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What is the difference between a pergola and a roof?

Many people think of a pergola as a roofed structure. At least as it relates to building codes, a pergola is almost always not considered a roof. This is because a roof, by it’s nature, prevents water and other elements from passing through it.

By design, water and elements pass through a pergola to a varying degree. It’s important to think about building codes and restrictions as well as HOA restrictions when deciding on an outdoor structure for your backyard.

Pergola and outdoor fireplace atop low maintenance deck
Lee’s Summit pergola and outdoor fireplace atop a deck

Wood pergola over patioOutside of the technical answer that a pergola is not a roof, from a functional perspective, there are a lot of similarities. For example, a pergola provides shade. The nice thing about a pergola is you can have a good bit of control on the amount of shade protection by the pergola design. Factors like cross beams, layers, and beam spacing will have a very significant impact on the amount of sun protection. Ninety percent of sun will come through pergola at noon whereas, as the sun sets at a certain angle, hitting the bars of the pergola provides varying degrees of shade.

In addition, although not a roofed structure, a pergola can add limited protection from other elements such as items falling from your trees such as leaves, pine cones and such. And, your pergola will also provide a limited amount of wind protection – again depending on the design.

Pergola over stone patio
Pergola over stone patio

Pergola over hot tubIn order to determine if a pergola is the right structure for you and what type of pergola to design, you really always want to go back to the most basic questions. These are the considerations you need to really think about before ever deciding or even considering what to build in your back yard. It’s so easy to see a beautiful structure in the neighborhood or in a magazine and think of how well that would complement your house or how beautiful that would look. But you want your custom outdoor space to be designed for living. Aesthetics are definitely important but how you live out back is the most important consideration.

  • How do you want to use it?
  • What do you want to use it for?
  • How much shade do you want?
  • Do you want weather protection?
  • Do you want to get wet?
  • Do you want wind protection?

Pergola on low maintenance deck
Pergola on elevated, low-maintenance deck in Lee’s Summit MO

If you have a decided that a pergola is the right structure for you, then there are a lot of choices again both aesthetically as well as functionally. From a functional standpoint, decide how much light you are looking for and at what times of the day do you want to have light pass through. Are you considering building a pergola purely for its aesthetic value like a pergola at the end of a long pool? Are you thinking about hanging things from your pergola such as plants?

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Are you ready to add a pergola to your Kansas City area home? Get in touch with our award-winning designers for a design consultation at (913) 704-6240.