What is a Pergola and Should You Buy One? A Complete Guide

What is a Pergola and Should You Buy One? A Complete Guide

It’s getting to that time of year again. You’re starting to think about how you can beautify your outdoor living space in time for the spring and summer months. 

Of course, living in the UK means that some sort of sheltered area is a necessity, and what could be better than a pergola.

While Pergolas have been around for a long time, their popularity has surged over the past few years. The pandemic has forced the focus away from travel, towards homes and gardens, with people creating areas to relax and socialise safely with the constant restrictions. 

But a Pergola is a big investment, and you’ll likely have quite a few questions you need the answer to before buying. 

So, in this blog, we’ll dig into everything you need to know about Pergolas before you decide if buying one is the right choice for your garden.

1. What exactly is a pergola?

Simply put, a pergola is a rectangular, outdoor structure that is made of columns and posts. 

They typically have no permanent walls and a slatted or lattice style roof structure to create a shaded area that still allows light to stream through. 

A pergola can be ‘free standing’ or propped against the wall of a building (also known as a wall-leaning pergola). Currently, Harbour Lifestyle sells free standing pergolas.

Traditionally, they were built with weather resistant wood, but more recently materials such as vinyl, aluminium, stone and fibreglass have become more popular. 

The most common types of pergolas are bespoke and prefabricated.

Bespoke pergolas are usually constructed to your specification and installed by a team of professionals. This makes the cost considerably more than prefabricated pergolas, which are available in predetermined sizes, and can be easily constructed at home with a few people on hand to help. 

Pergola 3x4m White


2. What is the point of a pergola?

You now have an idea of what a pergola looks like, but why would you install one in your garden?

Pergolas are often popular for purely decorative reasons as they create a beautiful focal point for your outdoor area. The fixed slatted roof variety often lends itself as a support for vines of climbing plants, and are popular with the green-fingered among us. 

However, there are many other uses, that are both stunning and practical such as:

  • Create a walkway or passageway
  • Provide a sheltered seating area
  • Cover an outdoor hot tub
  • Expand an existing outdoor space
  • Create shade on a decked area

  • While the UK might not be comparable to the Mediterranean in terms of weather, that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy our outdoor spaces just as much. The last few years have taught us how to embrace the outdoors for socialising and relaxing, and a pergola helps to create a complete outdoor extension to your living area, with a beautiful, warm and enclosed structure. It’s a great way to emulate the feel of the Mediterranean in a structure suitable for the UK. 

    Ultimately, you can use a pergola to create whatever outdoor space you desire, and the style can be altered to suit whatever you have planned for it. 


    3. Pergola vs Gazebo: What is the difference?

    So, is a pergola just another word for gazebo?

    Both are freestanding garden structures that create a visual focal point, as well as provide shelter from the elements. 

    However, while pergolas and gazebos have many similarities, there are a few differences that might make one more suitable than the other. The primary difference between the two is the function of the roof.

    A gazebo usually has a static roof that acts as a permanent shelter and provides full coverage from the sun. This is perfect for a permanent covered seating area, however, might be less enticing in the summer than a pergola. 

    On the other hand, a pergola often has a slatted roof, which allows sunlight to shine through. It’s generally a more flexible option, which is what makes pergolas popular for a variety of different uses. 

    A pergola with a louvred roof is a great compromise between the two, as it offers shelter, which can be retracted or rotated when you want to let more light or air through. This design is perfect for somewhere like the UK, where the weather can’t always be relied upon.

    All our pergolas have louvred roofs, and built-in blinds to give you more control over how much shelter and shade is provided depending on the weather. 

    4. Do you need planning permission for a pergola?

    Navigating planning permission can be a tricky one. With so many different rules, it’s hard to know whether you need to apply or not. 

