Traditionally, pergolas are built as slatted structures to provide partial shade while also letting the sun shine through. However, to get the most use from your pergola, a pergola cover to protect against rain and other harsh weather is a great solution. 

Choosing a pergola cover depends on several factors such as your climate, pergola size and amount of protection you desire. 

Harsher climates obviously require more protection, while milder climates can get away with minimal cover. Pergola size is usually relative to the function of your pergola so deciding on the correct cover depends on what you use your pergola for. Your cover choice will also depend on the type of protection you desire such as full shade or partial shade. Check out these pros and cons to decide which pergola is right for you.

Clear Pergola Covers

Pros

Clear covers allow for full sunlight to penetrate while also protecting the interior of your pergola from rain. Usually made of Plexiglas, polycarbonate, or acrylic, clear covers are an inexpensive option for pergola coverage and depending on the material, will also block harmful UV rays. Corrugated clear covers allow water to pour off the edges while giving a bit of a designer look, while flat covers tend to blend more with the sky depending on their thickness.

Cons

Unfortunately, there are some negatives to clear pergola covers. Dirt and debris can be an eyesore after collecting on the top of the clear cover and will need to be removed and cleaned regularly. Extreme heat and cold can also cause cracking, discoloration or splitting depending on the grade of cover, meaning that a replacement may be needed at one point. They are also considered a more permanent solution since they are screwed or nailed into the pergolas surface.

Fabric Pergola Covers

Pros

If you would like a flexible option that can be changed out periodically, fabric covers are a beautiful choice.  They can be fixed or retractable, and custom made in fabrics and colors that complement your outdoor environment. Easy to install, they can cover just the top of your pergola or hang down the sides to provide even more protection from the sun or rain. Many of the materials used to create pergola covers are resistant to the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays as well as designed to reduce heat buildup. Fabric covers also allow for themed looks for your pergola. You can switch out covers for different celebrations, looks, or seasons. Once a fabric cover begins to show wear and tear it is easy to replace it with a new one. 

Cons

While fabric covers are beautiful, they do have some downsides. Fabric is traditionally lightweight and can be uplifted and torn by winds. Dirt can adhere to fabric, and cause the cover to be difficult to clean. Outdoor fabric should be water resistant, but will not typically be ‘water tight’, so leakage can occur during heavy rains. Fabric can also fray and fade over time and will normally need to be replaced more often than solid cover options.

Shingled Pergola Covers

Pros

Shingled covers are actually a permanent roof structure that is built onto the top of the pergola. Just like the roof of your home, a shingled roof cover will have bracing, shingles and possibly insulated layers depending on your needs. It provides all weather protection, can last for over twenty years and is the sturdiest of the options.

Cons

The purpose of a pergola is to define a space, provide some measure of shade and allow light to filter in, so when a shingled roof is added the pergola becomes more of a covered patio. The full-shingled roof loses the very function of the pergola, which is to enjoy light and shade simultaneously. It will also be more expensive to replace then the other options.

Since pergolas are outdoor structures, no particular cover will be able to fully protect you from the elements, or the ravages of time but a cover will allow you to get the most use out of your pergola. The best feature of a pergola, is it’s functional use and variability as far as design. So, when deciding on your pergola cover, keep in mind your climate, long-term coverage needs and desired function.