Outdoor Shade Structures
Many Arizona residents love the state for its abundant sunshine, but when June, July and August roll around, they'd like a little more shade and a little less sun.
"It can be very hot here in the summer, but it gets more tolerable when you add shade, even if it's 100 degrees outside," says Tom Booth of Booth Built Patio Products, a Phoenix area company that specializes in installing shade structures.
After living in a home for a couple of years, homeowners decide they want more shade than the builder of the house originally provided with the typical covered patio. They yearn for a little shelter in the morning when they're outdoors sipping their coffee or in the early evening so they can dine outside and savor the blue and magenta sunset along with their grilled steak or salmon.
According to Booth, the most popular idea for providing that shade is often adding an open-lattice pergola with overhead slats that throw shade but don't greatly restrict natural light inside a home.
The Latin word "pergola" traditionally referred to an outdoor structure of columns supporting a roof of rafters and beams. Sometimes it could be a latticed, free-standing roof covered with vines and plants. Today's pergolas often have different shapes and designs but are often attached to the existing roof of a house or an existing covered patio. In the Southwest, we might call that pergola a ramada or a cabana.
So here are a few questions and answers if pergolas, ramadas and similar structures sound appealing to you:
What material can a pergola be made from?
Traditionally, they were made of masonry or wood. These days you can often buy inexpensive do-it-yourself pergola kits containing materials made of wood in big-box stores. But in the Arizona sunshine, wood likely will need repainting every year. Wood plus plastic composite materials like Trex may last longer but are more expensive. Booth uses an aluminum product -- textured to look like wood and that will last for years and years.
Do you have to have a building permit for a pergola?
In most cases, you will need one from your local planning department even though the structure might be very small and doesn't have any solid walls. After all, you might want to add electricity to a pergola or ramada for lights, fans or a sound system. A pergola also must conform to rules for setbacks from lot lines and similar regulations.
"Any time some structure like a pergola is attached to your home, you're probably going to need a permit," Booth says.
Can you build a pergola yourself?
If you're really experienced, maybe so, but it can be tricky. You might need do some design work to fit your landscaping. Or you might have to extend some paving from a patio and put in footings to support columns. The planning department permit requirements might make the job more complicated. However, pergola kits do include precut lumber or structural parts and hardware, in addition to instructions.
Can a pergola be used as a roof and shelter for an outdoor kitchen?
That's possible, but don't put in that outdoor kitchen located too far away from your house. In our experience the closer the kitchen is, the more likely you will use it. If you're going to supply water, gas or electricity to a pergola, you may need assistance from an electrician or plumber. You may also want to install lighting, a misting system and a sound system. Another use for a pergola is next to a swimming pool to provide shelter and shade between laps.
Are there other small structures you might add to a sunny yard to provide more shade?
Think about trellises of wood, metal or plastic. Trellises, of course, are lattices often used as an artistic design element for gardens. But if you put a trellis in front of a wall of the house that gets a lot of intense sun, it can create shade to cool that wall, especially if you cover it with vines. Build the trellis a foot or two away from the wall so that it won't interfere with future repainting and so that vines won't cover the wall itself. Latticed arbors can also provide shade on walkways in a yard. But remember, it's not good to have too much water sprinkling close to your house.
Still, if you're yearning for a little more summertime shade on your patio, a pergola or ramada might be exactly what you want.
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