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What are the different types of pergola designs available?

An outdoor space that can add both shade and style to your property, a pergola can be the ultimate backyard addition - but only if you choose a design that complements your home and offers all the functionality that you need.

In this guide, we'll offer up a bit of pergola design inspiration, in the form of a few key decisions that you should make when thinking up pergola ideas, and bringing your dreams to reality.

Pergola material options

The first and perhaps most important consideration is the material that you plan to make your pergola from. There are four main pergola material options, and each brings its own set of pros and cons:

  • Timber: The traditional pergola material, wood brings a natural, organic look to your outdoor living area. It can be the cheapest pergola material (depending on the wood you choose), but it requires far more maintenance than the other options on this list, and it may not last as long even with your hard work.

  • Aluminium: The go-to material for modern pergolas and patios, aluminium is strong, durable, light and beautiful. It generally costs a little more than other pergola materials, but it is undoubtedly the best option.

  • Steel: The strongest option on this list, you can be confident that a steel pergola will last a lifetime. It's heavier than aluminium, making it trickier to build with, and it also doesn't offer quite as clean or beautiful a finish. Some mixed material pergolas may feature steel where extra strength is needed, such as weight bearing columns and beams.

  • Vinyl: Vinyl pergolas actually feature a frame made from wood or metal, but this skeleton is then clad in vinyl to protect it and make it easier to maintain. Vinyl will eventually degrade when exposed to the elements though, so this option won't last as long as a painted steel or aluminium structure. 

Attached vs freestanding

Do you plan to attach your pergola to your home, or do you want a freestanding structure? Depending on the layout of your yard, this choice might already be made for you.

The most popular option is an attached pergola connected to the home, so you can access the outdoor space without being exposed to the weather. Attached pergolas also make use of the structural integrity of your house, which can reduce the time, cost and complexity to install a pergola. 

A freestanding pergola, meanwhile, can form a stunning addition to your garden - a secluded spot that can be the perfect place to soak up the summer sun. It will need to be self-supporting though, and you may find yourself running back to the house through the rain if the weather turns.

Open vs closed

Historically a traditional wood pergola wouldn't have a roof at all. These simple timber-framed structures instead used vines and climbing plants like wisteria to provide shade. These days open pergolas are less popular, though this rarity has sort of worked in their favour, turning them into a uniquely beautiful and rustic addition to a backyard.

By adding a pergola roof you also add a lot more functionality to your outdoor living space, as it will protect you from rain, hail and snow. By strategically positioning your pergola within a house alcove or more protected spot, you can also block out other elements like wind and dew. 

Retractable pergolas

Why choose between an open or closed pergola when you can have the best of both worlds? Choose wisely, and with the press of a button you can transform your pergola to create extra shade and privacy.

Retractable pergolas are the latest and greatest shade structures. This perfectly modern pergola design features aluminium panels that can be opened and retracted, allowing sunlight into your outdoor area on a warm sunny day. When weather conditions turn, you can close them up to enjoy extra protection.

A quality louvred pergola, such as the Johnson & Couzins SkyLouvre System, will be built from strong, lightweight and beautiful aluminium. We even offer wall-mounted Vertical SkyLouvres that can turn an open party space into a perfectly secluded and intimate outdoor room.

Pergola flooring

When it comes to pergola design ideas, the surface within a pergola over is just as important as the outdoor structure that covers it. While you can build a pergola over a wealth of different surfaces - concrete, grass, bitumen, tiles and more - most Kiwis choose between two main options: 

1. Pavers

A simple, strong and beautiful solution, pavers are built to last a lifetime and can add a decorative touch to your outdoor area. They are also perfectly low maintenance, only requiring an occasional sweep or hose down. The main downside of pavers is they require a relatively flat surface, and may be difficult or expensive to install on sloped blocks.

2. Timber decking

Arguably the more beautiful of the two main surface options, timber decking brings an organic finish to your pergola construction, particularly if the structure is made of a more industrial material like steel or aluminium. Timber decking is also a popular choice for sloping blocks that may not be suitable for paver installation. Like wood pergolas, timber decking does require regular upkeep to look its best, although modern composite materials can make maintenance a little easier than it used to be.

Johnson & Couzins: NZ’s ultimate pergolas

No matter your reason for wanting a pergola, and no matter your budget, backyard or tastes, by understanding your options and making the right choices you can be confident of finding a pergola that ticks all your boxes.

It’s important to view your pergola as an investment. By choosing a high quality, long-lasting, beautiful and functional pergola, you’ll use it more, you’ll enjoy it more, and you’ll add far more value to your home.

At Johnson & Couzins we are the go-to brand for high-end pergolas in NZ. Our aluminium retractable pergolas represent the pinnacle in quality, beauty and functionality, and transform any property they are added to.

Interested in enhancing your home with a retractable pergola? Get in touch with our friendly team today.

FAQs

What is the best pergola design for windy areas?

In windy areas, the right pergola is a strong pergola. A high quality, professionally installed steel or aluminium pergola will be able to stand up to almost anything that Mother Nature can throw at it. And by adding Vertical SkyLouvres, you can ensure your pergola offers your outdoor kitchen and seating area total protection from draughts and sideways rain, even in the windiest of conditions.

Can I customise a pergola design to match my home architecture?

You can most certainly customise your pergola to suit your home. In fact, at Johnson & Couzins we have a team of in-house engineers tasked with doing exactly that! We take care of the whole process for you, from design and manufacture to installation (Feel free to check out our Pergola designs in our Gallery). We've seen and built it all before, so we can cater to whatever request you might have.

What are the maintenance requirements for different pergola materials?

Quality steel, aluminium and vinyl pergolas are more or less maintenance-free - you just need to wipe or spray them down to clean them. You'll need to be prepared for far higher levels of maintenance if you choose a wooden pergola though - as an organic material, timber is more susceptible to the elements, particularly in particularly hot, humid or rainy climates.

How much does it typically cost to install different types of pergolas?

How long is a piece of string? From basic DIY timber kits through to high-quality, feature-packed aluminium retractable designs, the cost of pergolas varies greatly.

Perhaps the more important question is how much of a return you will get from your investment, in terms of beauty, functionality, durability, usability and adding value to your home. In that respect, no pergola can quite match a Johnson & Couzins pergola in terms of adding value to your property and lifestyle.

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