What Is a Pergola?

Patio Wood Pergola

What is a pergola? There is a lot of confusion around the word pergola, but it can easily be defined. A pergola is a structure made of four sturdy supports, with a lattice or cross-hatched roof. It is not covered entirely, so rain or sunshine can still fall through it, but it can provide shade from the hottest of the afternoon’s rays.

This standard definition still leaves a lot of leeway for a pergola. A pergola can be made of cedar, composite vinyl, or even stone. It can support growing plants, have curtains added for privacy, or be attached to a home. Sometimes the top is just wooden beams, sometimes it’s latticework, or sometimes even a fancy canvas looped between the beams. But no matter the variation in top materials, its top is always flat. Pergolas can be included in a fence, out secluded in the woods, or in a park-like setting.

Pergolas as a design feature have been popular for thousands of years. It is no coincidence that pergolas look similar to Greek or Italian architecture. They have been constructed all over the Mediterranean as a restful garden structure, and provide great shade in sunny climates. Various styles of pergolas can be found in famous gardens all over the world.

Why People Build Pergolas

People build pergolas for a variety of reasons, depending on the size of their yard, their entertainment needs, their budgets, or their desire for privacy. At Long Fence, we are committed to helping you enjoy your yard again. Since 1945, we have worked with a variety of commercial and residential projects, building and designing pergolas that enhance their gardens.


A pergola offers a beautiful chance to extend your living space into the backyard. Whether it’s freestanding or attached to the home, a pergola can create a second living room to relax or entertain guests in. You might use it as a way to define an outdoor kitchen, or to house a hot tub. And you have to admit, soaking in a hot tub under the stars is a pretty amazing way to end a long day.


According to experts, a well-landscaped yard can add 5-12% more value to a home, depending on your neighborhood. If built along the sunny exterior of a home, a pergola could also help reduce the cooling costs of a home. Think of the pergola like an investment that you also get to enjoy every summer evening. At Long Fence, we have a variety of pergola and trellis styles that can fit into any budget because we know that backyard investments shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg.


If it feels like the neighborhood can see everything in your yard, a pergola is a great way to regain some privacy. You can add curtains, drapes, or lattice work to enhance your privacy, or soften the pergola’s beams with climbing vines. Obstruct the direct line of sight into your pool or hot tub area by erecting a pergola for privateness. By creating your own hideaway in your backyard, you can fall in love with your home all over again.


An essential part of landscaping design, hardscaping adds to the architectural design of a beautifully designed yard. A pergola provides a great backdrop for plants like bushes, climbing vines, or flowers. Because it’s designed to last for decades, a well-designed pergola can become the focal point of many family gatherings and pictures for years to come.


If your backyard becomes unbearable in the hot afternoon sun, a pergola can fix that! It can reduce the afternoon sun shining into your home and help you save on energy costs. If your pergola is a freestanding structure, you can encourage climbing vines like clematis, wisteria, bougainvillea, or roses to create an inviting shady spot to sit in. And while you sit in shade, the pergola’s open design means that you can still feel the cool breeze.

Trellises, Arbors, Gazebos and More

There are a lot of other backyard structures whose names are thrown around casually like they’re all the same kind of structure. Gazebo. Solarium. Arbor. Trellis. They’re similar, but not the same as the pergola. Their differences are pretty simple to point out.

A gazebo has a roof, while a pergola does not.

A solarium has a roof made of glass, while a pergola is usually made of wood or vinyl.

Sometimes solarium’s and gazebos are enclosed, while a pergola is never enclosed.

An arbor is so, so close to the pergola, and the words are often used interchangeably. But think instead of an arbor like a doorway to the garden or yard, and then you’ll realize that they’re smaller with gates, or plants, or fences attached.

A trellis, arbor, and pergola can all be used to support climbing plants, which quite frankly, is probably why they’re so often confused. But a trellis has latticework, and can be used as just a horizontal architectural element, or as a dividing space for outdoor areas, while a pergola is a much more substantial structure.

How to Customize Your Backyard Design

At Long Fence, we offer a variety of styles to suit whatever dream backyard you have in mind. We can customize pergolas to match an existing fence or new fence, and add elements like benches or built-in seating. A pergola can be used on its own, as a freestanding structure, or built against a home. We build pergolas, trellises, and arbors out of low maintenance vinyl, or classic red cedar.

Ultimately, we build pergolas, trellises, and fences that add value to your home, joy to your life, and peace and quiet to your backyard. Give us a call for a free estimate today!