Pergolas provide a great outdoor area for entertainment with your family or guests. They are usually spacious, giving you room to play board games or spend quality time under the shade. Imagine sitting inside a pergola in your backyard while your kids are asleep. And you get to enjoy the night sky and calming breeze beside your partner. That’s the type of comfort & luxury pergolas aim to provide; something a covered roof will simply fail to do so.
Pergolas are usually not covered, mainly because it is meant to preserve the outdoor setting in your backyard and let sunlight, breeze, and the natural environment soak in. However, it is possible to cover a pergola with a roof to provide shelter from the rain & sunlight.
5 Reasons Why Pergolas Are Not Covered
Pergolas are generally built with an open-roof structure. They are placed in the backyard to create an outing spot that lets everyone; friends, family, & guests, share laughter & bond.
Top 5 Reasons for keeping pergolas uncovered are:
- Natural Ambiance: Pergolas are widely open, & spacious to allow people to indulge in nature & among themselves.
- Open & Inviting: Pergolas are great for endless conversations under a fresh blue sky, or a star-lit night.
- Free Flowing Wind: Due to their openness, they allow for wind & breeze that we cannot experience indoors.
- Aesthetic Scenery: Pergolas overlook your entire backyard. Your kids can play in the yard, while you rest and keep a watchful eye over them.
- A True Outdoor Experience: Unlike other structures, a pergola is open at all angles. This gives you a true outing experience that lets you closer to nature amidst your busy life.
Can Pergolas Protect Me from Harmful Sunlight?
In our daily lives, we barely get enough sunlight, which is the main source of vitamin D and contributes to staying healthy. So, should a pergola shade you from sunlight completely? Or should it not?
Despite being uncovered, pergolas do provide shade. With an open roof structure, pergolas let sunlight in but protect you from being exposed to direct sunlight. However, the amount of sunlight you receive will depend on the geo-location, how open your backyard is, and the position of the pergola to the sun.
In general, a pergola:
- Shades about 20%-30% of the sun’s light
- Can be improved to block 80% of sunlight
- Protects from direct exposure to sunlight
- Gives an open space for outdoor gatherings
In contrast, a pergola will protect you from harmful sunlight, while allowing enough light to help you enjoy nature. But, if you want to reduce the amount of sunlight going through the pergola, there are some innovative & appealing ways to achieve that.
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3 Ways to Improve Cover for Pergolas
Homeowners often look for ways to obtain more shade from their pergolas. This might be due to excessive sunlight coming through the open roof, or to just avert the sun as much as possible. You could hire a professional or opt for a DIY approach. While doing so, you should keep in mind the durability, sustainability, and affordability of the method you choose. Let me suggest some wonderful ways you can improve both the aesthetic value & the shade your pergola provides.
1. Retractable Covers
There are many innovative options to install a retractable cover for your pergola. These covers are compatible with most types of pergolas made from wood. The mechanism could be as simple as pulling a cord or pushing a button. You can choose to retract the covers when you feel like basking in the sun or let the cover provide shade for you when you need it.
Retractable covers come in a variety of designs including:
- Motorized Pergola Roof: A motorized pergola roof is easy to operate as it only requires a push of a button. They can be made from various materials like wood, aluminum, and more. A click covers the top of your pergola with shade, and another click retracts the covers, allowing sunlight in.
- Retractable Fabric: By installing a retractable fabric overhead, you can control the amount of sunlight that gets in your pergola. This versatile solution lets you extend the covers when you need shade, and retract when you want lighter or want to stargaze.
- Adjustable Louvered Roof: An adjustable louvered roof has slats that can be tilted to control the amount of sunlight that enters the space. This solution is also useful to protect against rain as the tilted angle helps rainwater roll off.
- Retractable Roller Shades: Attachable outdoor roller shades are an excellent choice to block out the sun when you want to. They can be easily rolled down to obstruct sunlight and rolled back up again when not needed. Such shades can be made of bamboo, fabric, vinyl & other lightweight materials.
What’s better than plants & trees for shade? Something people have used for thousands of years! Dense trees & vegetation were once the key elements in providing shelter from harsh sunlight. You can grow climbing plants near the pergola which will provide natural shade from the sun once the plants grow. If you like gardening, this could be an excellent option for you!
You could enjoy growing plants across your yard and pergola to enhance nature’s beauty across your home. At the same time, they will provide vital shade from the sun. Some popular plants to grow near pergolas are:
- Grapes: Grapes have a blend of beauty and productivity in it. While covering your pergola in sophisticated grapevines, they will also provide much-needed shade and most importantly, delicious fruits.
