residential wood free standing flat arched pergola

How much will a pergola cost to build, and what influences the price? We’ve got the answers!

In the following article we’ll explain:

We’ll also add in some additional considerations that will assist you with your pergola project. This article will benefit home and business owners who are interested in adding a pergola to their property.

A pergola is an awesome addition to your home or business. It creates an outdoor space that can provide shade, a quiet place to relax, or even a place for outdoor entertainment. You can design and build your own, buy a kit, or hire the pros to build your perfect pergola.

However, there is a significant cost difference depending on who builds the pergola, its size, style, and the materials you use to build it. Prices range from several hundred for low-end pre-made pergola to tens of thousands for a high-end custom model. The average cost of a pergola in the US is about $3,600.

commercial wood freestanding pergola

What is a Pergola

A pergola is a free-standing, square or rectangular, post and beam structure with an open top. Traditionally pergolas are made of solid wood posts or columns that hold up beams that form a flat top frame. The frame supports plank slats or lattice that creates some shade. The planks or lattice are set across the sun’s path to break up the solar gain during the hottest part of the day. The closer together the planks, the more shade they provide.

residential wood freestanding pergola

Pergolas. Pergolas create shade over walkways, outdoor eating areas, backyard patios, or even pools. They sometimes have latticework attached to support vines which further increases the shade and aesthetic enjoyment but does not provide rain protection. Modern pergolas may have retractable fabric covers that provide shade or even protect from precipitation. Some are made of wood others have aluminum and stainless steel frames that are mounted into a solid surface such as a concrete floor. Cost for a pergola can range anywhere between $2,500 to $5,000+ for a professional pergola installation.

What are the Differences Between Pergolas, Trellises and Arbors

Although pergolas, trellises, and arbors are used to enhance your outdoor space, they are not the same thing.

Trellis. A trellis is a wooden fence-like structure supporting a latticework of horizontal and vertical slats (thin boards). It is often used to support greenery and vines. It may be built near a house wall or as a partition in a yard. It’s usually used for garden purposes but can also provide some shade. Cost for a trellis can range anywhere between $500 to $1,000+ for a professional trellis installation.

Arbor. An arbor is made of two or four vertical cedar supports often with an arched cross member or roof structure. It is a small shady place to rest and usually has latticework to support climbing greenery. It may form an entrance to a garden, cover for a bench, or an arch over a path. Cost for an arbor can range anywhere between $2,500 to $3,500+ for a professional arbor installation.

A pergola may incorporate aspects of a trellis or an arbor, but it is not the same. A trellis forms a wall or barrier, an arbor a small shady place, while a pergola is usually many times larger and the cost of a pergola is also greater. Pricing for a pergola, trellis or arbor varies based on size, material used and installation location.

pergolas, trellises arbors difference

The Material Costs of Building a Pergola

Material costs for a contractor are similar to the costs you would have if you did a DIY build. Generally, some contractors may add a 5 -10% mark-up to materials to cover their time selecting and carrying the costs. It also helps cover tool costs that will be used on your site. The pergola installation cost is the main difference and translates into labor costs and profit margin.

A 12’x12’ pergola made of cedar will set you back about $1,500 for materials. If you buy a similar kit, it’ll cost about $3,300, or about what a contractor would charge to build a similar structure. The size and material selected influence how much pergolas cost.

If you decide to use a fiberglass pergola kit to reduce maintenance, it’ll set you back almost $8,000. An aluminum pergola would cost between $4,300 and $7,800, depending on material quality and how ornate a pergola you wanted. Installation costs for the cedar, fiberglass, or aluminum kit should range between $460 and $560.

diy pergola drawing design

The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Pro

Hiring a pro to build you a custom pergola or erect a kit you like can be a good idea. You are hiring their expertise, knowledge, and tools. The first question you want to ask the pro is how much does it cost to build a pergola? Pergola prices vary depending on the size, materials used, options included, and if you want any mechanized parts.

