The style of a pergola is largely defined by the roofing, or rafters; which can be simple – letting the climbing plants be the star attraction; or more elaborate – where the structure itself is the main feature. Having so many options, it is sometimes difficult to choose! Let’s look at some possibilities.
Usually formed from several planks of wood, the rafter are shaped at the ends, and run horizontally across the top of the structure. These can be notched at different levels to create the desired effect. If the pergola roofing is to fit flush, the notches are cut to half the depth of the rafter, so that when the two are positioned, they are smooth across the top. If, however, the rafters are notched to less than half of the depth, the main rafters will stand proud of the cross rafters. This can be done to varying degrees, even to the point of no notching at all, where the cross rafters sit on top.
Creating unique and interesting rafter tail ends is the fun part. Straight ones, cut with a saw, do look great, and let the plants take the limelight. However, if the structure is the main attraction, in order to create a more decorative and individual style, curved ends can be very effective. A jig saw is needed for this type of shaping. There are many wonderful possibilities to experiment with.
These can be used instead of, or as well as, the rafters. They don’t need notching and can be simply screwed along the side rafters. This can often be a practical option for those who want to build a simple pergola, quickly and cheaply.
Another application, often seen, is to use laths as an extra layer, placing them as cross rafters on top the main ones. This gives a three-tiered effect and, with ornate rafter tail ends, can create a very elaborate design.
A different method for forming the roof is to use a trellis panel instead of the main and cross rafters. This, again, can be used to simplify the construction. It is an effective way to add rafters cheaply, and also to save time and effort.
Fabric Covered Pergola
For a more contemporary look, shade sails can be used. These attach to the posts, with easily installed fittings. They may replace the rafters or, as is more normally seen, be used together. Looking sleek and stylish, they fit well into a modern setting. Combined with cushions, throws and comfortable outdoor furniture, the effect is stunning.
Asian Inspired Structures
Being distinctive, on account of their curved rafters – either ‘turreted’ or ‘domed’ in style – these structures really give a feel of the Far East. The designs are often complex, making them beyond the capabilities of many DIY-ers. However, there is a huge range to choose from, in the form of manufactured kits.
These have become much more popular in recent years. The posts are made from grouped willow ‘whips’, which are then fanned out to form the rafters of the living structure. Changing with the seasons, a willow structure adds an element of interest to the design.
Whichever method is used, the pergola roofing has the potential to produce a unique and wonderful creation!