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Planning For Your Pergola - Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I measure for a pergola?

The dimensions of a Heartland Pergola refer to the width and depth of the pergola's roof. The pergola roof will include the beams and rafters, and on a Traditional style pergola, will extend past the posts of your pergola.

For an example, a 14' x 14' pergola means that the overhead roof dimensions are 14' x 14'.

To figure out post spacing you will want to look at the specific CAD drawing for the pergola size you are looking for. Noting that a typical Traditional style pergola will be built with the posts inset one foot from the end of your beams. Modern Pergolas will NOT have an overhang.

Tip while planning - if your patio space is 14' x 14', most homeowners will opt to go a size larger on a Traditional Style Pergola so that the overhang of the pergola roof extends past the edge of your patio, rather than stopping even with it. A 14' x 14' patio would benefit from installing a 16' x 16' pergola (or greater) for optimum sun coverage.

cad drawing of a 16x16 pergola
Sample of a CAD drawing which shows the on center measurements for your posts based off your post column style
pergola over a patio on landscape columns with a foot of overhang on the roof profile
An example of how the overall pergola size is greater than the patio space due to the overhang on the traditional pergola.

Q: What is the difference between the width and depth of a pergola?

The width and depth will tell you the dimensions your pergola roof will occupy.

The “width” of your pergola indicates the length of the beams (the supports that sit directly atop the posts or columns) and the purlins (the shade pieces).

The “depth” of your pergola refers to the length of the rafters (which lie crossways on top of the beams).

It is important to make sure you have your width & depth correct when ordering anything other than a perfect square as this will affect the orientation of your purlins which can affect the amount of sun that is being blocked. If you are unsure, please contact us for clarification. Happy to help!

depth vs width graphic on both attached pergolas and freestanding pergolas

Q: Can I request customizations to my pergola?


We will fabricate your pergola to your specific needs and have a very versatile system that makes it easy to custom fit your space.

The best way to do this is to contact our team by email or phone to go over your specific design & layout. We will help you plan and design the pergola to fit your needs.

Frequent customizations include (but not limited to):

Large Pergolas – Our online pergola builder tool does have a limit to the width and depth sizes you can order online, however, larger pergolas are certainly doable, they just require additional posts to support the added size. We can get you a quote on any size pergola you can dream up!
Custom Attachment Points – Have a unique space that requires attachment to your structure on more than one side? We have designed pergolas with multiple structural attachment points and even a pergola that had no posts, but was attached on both sides to a structure.
Custom Angles and Contours – Often times when following a patio or a deck, a pergola needs to be able to change angles, use additional posts, or have the rafters or purlins cut to mimic a curve.
Triangle Pergolas \ Corner Pergolas – Looking to cover a grilling area or create a cozy corner nook? We can fabricate a triangle pergola to fit your space.
Custom Shade Amounts – We can customize the amount of shade you are looking for, or even remove the shade purlins altogether if you prefer just a pretty structure with no shade.
Multi-tiered Pergolas – Really elevate your space with a pergola that spans over multiple tiers for additional visual interest.
Custom Shape Pergolas – we have created everything from octagons, triangles and unconventional pergola shapes.

Q: Can you cut my pergola to size?

In short – yes we can. If you know you will only need 8’ posts, or that you want your rafters cut 4” shorter, we can cut these to size. however we highly advise against it. We would hate to cut to a specific size and then upon receiving your kit, you discover a mismeasurement of your space, or in need of some extra wiggle room to accommodate something you didn’t anticipate!

Shipping new pieces can be very costly as many of our pergola pieces are oversized and need to be shipped by LTL semis.

All of our pieces are trimmable. A miter saw with a carbide blade can be used to cut through both the vinyl and the aluminum pieces. It’s typically better to trim on your own over having them trimmed to size here.

Feel free to discuss any questions or concerns with us prior to purchasing or shipping your pergola!

Q: Where should I put my pergola?

The primary function of our pergolas is to create shade and allow you to enjoy your outdoor space in the heat of the day. However where to place your pergola can be dependent on many factors.

Some people opt to attach their pergola to their home or structure over a deck or patio to provide shade on an outdoor living space.

Others add a pergola to a full outdoor landscape plan to create purpose and separation of different outdoor areas.

Some people are looking for more of an aesthetic and architectural value a pergola structure can bring to a garden or landscape and others are looking for the utility of shade for outdoor dining, outdoor kitchen or outdoor living spaces.

We are happy to take a look at a photo of your space along with your primary concerns to help you with the placement of your pergola. We also work with landscape professionals and would be happy to talk to your landscape architect or general contractor to offer ideas on the best placement of your pergola in your back yard.

Q: How tall are your pergolas?

Our standard posts are 10’ tall and based on a standard installation, would give you a floor to beam clearance of 8’ to 10’. If you need a longer post to create a taller pergola, we can customize your pergola kit to include a longer pergola post. There is an additional charge for the additional length of your posts and will be dependent on the number of posts your pergola needs (freestanding vs attached). Just send us a message and we can send over that quote to you quickly!

All posts are trimmable, both the aluminum inserts as well as the vinyl sleeves. If you are cutting your posts shorter to sit on top of a landscape column, outdoor bar top or outdoor kitchen top, you would not need to special order your posts. You can use a miter saw with a carbide blade to trim these pieces to their needed height.

Q: What direction should your pergolas face?

Pergolas shade is at its optimum level when the sun is overhead during the midday hours. But when the pergola is installed with the purlins angled against the direction of problematic sun, they can provide longer durations of shade as the sun moves through the sky.

To achieve the most shade from your pergola you should consider facing your pergola so that your purlins run parallel to the problematic sun direction.

You want your purlins to tilt AWAY from the problematic sun direction as well. Tilting the louvers away creates the most surface area towards the sun, resulting in the best shade quality below your pergola!

For many people in the Northern hemisphere, the South or West exposure to the sun is going to be the most problematic. But it all depends on what your goal is and how your outdoor space sits relative to the sun. We have had some people choose to block early morning sun in which case their purlins ran parallel to the East and the tops were tipped towards the West. If you are unsure, give us a call or send us a message with your space and the sun direction and we can help you choose!

angle of louvers to block the sun from above the pergola

Q: What color pergolas do you offer?

Our pergolas currently come in white or sandstone tan.

A white pergola pops against jewel tone colors like dark blue or green home and goes great with a home that already has white trim.

A darker home with tan, beige or brown trim, siding or brick often goes well with our Sandstone Tan color.

If you are unsure, you can request a color sample. We will mail you a vinyl piece of each color for you to compare!

vinyl pergola color options

Q: Do you offer black, brown or wood grain pergolas?

At this time we do not have a dark colored pergola. Our standards for longevity and quality are high – White and Sandstone Tan have proven time and time again to withstand intense UV rays without fading, warping, or chalking. This allows us to provide you with our Lifetime Warranty.

There are other vinyl/pvc materials that come in darker colors, but none that have been tested to perform to a level that we are happy with. However, we are always on the lookout for one that can meet our standards, so be sure to check back in the future for additional options!

Q: Can I paint my pergola?

You can! There are vinyl paints out that that do allow you to paint your pergola in your choice of colors. We recommend Sherwin-Williams SuperPaint® (exterior acrylic latex) for a durable finish.

Keep in mind that painting nullifies one of the original perks of a vinyl pergola which is the low maintenance. In order to keep your pergola looking fresh and polished, you will need to re-paint it every couple of years.

vinyl pergola painted a darker color

Where to next?

If you can’t find what you’re looking for please give us a quick call at 563-345-6745 or use our chat box in the bottom left corner of your screen!