An experienced contractor should be able to give you different pergola cost estimations based on your choices. They may suggest aluminum, concrete, fiberglass, stainless steel or vinyl posts and beams instead of cedar to reduce your ongoing maintenance. They should discuss permits, safety issues, and any landscape concerns, so there should be few or better yet, no surprises during the build.

If you choose a kit or purchase a manufactured product, ask your contractor for a pergola installation cost breakdown. It’s better to know the whole picture up front. Communication is the key to success when hiring a pro to build your pergola. If you want to build it over a patio, ask for the cost to build a pergola over a patio. Don’t expect them to be mind readers.

Pros:

  • You get a quote
  • Includes a warranty (in most cases but not all)
  • More options available
  • They have the experience, skills, and tools

Cons:

  • Costs more
  • You still need to control the project

The Pros and Cons of Building a DIY Pergola

If you opt to build your pergola, you can design it, buy a plan, or even purchase a prefab kit. Your greatest savings is the labor costs. The DIY pergola cost for a cedar pergola is about $1,500 compared to the cost to build a pergola by a pro. That means you could use the savings to upgrade some of your material selections if your budget allows.

A pergola helps to define an outdoor space and provide backyard shade for many years. It usually covers a patio and provides some shade during the hot part of the day and season. Often in the 10-foot by 12-foot size, it is an ideal DIY project. Building it yourself, saving on the labor costs, and using materials you want to use are great arguments against having to pay for the construction of a pergola.

Pros:

  • Save on labor costs
  • Built to your own design
  • Selecting the materials you want
  • Get what you want

Cons:

  • Not having the skills or tools
  • Time and budget
  • Not knowing what to do or what permits are needed (if any)
  • No warranty

After reading the pros and cons, you may want to know how much do pergolas cost when built by the pros.

Project Plan

Develop a project plan even if you are going to have someone else build the pergola. Having a plan and knowing what you want and where you want it will make the project easier. If you are looking for a kit or a custom build, go online and compare apples to apples. Interview contractors and get quotes, also check references. If you’re going to DIY, make your shopping list and ask local suppliers for a quote. Don’t be shy; ask for help if you need it.

Here are some suggestions to include in your Project Plan:

  • Stakeout where you want the pergola
  • Check for utility lines – they’ll come out and check, and mark any that are near
  • Check if you need any permits
  • Move any shrubs or trees you want to save
  • Determine the size of pergola you want – a 10’x10’ is almost double the space of an 8’x8’
  • Clear the build site
  • Choose a design – what do you want it to look like
  • Sketch out what you want – make a material list if DIY
  • Make a shopping list – get quotes if DIY
  • Prepare the site – level or make footing pilings if required
  • Gather materials and tools
  • Layout and cut pieces that can be done ahead of time
  • Begin to build – have your helpers on hand
  • Have fun

Additional Considerations

A pergola is not just something you cobble together. It is planned and designed to provide some shade from the sun and improve the aesthetics of your yard for years to come. When planning and building there are some important issues to consider. First and foremost is the direction the sun travels; having the shade slats going the wrong way is a big mistake!

Maintenance is another concern to think about. How often do you want to scrape, sand, stain or paint the pergola? If you’re not into that, consider using a material that requires no maintenance.

If you plan to entertain under your pergola, consider having it located closer to the house; less fetching and carrying. You may also want to think about having electricity available for lighting, music, or even a motorized retractable guide wire or slide on wire canopy system and screens for sun protection only or a motorized retractable pergola roof for sun and rain protection. You may not want either now, but plan for tomorrow.

Conclusion

Pergolas are a beautiful way to add some shade to an outdoor space in your yard. Hopefully, you have a better idea of what a pergola costs, and whether to build it yourself, use a kit, have it custom made, or buy it readymade. If you’re still asking how much does a pergola cost, then it’s best to do a thorough search of pergola reviews on our website, check out testimonials for different contractors and manufacturers, do a project plan, and then decide.