Use a pergola to dress up your backyard

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We love arbors, pergolas, awnings and gazebos this summer-- any shade-creating outdoor structure fits the bill.

We love arbors, pergolas, awnings and gazebos this summer-- any shade-creating outdoor structure fits the bill. Many are used to train vines to create a leafy overhang during the summer months. Dressing up your backyard with a beautiful overhang is an inexpensive way to create a breathtaking outdoor living space.

The basic structure

Essentially a pergola is nothing more than two to four uprights with a very open lattice of lumber across the top. If you build yours next to another structure like your house or even a raised deck, you might only need two upright posts as the other end of the lattice work will be supported by the structure. However, most pergolas are free standing and use four upright posts to create a square or rectangular area of shade. It is up to you whether your shady area is on a patio or a deck or just a casual seating area finished with gravel or dry-set flagstone. In addition, how the lattice boards are cut--plain or fancy--is your choice and should fit in with any existing decoration. Cloth structures are also popular.

Controlling the shade

You can control the amount of shade by using more or less wood or cloth in your lattice work across the top. If you're going to train vines you'll have more shade in the hot summer when the leaves grow.  Keep in mind, however, that vines go dormant in winter and aren't nearly as pretty. Another option is to use hanging plants to create shade during the warm seasons.

Do it yourself?

There are lots of plans online and in books at most home improvement stores. If you can dig a post-hole, set a post in concrete and cut and nail boards together according to a plan, you can probably build your own pergola.

You can also check out the many Atlanta-area qualified landscapers if you want to hire someone. Your costs will vary depending the type of wood you use (cedar is costlier than pressure-treated pine), the size of your pergola and how much decorative cutting you want done.

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