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You can build a pergola as an open-air structure. But adding a roof gives you shelter from the elements and allows you to use the outdoor space more often.

What Types of Roofing Are Available for Pergolas?

The best roofing for pergola depends on your needs. Before we get into the factors to consider when adding a roof to your pergola, we’ll describe the types that are available.

Fabric

This is one of the most affordable options for a pergola roof. You can make your own or buy one that’s designed for this purpose.

You can use a variety of methods to install a fabric roof. Some canopies come with grommets that hook onto the pergola’s frame. Others drape over the slats at the top of your pergola. You can purchase sail shades and install them at an angle to protect you from the sun during the hottest part of the day.

It’s crucial to use fabric that’s designed for outdoor use. It should:

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Easy to install
  • Comes in many styles, colors and patterns
  • Provides shade and wind protection
  • Can cover the sides as well

Cons:

  • May not protect fully from rain
  • Shouldn’t be left out year-round in snowy conditions
  • Deteriorates more quickly than other materials

Lattice

A lattice roof is made up of thin, narrow strips that are arranged in a crisscross pattern. To use lattice as a roof for your pergola, you would lie it flat across the top and attach it to the frame. You can also bring it down the sides partially or all the way.

Lattice comes in wood and vinyl. Some people attach wire fencing to the pergola roof. They use it to support fabric or create a trellis so that plants can provide natural shade.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Easy to install
  • Comes in durable materials
  • Can be used as walls
  • Offers support for trailing vines in the garden
  • Decorative and functional

Cons:

  • May not support snow
  • Only provides partial shade and rain protection

Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate roofs offer more durability than lattice and fabric. They’re made of rigid plastic that keeps you completely dry. Many polycarbonate roofs can withstand the weight of snow. Corrugated polycarbonate roofs are rippled and can aid in drainage.

Because the material is translucent, it lets in a great deal of natural light. Some polycarbonate roofs offer UV protection, which prevents harmful rays from passing through. They still allow the light in, but they diffuse it a bit.

Pros:

  • Withstands the load of snow and exposure to the elements
  • Lets natural light in
  • Full overhead protection from rain
  • Won’t discolor in the sun

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • May get hot underneath
  • Cracks and chips easily, particularly during installation

Metal

Metal roofs are resilient and durable. They come in several colors and finishes, allowing you to select the one that best complements your esthetic. Some of the most popular options for metal roof pergolas are copper, steel and aluminum.

This type of roofing blocks the sun completely. This can be a benefit if you want plenty of shade. However, you may not want to obstruct the view completely.

Pros:

  • Available in various architectural styles and silhouettes
  • Durable and waterproof
  • Provides plenty of privacy
  • Long-lasting

Cons:

  • Requires considerable expertise to install
  • Can get hot underneath

Louvered and Retractable Roofs

This type of roofing is ideal for people who want to control the amount of shade cast by the pergola cover. Louvered roofs are made of a series of slats that rotate or shift at the press of a button. When the slats are closed, the roof is impervious to sun and rain. When the slats are open, the sun can shine through and you can see the sky.

Retractable roofs come in a wide range of materials, including fabric, metal and polycarbonate.

Pros:

  • Retractable canopies can extend beyond the pergola, expanding the shaded area
  • Withstands high winds and extreme weather better than the other materials
  • Looks elegant
  • Maximizes the capabilities of your outdoor space
  • Allows you to control the amount of shade
  • Versatile

Cons:

  • Usually the most expensive option
  • Requires a professional for installation
  • Can be noisy
  • May have limited installation options

Benefits of Putting a Roof on a Pergola

There are several advantages to adding a roof to your pergola. Some of the benefits are as follows:

  • Protection from the elements – A pergola provides shade for people, pets and plants beneath it. You can sit under a pergola even if it’s raining, allowing you to use your yard more often.
  • Safeguards furniture and equipment – Putting a hot tub under a pergola with a roof helps keep it clear of leaves and debris. Furniture with cloth cushions won’t get soaked as easily. Depending on the type of roof that you get, you can minimize sun damage on pillows, curtains rugs and other textiles that you use in the space.
  • Extend the life of the flooring – Because a roof reduces wear and tear on the surfaces beneath it, it can extend the longevity of your patio or decking. You’ll likely have to perform less maintenance to keep the flooring looking great.
  • Adds curb appeal – Installing a roof on a pergola can make your backyard look more finished. A pergola with a roof fills up empty space and adds visual interest to your outdoor area.
  • Increases home value – A high-quality pergola with a roof is a bonus when you sell your home. Buyers will appreciate the feature as much as you do, and they may submit a higher offer than they would otherwise if your home has a pergola with a roof.
  • Creates privacy – Adding a roof to a pergola makes it cozier. You won’t feel as though you’re enclosed in a room, but you can hide from prying eyes and create a sanctuary by designing your garden and placing your furniture appropriately.

Which Pergola Roof Is Right for You?

Before you invest in a pergola roof, think about your objectives and preferences. You’ll have to consider the esthetics, price and functionality. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I want full protection from water and rain? – A fabric or lattice pergola wouldn’t be ideal for you.
  • Do I want to maximize air flow and allow some sun to shine in? – You may prefer a fabric or lattice pergola. A polycarbonate, louvered or retractable roof could also work well.
  • Do I want to install it myself? – Fabric is the easiest option to drape over the pergola. You don’t need much special equipment to install wire fencing or lattice, either.
  • Do I want to hire someone to install it? – If you have help from an expert, opt for a polycarbonate, metal, louvered or retractable roof.
  • Do I want the roof to be permanent? Lattice and fabric are more temporary than the other options. Choose one of these if you want to dismantle the roof in certain seasons.

The best roofing for pergola fits with your budget and lifestyle. It’s easy to maintain and encourages you to spend more time outdoors.