Featured Image

How to Build a Pergola (Step-by-Step Guide and Best Materials)

June 30, 2020

Updating your backyard is an exciting project to take on! Perhaps you’ve recently looked outside and thought something was missing. Even if you have gorgeous landscaping, maybe a pool so you can cool off in the arid Phoenix, Arizona climate, a structure could tie it all together.  

What kind of structure, you ask? There are definitely a few different types to choose from, and it’s easy to get them confused, but the best solution could be a pergola. It’s an easy option, but by no means single-faceted. For example, looking up how to build a pergola will yield results ranging from simple to complex designs. 

The Importance of Quality

It’s important to hire a quality contractor to get the best results. When you have landscaping work done, you want to ensure it lasts for years. This means hiring reputable, qualified professionals who only use high-quality materials designed to complement and endure the Phoenix, Arizona climate. Otherwise, you could be replacing the structure sooner than you’d hoped.

What Is a Pergola?

A pergola is a backyard feature that has four posts and a roof. It doesn’t have walls and isn’t typically meant to be a full shelter, but rather an enhancing structure. Many people have one built near a pool to create a cozy environment for cooking or relaxing. Others make them a literal part of the home, built onto their dwelling to create an outside area for entertaining. 

Despite its simple description, a pergola can actually be elaborate and add a touch of luxury to a backyard. It all depends on which plans you decide on when building a pergola. That’s where an expert is crucial. They can help you review plans, determine which type is best-suited for your home and enact them to your specs. 

Types of Pergolas

When you’re looking up how to build a pergola, you’re probably wondering if there are different types. The answer is, yes! While it’s often compared to a ramada or an arbor, it’s actually quite different. There are variations of the structure, though the basics remain the same.


The most common variation concerns the roof. You can choose to have an open or closed roof on your pergola. Despite its name, an open-roofed design isn’t fully unobstructed.

Typically it’ll have slats or a lattice design that offers some shade, though this isn’t its main purpose.

Most people add a pergola to upgrade their yards, boost their home’s value, or more importantly to add a bit of privacy or shelter. 

A closed-roof design is one that offers full shade or protection from the elements. You can also have one with a pitched roof for water runoff, which leads to less wear from the elements.


The other choice you have when it comes to building a pergola is whether you want it to be freestanding or an add-on to your home.

If you have a large backyard, a freestanding one can help tie the space together, creating a focal point around which to landscape.

Building a Pergola: What to Expect

In order to get started with your pergola build, you’ll need to contact our landscaping professionals. Our expertise is unmatched, and our long list of repeat clients proves we’re the ones for the job. 

Our extensive process is thorough for a reason. We want to make sure you get the best results and the absolute vision you dream of when you picture your backyard. Our process consists of the following: 

  • We’ll initiate a phone call so we can learn about what you envision for your pergola. 
  • You’ll browse through our photo galleries, pinpointing features you like. At this point, you’ll fill out the Online Project Inquiry Form
  • An in-person meet helps us determine how to best proceed. Our design expert will evaluate the landscaping you have. 
  • From there, our team will create a 3D rendering or a CAD drawing that’s fully customized to your specs. 
  • An in-office meeting lasting approximately 30 to 60 minutes will take place, so we can go through the design, and the steps needed to achieve it. We’ll also note adjustments, and hammer out the important details such as timelines and budgeting. 
  • If changes are necessary, we’ll meet once more in our office to go over the final design and details such as colors, materials, and price breakdown. Then, you’ll sign the contract to get the work underway. 
  • A scale drawing of the work plan is created and we’ll set up a start date. 
  • Construction begins and you marvel at the changes your landscape is undergoing. 
  • After the construction is complete, we’ll go over the work with you to ensure you’re 100% satisfied. We’ll also discuss any maintenance requirements you’ll need to employ to keep your pergola in great shape. 
  • When all’s said and done, you’ll have a beautiful relaxing/entertaining space that you can proudly show off to your friends and family. 

While it may seem intensive, you’ll understand exactly why when you’re elated with the project turnout. 

