Whether you're looking to extend your home, or putting the finishing touches on your dream home, incorporating a roof into your outdoor area is always worthwhile. Building a pergola is one of the most attractive ways to extend your outdoor living space and ensure you can enjoy your yard and outdoor furniture year-round. 
Pergolas originated in 17th Century Italy, where they were built in outdoor areas with an open roof to allow deciduous vines to grow, providing shade in summer and plenty of sun in the colder months. While still an attractive option, the classic freestanding pergola concept has evolved, and there is now a slew of designs for Australian's including gazebos, folding arm awnings, shade sails and roofing. 
If you're looking at shade solutions as your next home improvement project, you can't go past a pergola. 

A slatted pergola in the backyard, next to a water feature.

Structure and materials of pergolas 

A simple timber pergola's shade structure consists of posts supporting beams, and rafters. For advanced builders, there is the option of using steel, aluminium or concrete columns. If that's not an option, you could also consider retractable awnings, which rely on the home's existing exterior walls for support instead. 
You've got options galore when it comes to shade materials, including shade cloth, simple battens (beautiful with added greenery) and translucent polycarbonate that protects you from the rain while still allowing UV-filtered sunlight to shine down on you. 

A white timber pergola on a deck next to a pool.
For added weather protection, you can work with traditional COLORBOND Steel roofing, or opt for a unique design idea and use decorative screens. There's a terrific example of this in the Lookbook, which you can check out here. 

Deciding which shade solution is best for you

Most people build pergolas to provide privacy from neighbours and relief from the Australian sun, allowing them to enjoy their life 'alfresco'. With this in mind, it's best to not construct pergola in a place that already gets plenty of shade, lest you end up with your own private Siberia. This point is especially true for those whose outdoor shade solutions will cover their swimming pools. 

A stunning pitched roof over a deck, complete with an outdoor fireplace.
Take into account the drainage and suitability of the site, relative to your home. A north-facing pergola will catch the sun all year round, while a south-facing one will probably need a transparent roof to let in the sunlight. The perfect pergola should lead to a patio, courtyard, pool, fire pit or bbq area — wherever you and your loved ones like to spend time. 
Meanwhile, the size and design of your pergola boil down to your budget, how frequently you want to use your outdoor area (i.e. only in summer or year-round) and how you decide to build it. You can either DIY-it from scratch, use a pergola kit, or hire an expert for a custom-made solution. 

A timber pergola set between a house and the fence - perfect for small spaces.
Be aware that some structures require a building permit, so always check with your local council about regulations. 

For more advice on creating the perfect outdoor space, check out our series of posts where we chatted to Australia’s favourite landscape gardener – Charlie Albone.


Charlie Albone shares his tips for creating the perfect outdoor space

Charlie Albone’s guide to planting

Charlie Albone talks budgeting for your outdoor living space

For more inspiration on building the perfect outdoor space, check out the gallery, or head to our blog, Home Truths, for the latest design and construction tips.