- Honeysuckle: Honeysuckle is another climber plant that produces sweet-smelling flowers. So in addition to shade, you also get a beautiful fragrance-filled pergola.
- Jasmine: Planting jasmine covers your pergola in lush green foliage & fragrant white flowers. Expand your gardening hobby with a pergola filled with breathtaking flowers.
- Wisteria: Wisteria flowers come in shades of purple, blue, or white that give stunning visuals. They are climbing plants that can encapsulate your pergola to shade from the sun & improve your home’s aesthetics.
Many homeowners take on a method in which they wrap the pergola with fabric. This includes covering the top and sides of the pergola, leaving space for people to enter. This may not completely block out the sun, but will significantly improve the cover for sunlight.
Options for using fabric as a cover for pergolas include:
- Sunbrella Fabric: Sunbrella is a popular choice for outdoor applications due to its unique features. It’s known for its durability, fade resistance, and wide range of colors and patterns. Sunbrella fabrics are also water-resistant, so they stay vibrant & appealing rain after rain.
- UV-Treated Fabrics: There are fabrics available in the market that can be treated with a UV-resistant coating to provide effective protection from sunlight. Polyester fabric, canvas fabric, olefin fabric, or polypropylene fabric are some fabrics to name with such characteristics.
- Bamboo or Reed Mats: Natural materials like bamboo or reed mats can add an aesthetic touch to your pergola while providing improved shade. They are not as effective as other options but can create a unique, natural ambiance in your yard. This option is also viable in roller shade design, giving you the versatility to roll down & up whenever you need.
Is It Possible to Put a Roof on My Pergola?
Regardless of the shade that pergolas provide, it might not be enough for some homeowners. Even though it is not common, a roof can be installed on your pergola at the cost of nature’s beauty. But, if blocking sunlight is your main objective, then this is the right solution for you.
Benefits of Installing Roof Cover on Pergola
Roof covers for pergolas such as sky cover protect you from harsh sunlight & UV rays while still providing some light. This makes your pergola more secure & allows you to hang out even during rain.
More benefits of roof covers for pergolas include:
- The UV-resistant coating on sky covers protects you from the harmful rays of the sun, which is considered to cause cancer.
- The same coating also safeguards your pergola’s material, extending its lifespan & preserving its appearance.
- Roof covers may also shelter from the rain, giving you the versatility to enjoy the rain from under the pergola.
- Sky covers also help lower the temperature in your pergola. By eliminating direct sunlight, they can efficiently reduce temperature by 10 to 20 degrees.
Pergola vs. Pavilion
A pavilion is referred to as a pergola with a fixed roof. They are often sturdier and are able to withstand strong winds & harsh weather conditions. But which one should you choose?
Let me break down the key differences for you, so you, as a homeowner, can make better decisions.
Though pergolas provide adequate shelter from sun, rain, and winds, they cannot completely block off these natural elements. On the other hand, a pavilion with a roof is more prepared to tackle such elements as water, sunlight, snow, and fast-blowing winds.
When it comes to maintenance, a pavilion is harder to maintain & take care of in comparison with a pergola. Furthermore, a pavilion costs more than a pergola does, including maintenance costs & labor.
A pavilion may provide enough shelter for you and your guests as rain pours outside, while all of you continue to enjoy each other’s company without having to run indoors. On the other hand, you can achieve a similar effect with retractable roofs or UV-resistant fiberglass shades on your pergola. Consider all aspects like costs, maintenance, aesthetic value, usage, and more to decide what is best for you. You may also consult a professional to help you!
Pergolas are designed without covers for a specific reason, that is to bring you closer to nature, & give you a true outing experience. It lets you enjoy quality time with your friends, family, and close ones without exposing too much sunlight, and lets winds flow freely; an amazing combination if you ask me!
If you have a pergola and you are wondering why it is not covered on the top, it is to give you balanced shelter & exposure for an enjoyable outdoor gathering. If not having a covered roof bothers you then, consider planting climbers like grapes & flower plants, or choose retractable roof covers. I hope this article helped satisfy your curiosity regarding pergolas.
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I am Donald M. Beyer and I am backyard enthusiasts. I am a homeowner who has been doing DIY projects in and out of my house for many years. From simple backyard lunches to making an old-school pizza oven in my own backyard, I have a lot of experience in turning my backyard into my and my family’s personal playground.