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Choosing the Right Pergola Plans

Every pergola is like a fingerprint… giving you an easy way to express your individuality and differentiate your yard.

But the Internet is chock full of plans, differing in building materials and overall design. Which one to choose?  This article will help you decide.

Pergola Plan Consideration – Available Space

The first thing to decide is what size of pergola to build.  This is largely determined by how much space you have available.

The most common pergola size is 9 feet by 12 feet.  Don’t ask me why.  Of course, if you have more or less space you can alter the plans to cater.  Just keep in mind, the larger you choose to build it, the more support work you’ll have to do and the more materials you’ll have to buy.

I’m not a big fan of an overbearing pergola, instead opting for one that accents the yard instead of crowds it.  Let your personal taste be your guide.

Pergola Plan Consideration – Underlying Surface

Building on a concrete slab will have different considerations (i.e. – using pressure treated wood at the base) than building on top of an existing wood patio.

And if you’re building direct on soil, that brings its own bag of considerations with it.  You don’t want your pergola toppling over if the soil shifts, and you don’t want insects chewing away the sturdiness.

So, to avoid any issues in the future, make sure your plan addresses the surface you’re building on.

Pergola Plan Consideration – Building Materials

There’s a glut of materials you can build with.  I’ve heard of pergolas that make use of everything from cedar, to fiberglass, to vinyl, to PVC.

Each material has its own pros and cons… a topic beyond the scope of this article.  The most important properties to keep in mind are material durability, what surfaces the material can/ can’t touch, level of weather-resistance and how easy it is to drill/cut/maneuver.

I’d recommend always asking your friendly DIY home improvement store employee for guidance before stocking up on materials that might rot out in a week.

And don’t forget about the aesthetic quality, as well.  You’re building this thing because you want to beautify your yard… not build an eye sore out of PVC piping and rough fir.

Some vendors offer pergola kits that come “pre-packed” with materials.  This might be helpful if you’re not sure about material choices.

Pergola Plan Consideration – Design

Pergola designs are as varied as a hippy convention is colored. You can find plans for everything from modern to Doric.  There are two directions you can go when choosing a design…

The first is to pick one that complements (or matches) your house design.  This is the safest option; it’s hard to go wrong if your pergola feels like an extension to your house’s theme.

A second option is to pick a unique design specific for your pergola.  I prefer this.  See, I view a pergola as a ‘getaway’ within your yard and – in that vein – it should be more majestic than utilitarian.

Make the sight of pergola ‘feel’ like a waking dream… an oasis in the desert of daily stress… and a walking into your yard will seem like a vacation.

Pergola Plan Consideration – Plan Source

Not all plans are equal in quality.  Some are made by folks that have never swung a hammer in their life, plotting structures behind a computer screen.

My advice: source your plan from a reputable source. Somebody that has real-world building experience and has built a pergola before. That, or a reputable DIY store that has plans on offer.

But what about free pergola plans?  Well, some of them are good… and others, not so much. My mentality when it comes to building plans is this: you end up paying for it, one way or another.

Better to go with plans you know are top-quality (even at a price) than to build a sloppy, ugly, maybe-it-will-stand pergola (even if the plans are free).


Published in Build a Pergola


  1. I really like what you said maybe considering getting a “pre-packed” materials, so that you know you have everything. For me, I am a huge fan of wood, but I’m not sure which kind. I should probably look into that, and see which is the most durable.

  2. Wood is the way to go on pergolas, in my humble opinion its nobility and warmth cannot be matched ! The question though is what essence ?

  3. While wood pergolas still have a lot to offer aesthetically, the powder-coated aluminum and the vinyl PVC versions that are now available, are definitely more durable and require much less maintenance. On top of that, there are numerous styles available for you to choose from.

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