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Pergola vs. Roof: Which is Best for Your Outdoor Living Space?

Do You Go With the Designer Flair of a Pergola or Play It Safe With a Roof?

If you plan on spending more time outside, you’ll need some kind of overhead structure to shelter you from the elements. For many homeowners, their options come down to a pergola or a roof. Either can be freestanding or an extension of the home but there are considerable differences that could add or detract from your intended aesthetic and use of the space.

Let compare these two structures and the role they could play in your backyard.

Let the Light In?

Pergolas are attractive and airy, offering plenty of daylight for your mid-day cookout. That’s by design. Many pergolas feature a series of rafters, spaced evenly apart, that serve as a sort of “roof.” They provide some shade and little else, which means those looming storm clouds could very well soak your barbecue. Run for cover!

For homeowners who are willing to block out the sun in exchange for overhead protection, a porch roof makes more sense.

Which Costs More: A Pergola or a Roof?

When budgeting for your outdoor living project, a pergola is typically the more affordable option. But these structures don’t run cheap. That’s especially true if you plan to use premium materials such as cedar. And there are ongoing maintenance costs to consider. There will be sweat equity in maintaining a natural wood pergola – periodic painting or staining will be required. This task will either fall to you, the homeowner, or must be performed by a hired professional. Thus, future costs will be incurred.

Additionally, a pergola might not withstand many years of exposure to the elements and could require replacing. On the other hand, a roof is a permanent structural addition to your home. It will become an extension of your home. Materials required to build a roof, such as shingles, are rated for much longer lifespans – shingles, for instance can be guaranteed for 30 years.

Custom pergola over patio
Custom cedar pergola design

Many clients, who are considering a pergola instead of a roof, are looking for an open-air feel in their outdoor living space. They might think that a roof feels too obtrusive or closed-in. Truth is, we have designed many roofed porches that establish a distinctly bright and airy feel.

The height of the roof, and choice of roof style play into how much light enters the space to keep an airy feel. In addition, color can be utilized to achieve the same. For instance, a white or light-colored ceiling will keep the space feeling open and bright. As well, special roof design elements can further enhance the open-air feel, such as the custom gable inset roof above.

You can have the best of both worlds with a pergola and a roof! When it comes to rain, hot sunshine, or even falling leaves, a porch with a roof will offer better usability than one covered by a pergola. Notice in the photo above, the roofed areas are fully shaded from the high sun, while the pergola allows the sun to shine through. In the past, we have built pergolas for clients, who opt to add sunshades to keep out excess sunlight. If you prefer more protection from sunlight, we recommend building a roof over building a pergola – or opt for both a roof and a pergola!

Custom deck with pergola
Composite deck and pergola design

Falling leaves are no match for a roofed outdoor living design. That is not to say that you will never have leaves or fallen debris on your roofed porch – but it will be substantially less than if it were only covered by a pergola.

Are you looking for form over function in your outdoor living design? Are you envisioning a pergola with decorative elements, such as lighting, fans, and added accoutrements, like hanging plants and creeping vines? Pergolas are beautiful designer outdoor living additions, which offer a little less usability, and potentially much more maintenance than a roof.

Are you considering ultimate usability, even in less-than-perfect weather conditions? Are you thinking of a finished cathedral ceiling with custom lighting and fans? Perhaps a beautiful open gable or open rafter roof design trips your fancy. If you want more bang for your buck, a roof is the right choice for you.

If you find yourself torn between the benefits and drawbacks of either design, why not add a roofed area and a pergola-covered area to your outdoor living design? Each of our projects is custom-tailored to the specific outdoor living needs of our clients. We aim to build the space that is perfect for your home and family, which means there is no wrong answer – only the answer that is right for you!

Pergolas can also be more expensive to maintain.

We must also consider future maintenance costs for pergolas. There will be sweat equity in maintaining a natural wood pergola – periodic painting or staining will be required. This task will either fall to you, the homeowner, or must be performed by a hired professional. Thus, future costs will be incurred.

Additionally, a pergola might not withstand many years of exposure to the elements and could require replacing. On the other hand, a roof is a permanent structural addition to your home. It will become an extension of your home. Materials required to build a roof, such as shingles, are rated for much longer lifespans – shingles, for instance can be guaranteed for 30 years.

Porch with open gable roof
Covered porch with open gable roof design

Many clients, who are considering a pergola instead of a roof, are looking for an open-air feel in their outdoor living space. They might think that a roof feels too obtrusive or closed-in. Truth is, we have designed many roofed porches that establish a distinctly bright and airy feel.

Porch with gable inset roof
Covered porch with gable inset roof

The height of the roof, and choice of roof style play into how much light enters the space to keep an airy feel. In addition, color can be utilized to achieve the same. For instance, a white or light-colored ceiling will keep the space feeling open and bright. As well, special roof design elements can further enhance the open-air feel, such as the custom gable inset roof above.

Composite deck with cedar pergola and roofs
Composite deck with roofs and a pergola

You can have the best of both worlds with a pergola and a roof! When it comes to rain, hot sunshine, or even falling leaves, a porch with a roof will offer better usability than one covered by a pergola. Notice in the photo above, the roofed areas are fully shaded from the high sun, while the pergola allows the sun to shine through. In the past, we have built pergolas for clients, who opt to add sunshades to keep out excess sunlight. If you prefer more protection from sunlight, we recommend building a roof over building a pergola – or opt for both a roof and a pergola!

Porch with roof and seating area
Porch and deck outdoor living design

Falling leaves are no match for a roofed outdoor living design. That is not to say that you will never have leaves or fallen debris on your roofed porch – but it will be substantially less than if it were only covered by a pergola.

Deck with pergolaAre you looking for form over function in your outdoor living design? Are you envisioning a pergola with decorative elements, such as lighting, fans, and added accoutrements, like hanging plants and creeping vines? Pergolas are beautiful designer outdoor living additions, which offer a little less usability, and potentially much more maintenance than a roof.

Porch with finished ceilingAre you considering ultimate usability, even in less-than-perfect weather conditions? Are you thinking of a finished cathedral ceiling with custom lighting and fans? Perhaps a beautiful open gable or open rafter roof design trips your fancy. If you want more bang for your buck, a roof is the right choice for you.

If you find yourself torn between the benefits and drawbacks of either design, why not add a roofed area and a pergola-covered area to your outdoor living design? Each of our projects is custom-tailored to the specific outdoor living needs of our clients. We aim to build the space that is perfect for your home and family, which means there is no wrong answer – only the answer that is right for you!

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Are you ready to discuss your new deck or porch design with a pergola or a roof? Get in touch with our award-winning designers for a design consultation at (913) 578-8990.

Are you ready to discuss your new deck or porch design with a pergola or a roof? Get in touch with our award-winning designers for a design consultation at (913) 578-8990.