    Generally speaking, most pergolas won’t require planning permission, but it’s always best to be safe and thoroughly check before getting started

    When it comes to the height of your pergola, the further away from the property boundary, the better. You’ll need to consider the following rules:

    • If your pergola is within 2 metres of the boundary, the maximum height can be no more than 2.5m
    • Any further away from the boundary and the maximum height can be 3 metres
    • A pitched roof (A-shaped) can be up to 4 metres high

    For everything else, you should have a think about these questions to determine whether or not you need to apply for permission:

    • Does it cover more than half the area of your land?
    • Is it on the front of your house or the side of your house?
    • Do you live in a conservation area?
    • Do you live in a listed area? 
    • Is it built on a raised platform such as a balcony or veranda?

    If you can answer no to all of the above questions, then it’s likely that you will not require planning permission for your pergola installation. If yes, then seek more advice, and remember that the rules will differ depending on where you are in the UK.

    Find out more about planning permission here 

    5. What size of garden do I need for a pergola?

    It’s common to think that you need a huge garden to house a pergola, however, that is not the case. 

    Pergola’s come in a range of different sizes, so it’s likely that you can find one to suit the garden space that you have available. We currently have two different sizes, 3m x 3m and 3m x 4m, which offers some flexibility depending on the size of your garden. 

    And you don’t require much clearance around the pergola itself for the construction, so assuming you have a garden that fits a pergola you should be able to find a suitable one. 

    However, it’s important to refer to the planning permission section, as you’ll need to ensure that your building falls within the limitations if it’s close to the boundary of your garden. 

    The smaller your garden the more likely it is that you will need planning permission (although it’s worth noting that our Pergolas are under 2.5m in height, so are usually suitable even if they need to be placed close to a boundary).

    6. Can I put a pergola on a decked area?

    Pergolas don’t have a built-in floor, so it’s common to elevate the structure and build it into some decking to create a seating area. 

    If you wanted to do this, there are a couple of things that you will need to consider to ensure that you are within the permitted planning guidelines:

    • The decking can be no more than 30cm above the ground
    • The decking can cover no more than 50% of the garden area (together with other outbuildings, extensions etc.)

    Additionally, you’ll need to ensure that the pergola does not exceed the total height limits set out by planning permission if you set it on the decking (as this will raise it up).

    And remember, putting your pergola on a deck means that it might be more exposed to the elements so you’ll need to give some extra consideration to securing the construction. 

     7. What base do I need for my pergola?

    The good news is that a pergola can be built almost anywhere, which is excellent news if you want to position one in an already landscaped garden. 

    Whether you’ve got grass, concrete, patio or decking, a pergola can be constructed onto it, provided that it is flat and level. 

    The most important thing to remember is that the pergola needs to be safely secured into whatever base you have. This may require anchoring into a deck or concrete base, or burying of the posts for a grass base. This stops it from flying away or toppling over in high winds, which is essential for longevity and safety. 

    The only base that we do not usually recommend is paving stones - as they can lift out of place, or crack when the anchors are drilled into it. However, you can weigh your pergola down without drilling into the base, by adding weights to the roof or corners of the structure if you wish to do this.

    8. How to attach a pergola to a brick wall

    The beauty of a pergola is that if you don’t have the room for a four-post freestanding pergola structure, you can build a two-post pergola (with the house acting as a support structure on the opposite side).

    This is also known as a wall-leaning pergola and is ideal if you are short on space, or if you are looking to create a seamless indoor-outdoor living space. 

    This type of pergola takes advantage of the existing structure, decreasing the materials that you need to complete the project. 

    However, while possible, you will need to familiarise yourself with the process and ensure that you have the skills properly to safely secure it to your building.

    Here is a brief overview of how to attach a pergola to a brick wall:

  • Decide where you want your pergola to sit, mark out the location of the freestanding posts and where the hangers for the attached structure should go on the brick wall.
  • Double-check that everything is in the right place.
  • Screw holes into the marked positions and insert the anchors.
  • Finally, screw the joist hangers that will secure the beams of the pergola to the wall, then continue the pergola building process as normal.
  • Again, if you are doing this yourself, make sure that you are confident and competent, and if not we advise that you employ the skills of a professional. 

    It’s a little more tricky to safely attach a pergola to brick if you are not a professional, which is why most people still opt for a four-poster, freestanding pergola. 

    There is a range of different sizes to suit the space you have available, and they can be placed near the house to create an indoor-outdoor space the same as a wall-standing pergola. 

