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Pergola Shades

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Pergola Shades - Maintain the Beauty of your Pergola with the Proper Choice of Shade

Pergolas are an interesting garden structure because they have the capability to be freestanding and therefore can become a focal point for your outdoor landscape. They don’t have to be attached to a building like a trellis. While an attached pergola has the advantage of being supported by a larger structure, a freestanding pergola must be built very strong and sturdy. That need for strength intensifies when you add shades or canopy covers to the pergola.

There are different ways to shade your pergola. The first thing to realize is that in the summer, the top of the pergola must be covered to screen the heat of the mid day sun. The sides of the pergola must be covered to screen out morning and afternoon sun and keep you cool. At other times of the year when the sun is lower in the sky, the sun can beam through the sides so strong it can blind you, especially before and after the leaves have left the trees, so you will need the sides protected.


Wind is another important issue to analyze before deciding what type of pergola shades you should use. For a pergola with shades, the windier your site, the stronger must be your structure and the more open must be the mesh of your knitted shade fabric or netting.

Covering the Pergola on Top

To cover the top of your pergola you have a few options. One option is to do it your self with a roll of shade cloth, a ladder, some tools and some handy skills. You could remove the top layer of wood slats or joists from the pergola, staple or nail your precut pieces of fabric, mesh or netting. Coolaroo knitted shade fabric that blocks 70% UV rays is a good choice. Once attached, replace your wood pieces on top of the fabric. This seems like a quick, easy solution, but could be problematic when it is time to clean the fabric or re-treat the pergola.

To provide a bit more shade, but not cover the top of the pergola completely, one could add a layer or two of wood slats and joists. This method of producing shade will result in a dappled shade/sun effect. Or one could grow plants on top of the pergola that would result in the same effect. Try vines like Wisteria, Grapes, and robust Clematis varieties to quickly grow up and over the top of your pergola. Even without leaves these plants will screen your pergola and add a living element.

Custom Pergola Covers

Pergola shade can also be achieved by buying pre sized or custom covers to fit the top of your pergola. These are sometimes called patio covers with the understanding that there must be a structure to hold the cover. That structure is your pergola! Companies like Alumawood and Durawood make these covers and there is a usually a choice between fabrics that are designed to be sun screens and water resistant and cloth that is completely waterproof, that also, incidentally, almost completely screen out the sun. These shades may be constructed on wood frames, or may just include hem and grommets for installation.

Covering the Pergola Sides

To treat the sides of your pergola for sun and wind protection look for large size roll up shades or blinds made of bamboo, wood, or plastic, or outdoor curtains. Attention to how these shades, blinds or curtains hang from your pergola is an important detail to consider for utilitarian and aesthetic reasons. Wind is the main element to worry about here, so use locking clips to attach the free hanging shades or curtains along their sides to hardware you install on the pergola beams, to keep them from flapping around too much and being damaged or damaging you! Another benefit to installing side screening to your pergola is that you can achieve a little privacy too!

One last option for pergola shades that should be mentioned here is the idea of buying a pergola that comes with it’s own canopy. Walpole Woodworkers, a United States company that is the gold standard of landscape structures, offers a vinyl pergola with custom canopy made from sun screen fabrics by Shadefx, or waterproof fabrics by Sattler. Canopies can often cover the top of the pergola as well as providing shade and wind panels for the sides, effectively making them into outdoor rooms very well protected from all kinds of weather. If your pergola is a focal point of your garden and landscape though, you might not be picturing this sort of structure. Pergolas are thought of as open, airy places, so you may prefer to choose as little covering as possible to get the job done.