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Quick Look: Pergola Costs & Affordable Design Tips

Quick Look: Pergola Costs & Affordable Design Tips

A source of shade and outdoor structure, pergolas have skyrocketed in popularity over the past year. Here are some costs associated with building one, as well as a few budget-friendly design ideas.

With the effects of the pandemic still with us, Americans continue to make their homes as cozy, functional and welcoming as they can — including outdoor living spaces. In fact, a fully furnished backyard just might become the most recent status symbol.

Providing structure and shade, pergolas are increasingly being recognized as an easy way to incorporate beauty and function outside. Because of their versatility — pergolas can be positioned over a patio, decor, walkway, or even in the corner of a yard — some businesses have watched orders increase more than 300 percent over the last year.

The best part is that you don’t necessarily have to spend an arm and a leg to add a pergola to your outdoor living area. Here’s a look at the main costs you’ll encounter when taking on a pergola construction project, as well as some tips for constructing one on a tight budget.

Pergola Price Range

Building a pergola can cost anywhere from $10 to $60 a square foot, or $2,000 to $6,000 total, depending on the materials, size and whether you’re constructing it yourself or hiring a professional.

A basic pergola built by a pro generally runs $500 to $1,000 more than doing it yourself, due to labor. Costs can increase as size and complexity increase.

Thumbtack, a popular home services website, estimates having a 10×10-foot pergola installed to be about $3,600 — including materials and labor. Pricing for a PVC or prefab vinyl kit is noted as being as little as $1,000; and large, custom pergolas made from high-end materials can run as high as $9,000.

Bottom line: The final overall cost of your pergola structure is highly dependent on the size, function and finish.

Reduce Size to Drop Costs

Tight budget? No problem. There are several ways to lessen costs without completely abandoning your dream pergola. For example, material and labor costs are typically dependent on the size of the project. Therefore, simply making your pergola smaller, which lessens the work and raw materials required, will lower the final price.

You can also reduce labor costs by constructing the pergola yourself, but it’s important to know your limitations before going this route. Research beforehand so that you know exactly what is required or else you could end up wasting as much money fixing mistakes as you would have hiring someone in the first place.

Choose Less Expensive Materials

Installation costs can vary between contractors, it’s true, but what usually has the most impact on the final cost of a pergola is the building materials. Incorporating complicated designs, customizations, or high-end materials can easily double the price. For example, while both are considered common building materials, using redwood to build your patio covering is nearly double the price tag of pressure-treated pine.

Another tip? Stay away from lumber while wood prices are through the roof and opt for other building materials instead, like vinyl. This can reduce your project budget significantly, in addition to making your structure nearly maintenance-free. Vinyl is also considered the longest lasting material.

Go With a Pergola Kit

For the most part, you have two choices when constructing a pergola: hire a pro to build it, or build it yourself with a kit. If you have the time, ability and tools required, then building it yourself is a sound choice.

Prefabricated structures abound nowadays, so you should have no trouble finding a kit that suits your needs. Wooden patio cover kits generally start at $2,500 for pressure-treated pine, hit about $3,000 for precut cedar, and top out at more than $5,000 for large premium offerings.

In contrast, small vinyl DIY patio cover kits (freestanding) run as low as $600, with the average cost for a basic 10×10 foot aluminum kit coming in between $1,500 and $3,000. Both can be found at local DIY stores.

Again, be cautious if going the DIY route. Be sure you have a complete understanding of the process and what is required of you. Also, make sure to have plenty of help with the labor because regardless of whether you choose a kit or build your pergola from scratch, you’ll need at least two capable people to help you construct and install the structure.

Wait Until Fall to Build

Akin to traveling in the off-season, you can also get a deal on labor and professional services when contractors aren’t in the midst of their busy season. It’s true, labor costs can vary depending on what time of year it is. While summer is particularly busy for outdoor contractors, fall is a different story. They are much more open to negotiating rates and material costs when they have less clients.

In addition, don’t go with the first quote you receive; get several before engaging a contractor to ensure the best price.

Research, Research, Research

Lastly, before going all-in on any home improvement project, including a pergola, it’s always good to take the time to do your research. This includes compiling a detailed list of what you want and are hoping to accomplish with the finished project.

Also, styles, features, and materials all come in at different price points, so you’ll want to educate yourself on them ahead of time so you know what is possible within your budget.

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