    Harbour Lifestyle doesn't currently stock or manufacture wall-leaning pergolas.

     9. How much does a pergola cost in the UK?

    And last, but certainly not least, it’s important to understand how much a pergola costs and whether it’s worth it to install one in your garden. And there are a few different factors to consider when it comes to pergolas.

    What’s the cost of building or installing a pergola?

    As with most things, there are a variety of factors to consider, with a multitude of different types of pergolas available on the market. The overall price will vary depending on the size, materials, features, supplier and installation team.

    On average, the price of a pergola in the UK is around £2500. However as with anything the prices can range from anywhere between a few hundred pounds, up to £10,000 on the bespoke, luxury end of the scale. 

    The cheapest way to build a pergola is DIY, but you’ll need the skills, tools and expertise to be able to safely build a structure that will last. If you buy a pre-fabricated pergola or hire a professional to build it then it will be on the more expensive side of the scale. 

    In addition to the pergola costs, you might need to factor in the costs of an installation team (depending on what type of pergola you install) and any prep work that you might need to undertake ie. labour costs for decking or a base. 

    Not all pre-fabricated pergolas include blinds and these often need to be purchased in addition to the the frame. The Harbour Lifestyle PergoSTET pergolas include everything you need, so there will be no confusion when you purchase.  

    Cheap vs expensive pergola: Is it worth spending more?

    A quick Google will show you that the cheapest pergola available is around a couple of hundred pounds. 

    So, why would you spend thousands of pounds on a pergola when you can get one for so cheap?

    Of course, the size and materials will impact the overall cost. But in addition to this, you should expect a more expensive pergola to be a higher quality construction that will last for a long time. 

    Yes, you will spend more money upfront, but it will be more cost-effective over a period of time as you’ll not need to repair or replace it. 

    How much exactly you should spend is a personal decision, however, it’s not just the financial cost you should consider. 

    A pergola will not only make your garden look beautiful, but it gives you a way to really utilise your outdoor space, and make sure that you get the most from your entire home. It gives you a place to read under the stars, sip wine with friends, and host family BBQs. 

    You will need to decide how much money that is worth to your family, and how much value you will get from it. 

    What is the cost of pergola maintenance?

    How much maintenance your pergola needs, and the costs associated with this will depend on what materials it’s built with. 

    Traditional Wooden Pergolas will require the most maintenance, as they will need to be weatherproofed with paint. This will need to be re-done every year or so, and so time and costs should be factored into this. 

    Our pergolas are made out of marine grade, triple powder coated engineered aluminium, which is extremely durable and requires very little to no maintenance. Generally speaking, pergolas will require very little maintenance and are therefore very cheap to maintain.

    What finance options are available to buy a pergola?

    If you opt to purchase a pergola that is on the more expensive end of the scale, then you might want to explore finance options. Of course, you can pay for it upfront, or make your own finance arrangements. However to help you spread the cost of your purchase we’ve partnered with Klarna. This allows you to buy now and pay later either by splitting the cost into three payments or paying the whole lot 30 days after purchase. 

    Paying through Klarna will help you manage your money alongside your dream garden renovation.

    The cost of pergola accessories…

    You might want to kit your pergola out with some accessories to turn it into your dream outdoor space. 

    Our pergolas come with built in LED lights and blinds, however, this is something you might want to add onto other pergolas. 

    Otherwise, you can design your pergola with whatever accessories you want to create the perfect space that reflects your style and needs. You might consider adding a dining set, firepit, heater, or sofa set.

    The cost of this will very much vary depending on what you are looking for but could range from a couple of hundred to a few thousand pounds. 
    You can view our full range of garden accessories here.

    Ready to buy your own garden Pergola?

    A pergola can make a beautiful addition to your garden, giving you a focal point and a practical space that will help you take advantage of all the space available in your home - including the outdoors. 

    But there are quite a few things that you’ll need to consider before buying one and hopefully, this article has helped you understand everything you need to know about before installing a pergola in your home. 

    You can take a look at the pergolas we have on offer here and feel free to email us if you have any questions.