your Home Show taking place this October in the new Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast. Get your free ticket here.

For more information on the Love Your Home Show, take a look at our show page here.

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