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Long a favorite in Mediterranean climates, pergolas are an attractive and practical way to add architectural interest to your landscape. Pergolas are constructed by placing a grid pattern of rafters and laths atop sets of columns to create a lattice-like roof over an outdoor space, providing pleasant, dappled shade to patios, decks, balconies and swimming pools decks. A variety of sun loving plants such as grape vines, climbing roses and clematis can be trained up the columns of a pergola to add even more charm. Pergolas can be custom built, but less expensive kits are available at garden centers, home improvement stores, and online sites. The following should be considered when buying a pergola:

  • Think about the size and style of pergola that will best suit your site. It should neither overwhelm your yard, nor should it look insignificant. Pergolas can be very formal or rustic, depending on the architecture of your house.
  • The rafters and laths of a pergola should be spaced according to how much shade you want. 16 inches to 24 inches is standard, but closer spacing will give you more shade. It is important to have enough laths to hold the rafters in place and keep them from twisting.
  • Make sure the columns are sturdy enough to support the mature weight of any vines you plan to grow on the pergola. The thick trunks of wisteria, for instance, are quite heavy and will cause flimsy structures to collapse over time.
  • Wood is the most traditional choice of construction material. Because pergolas will sit outside all year, a good quality weather resistant wood will last the longest. Mahogany can be left untreated to weather to a beautiful silver gray, but it is usually not available in lengths of more than 12 feet. Cedar can also be stained or coated with urethane, and it comes in longer lengths. Pressure treated lumber is also available and is usually less expensive.
  • Pergolas constructed from manmade composites offer a long lasting alternative to wood. They can be painted any color and are almost maintenance free.

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