You finally bought the house of your dreams with a big master bedroom and kitchen complete with the latest state-of-the-art appliances. You go out and you have a beautiful landscape getting ready to be filled with your favorite plants and flowers and perhaps a small space for some of your home-grown produce. Then there’s also that space for those summer parties that are begging to be filled with music, fun, and drinks. Your contractor mentions that you should probably get an arbor, a pergola or a patio cover to keep you and your guests protected come rain or shine. You balk at the idea and suddenly you’re confused. What exactly is the difference between the three?
You would probably be more familiar with a pergola usually used for swing stands. It’s casually thrown around more often and is commonly used to describe any outdoor roofed structure. There are actually differences on how the three items are built.
Pergola comes from the Latin word Pergula, which means projecting eave. These structures were proposed during the Italian Renaissance period to reproduce the villas during the Ancient Roman period. It was mostly a wooden structure that protruded or extended from the exterior wall of the house on which the other end was then supported by columns. It was also used in Ancient Greece and Egypt and back then, pergolas had intricate carvings with different wooden vines crawling through.
More commonly, pergolas often had latticed roofs on which vines were grown to make it an even more prominent feature of a garden. These days, some pergolas are built with covered roofs to offer more protection against sun and rain. Pergolas can either be a permanently attached to a house or freestanding by itself. As a freestanding structure, it consists of four columns or more complete with beam support. This structure can either be open with a lattice frame, covered with a fabric or other lightweight materials. It usually comes in DIY kits with easy-to-follow plans or custom-built for you by a contractor. Some pergolas also have built-in seating.
As an extended part of the house, it is attached to an exterior wall with the other end supported by two or more columns. It forms what we know as patio, deck or porch.
In some public areas, you’ll find long pergolas as part of walkways.
Arbors are typically part of a landscape design as an entrance to a different part of the garden. Think of it as a doorway, often arched, to a different area. It’s smaller than a pergola and may sometimes be attached to a fence. It lacks the architectural elements that a column has like beams and columns. Some benches have arbors attached to it and are often used as a central feature of a garden. Arbors usually include only two posts and are mostly made of wood, metal or vinyl.
Patio covers are literally covering for patios so these may be used interchangeably with pergolas. It is a permanent attachment to a house often extending the use of the house hence forming the patio.