Nov 28, 2018

4 Design-Build Tips for the Perfect Custom Pergola

According to Sandra Moffatt, custom pergolas have become increasingly popular over the last 10 years.

“[Pergolas provide a] way to add feel and flare to your home without breaking the bank,” she says.

As the Construction Division Manager for McHale Landscape Design, Moffatt has helped to build pergolas of every size and shape imaginable during her 16 years with the company.

According to her, there are four primary guidelines to keep in mind when designing and building a pergola for your own home:


The first objective, Moffatt notes, is determining your pergola’s purpose.

“What is the main focus?” she asks. Is your pergola going to serve as a gathering place for a family? Will you require ample space to entertain guests? Or is it simply an attractive spot to hang a swing?

Moffatt has been involved in landscape architecture for more than 30 years. During this time, she has seen pergolas range from the tiniest structure to 40 x 40-foot behemoths that can accommodate huge parties and gatherings.

Purpose and location, in tandem, will drive the size and shape of your custom pergola.

“If you have a patio connected to your home, a pergola can provide a perfect spot for intimacy,” Moffatt says.

Other homeowners may opt for eyebrow arbors over a window.

“Sometimes, a home just lacks street presence or road appeal, and homeowners wish to add something that is purely ornamental to dress up a window or a door.”

Freestanding pergolas, too, can offer a wealth of structure to a landscape. Extra measures must be taken to secure them, however, so they don’t sway in the wind and break apart.


Tying a custom pergola into your existing home architecture is also crucial, Moffatt says. Make note of the features from your home you’d like to incorporate.

Owners of a small cottage, for example, may favor an English garden style structure, while the owners of large estates may opt for something more elaborate and decadent.

Your surrounding architecture should also play a significant role in the materials used, Moffatt notes. When it comes to constructing your custom pergola, the possibilities are virtually endless.

Wood requires more maintenance, she notes, but remains a perfectly acceptable building material. Stone, stainless steel, and fiberglass, too, provide strength and stability, and can provide excellent support posts.

When it comes time to install the roof, the quality of your beams and rafters is paramount to a lasting structure.

“If you have a big stone house, maybe your rafters are big timbers,” Moffatt explains. Victorian architecture, on the other hand, would call for something smaller, more delicate and petite.

McHale has installed PVC rafters with metal frames, which are incredibly durable and enduring.

“They don’t rot at all,” Moffatt says.


Custom pergolas can be electrically wired to meet almost any potential need.

Ceiling fans and light fixtures bring the comforts of home outdoors, while manual or electric, umbrella-style shades can offer shade and privacy.

“You can add as many features as you can dream of,” Moffatt says. “There are as many different styles of pergolas as there are styles of houses.”


Keep in mind: the sturdier your materials and the more dynamic your functionality – the loftier the price.

The most economic route, Moffatt explains, is typically to build with pressure treated lumber. While cost-effective, it can still provide an impressive and dynamic structure.

Mahogany beams, PVC wrapped in metal, and other premiere materials all add to the final price tag.

Whatever your needs, however, McHale can accommodate, Moffatt says.

“It all depends on a customer’s budget and wherewithal.”

Whether in your yard, courtyard, or patio, a custom pergola is sure to add a tremendous amount of interest to your home.

McHale Landscape Design often assists homeowners who have lived in one home and one neighborhood for most of their lives. While they love their location, they just desire a few minor adjustments to refresh and reinvigorate their surroundings.

Custom pergolas often provide the perfect solution.

“It doesn’t take a lot to make a big difference to the character of your home,” Moffatt says.