What Is Pergolas | Building a Pergola On A Deck Step By Step Guide

Pergolas have long been cherished architectural features, weaving a blend of beauty and functionality into our outdoor spaces. Whether you’re an avid gardener, a home improvement enthusiast, or someone looking to enhance your deck, understanding pergolas is essential. In this article, we explore the ins and outs of pergolas, their utility, and the legalities and intricacies of building one.

What is a Pergola – Purpose Of A Pergola

At its core, a pergola is an open-air structure, typically consisting of vertical posts or pillars that support cross-beams and a sturdy open lattice. While they might seem purely decorative, pergolas serve a variety of purposes:

  • Shade Provision: Contrary to some beliefs, pergolas do offer shade. Although not as much as fully roofed structures, the lattice or slat design provides relief from direct sunlight, making it comfortable to lounge underneath.
  • Aesthetic Enhancement: They act as garden or yard focal points, enhancing the overall look and feel of the outdoor space.
  • Plant Support: The design of a pergola makes it a favorite for garden enthusiasts, as it provides an ideal framework for climbing plants.
  • Outdoor Extension: Pergolas can be seen as an extension of living spaces, especially when placed on decks or patios.

Building a Pergola On A Deck: Step-by-Step

Building a pergola on a deck requires careful planning and execution. Here’s how you can achieve it:

Plan & Design

  • Size & Position: Decide on the size of the pergola and its position on the deck.
  • Materials: Choose durable materials that match or complement your deck, such as pressure-treated wood, cedar, or vinyl.

 Gather Supplies

  • Lumber (posts, cross-beams, lattices)
  • Bolts and screws
  • Concrete
  • Tools (drill, saw, level, etc.)

Installation Process

  1. Secure Posts: Depending on the design of your deck, you may need to install post brackets on the deck’s surface to anchor the pergola. Drill holes and secure these brackets using bolts.
  2. Install Vertical Posts: Place the posts in the brackets and ensure they’re perfectly vertical using a level. Use concrete if necessary to solidify the base.
  3. Attach Cross-Beams:  Once the posts are secured, attach cross-beams to the top, ensuring they’re equally spaced.
  4. Add Lattice: Lay the lattice or slats perpendicular to the beams, ensuring even spacing for a balanced look.

Do Pergolas Provide Shade?

Yes, pergolas do provide shade, but the amount depends on their design. The closer the slats or lattices are to each other, the more shade they provide. For additional shade, consider:

– Using adjustable or retractable canopies.
– Growing climbing plants like vines or roses.
– Installing outdoor fabric for temporary shade during hotter months.

Do I Need a Permit to Build a Pergola?

Whether you need a permit largely depends on local regulations. However, some general guidelines include:

  1. Size Matters: Smaller pergolas may not require permits, while larger ones, especially those attached to a home, might.
  2. Location: Building in a conservation area or historical district often requires permission.
  3. Safety: Some municipalities may require an inspection to ensure the pergola is safely constructed.

Always check with your local city or county office before starting any construction. Building without a required permit could result in fines, mandatory removal, or issues when selling the property.


Pergolas are versatile structures that can transform an ordinary deck or garden into a charming relaxation spot. When considering adding one to your space, understanding its purpose, construction intricacies, and local regulations is crucial. With proper planning and execution, a pergola can be a delightful addition to any outdoor space.

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