Hiring – How to Find a Great Contractor

When shopping for a contractor, not just anyone will do. The last thing you want to do is trust your backyard build to someone you’re unsure of. Instead, take the time to do your research and hire a reputable company. How do you determine reputability? Ask friends or family who’ve had similar work done for recommendations. In the absence of personal recommendations, look to expert resources such as Angie’s List, or local Phoenix company directories. 

It’s important not to hire the first company you speak with. Instead, speak to a few different contractors or companies. Meet with and request quotes from each one, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask about the process, the timeline, and the partners the company associates with for completing projects. 

When it comes to your backyard landscaping projects, Straightline has you covered. Our team of experts not only excels at what they do, but they also love taking your visions and bringing them to life. Let us take your backyard and turn it into the oasis you always knew it could be. Contact us by phone, email, or fill out our online form to get started today — you won’t be sorry!

It also complements a pool — you can create a seating area underneath to relax before and after swimming. If you have a smaller yard or want to simply create an entertainment space, then an extension of the home makes the most sense.

There’s one more consideration you’ll want to keep in mind, and that brings us to the next question.

Best Pergola Materials

The materials you choose for your pergola make a significant impact. With Arizona’s semi-arid climate, you’ll want materials that stand up to the elements. The two most common are wood and aluminum. 

  • Wood — this is the most common option, but it doesn’t have to be bland like pressure-treated pine. You can certainly add color! Cedar and Redwood are two types of wood that are abundant in color and stand up well to the Phoenix climate. It will, however, need to be treated to increase its durability. 
  • Aluminum — aluminum is popular as well, because of its longevity. It can also be treated with different colors to create the perfect oasis in your backyard that fits your vision. Straightline uses Alumawood™, which is an aluminum roof that’s textured so it looks like wood, giving you a plethora of benefits. It’s environmentally-friendly, visually appealing, and most importantly, low maintenance. 

There are, of course, other material options you can choose to build a pergola, such as concrete, which makes for a solid foundation when used for the columns. This also adds a decorative element, which will have everyone talking about your new addition.

Steps to Take Before Building a Pergola

Before you get started with your build, there are a few steps you need to take. 

  • First, decide where you want to build a pergola. 
  • From there, determine the overall aesthetic you’re looking for. You can do this in a number of ways. You can browse Pinterest boards, get inspiration from home and garden magazines, or even sketch your own design. This gives you something to show the contractors and creates a baseline for what will become your structure. 
  • Reach out to the contractor of your choice and get building!

The Process: Building A Custom Pergola

There’s a bit of work to be done when it comes to the process of building your pergola. First your landscapers will come out and measure the area where you want the structure placed. There are different steps for a freestanding unit vs. an add-on.

For a freestanding unit, you need to have a level surface. Many people choose to have concrete or wood flooring laid down to create stability. However, this isn’t necessary. It’s perfectly acceptable to have grass or decorative brick, for example. To create stable ground, your contractors will need to flatten out the landscape in the area you want it. Then, any flooring is laid out prior to building the pergola. 

The columns need to be inserted into the ground to keep the unit from toppling over. The landscapers will dig holes to fit the footers and fill it in with concrete, to keep the posts secure. Then the rest is built on this foundation. The process can take several days or weeks, depending on how elaborate the structure is. 


Author: Holly Banghart

Holly, our senior designer and sales manager since 2010, brings expertise in design, industry certifications, and Master Gardener qualification. She crafts functional outdoor spaces tailored to clients' needs with manageable maintenance. Holly excels in conquering design challenges, turning yards into captivating landscapes. If you seek to enhance your outdoor space, Holly stands ready to transform your vision into reality.

Straight Line Newsletter

Sign up for news and updates from Straight Line. You’ll only get quality content you’d expect from us, and we'll never share your email for any reason.

More Articles

404 image

"The primary source of our business has been organic referrals — from the neighbors and friends of our customers who see the quality."

404 image

Ready to Talk About Your Project?

Start by asking for a quote, then we'll coordinate a time to meet at your property.