15 Jun 2021

Take Cover

Over the last year, gardens have become sanctuaries for homeowners craving a little escapism from the rest of the household or home-working setups.


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Although normality is now beginning to resume, many will continue to make the most of their outdoor spaces. In fact, in a survey conducted by Rated People, 64% of UK residents say they wouldn’t consider a home that didn’t have any outdoor space. Further, 47% of residents are said to be planning garden renovations this year, despite lockdown measures easing. Leigh Barnes, Retail Sales Manager at Jacksons Fencing, investigates further.

There are endless options available when considering a garden renovation. Once you’ve tackled the essential elements, including fencing, paving and turf, you can steer your focus to the more intricate landscaping details.

Versatile elements, such as pergolas, are a brilliant addition to a garden. These outdoor structures – typically made up of vertical posts or pillars and crossbeams – can be used as the framework for a walkway, passageway, or to shelter a seating area. Their general purpose is to provide a focal point in a garden or outdoor space.

The sky’s the limit

Historically built from stone, brick and wood, pergolas have been seen in gardens since Roman times when the structures were projected from exterior walls and supported on one side by pillars or columns. Architects built pergolas in the Italian Renaissance to mimic the villas of Imperial Rome.

Today, outdoor spaces are becoming increasingly creative, as various elements are combined to suit individual project requirements. Supposedly, pergola ‘law’ states that they should not have solid sides, but pergolas can be customised in any way you like.

There are many different types of pergolas on the market, and selecting the right one for you can be daunting. We manufacture three different types of wooden pergolas – single, double and corner. Still, you can also find metal or composite options on the market, depending on what your aesthetic preference is.

Keep reading my comprehensive how-to guide below, designed to help you make an informed decision when it comes to choosing the right product for your outdoor space.

What is the difference between a pergola and pagoda?

It is worth clearing this up first, as the two are often confused. The key difference between a pergola and a pagoda is the roof. A pagoda will have a solid roof that provides shelter from the elements. A pergola has crossbeams, but there is no actual roof that will provide shelter.

X marks the spot

This may seem all too obvious, but the placement is often overlooked in favour of other factors. You may have an exact idea of where you want the garden pergola to be installed, but I would advise you to consider the practical issues of where it’s placed carefully.

For example, are the structures impacting any other area of your garden? What impact will it have on existing plants and wildlife in your garden? Will you lose a good relationship with your neighbour if the position of your pergola affects sunlight in their garden? Each garden will be different, and it also depends on how much focus you want to place on the pergola.

Measuring up

You’ve taken the correct measurements, but have you double-checked them? Have you selected a pergola size that will be a tight fit, or have you allowed for a bit of wiggle room? These are things I highly recommend you do before committing to the purchase.

Length, width, height and area size are all measurements you must have to hand before deciding to settle on a specific design. Knowing this information will stand you in good stead and make the installation process far more seamless.

Material world

The majority of pergolas are made from timber. If this is your preference, I would recommend you opt for timber that has been pressure-treated and is covered by a long guarantee. Nobody wants to invest in a structure that will rot at ground level, making it unsafe after a few years.

Form and function

Pergolas look stunning and can help set your garden apart when used as a focal point or surrounding a walkway, but they can also offer more usable space beyond garden aesthetics. Some designs double up in function as seating areas or as structures for vine-based plants.

Adding a canopy is perfect for those who want a sheltered section in their garden to read books, entertain and relax in.

Climbing the walls

You can train numerous climbing plants to grow around your pergola, including honeysuckle, clematis, sweet peas, ivy and hydrangea. Different plants prefer different light conditions, so it depends which way your pergola faces. They are often placed in areas of full sun, so for this, we recommend honeysuckle, wisteria, flowering maple, white forsythia, grapevine and passionfruit.

Getting the good side

To maximise shade coverage for most of the day, consider positioning the pergola to intercept the sunlight before it reaches your seating area. Place it so the crossbeams orient north and south. As the sun travels, the crossbeams cast wide lines of shade under the structure, except around midday when the sun is directly overhead.

Anchor down

To create a stable structure, we recommend securing the posts into the ground with Postcrete. Post holes should be approximately 300mm wide and 700mm deep and be filled with two to three bags of Postcrete depending on ground conditions. Note that the pergola posts will inevitably shrink and swell with changes in ground and weather conditions. As the installation proceeds, all pergola posts must be set vertically and remain in line at all times; otherwise, the pergola will not be structurally sound. You must use a good spirit level throughout the process to ensure complete accuracy.

Aim high

A pergola structure can be as wide as you like, as long as it’s built with enough timber struts to support the roof. The minimum height of a pergola should be no lower than 2m to provide enough headroom, though some pergolas can be higher. I’d recommend checking any site-specific critical measurements before assembly when thinking about the height of your pergola. Also, bear in mind that the taller the pergola, the more unstable it may become, making it harder to maintain.

There really are countless options when it comes to selecting a pergola, making them the perfect addition for outdoor spaces of all shapes and sizes.

Doing your research and carefully considering the placement and scale of the structure will help ensure the finished project is not only impressive but guaranteed to withstand all that Mother Nature decides to throw at it for many years to come.

Further information....

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