How Tall Should a Pergola Be?

Last updated on May 4th, 2023

If done correctly, a pergola can help elevate your outdoor space while providing a place for people to gather and enjoy partial shelter and shade from the elements. One of the critical factors to consider when building a new pergola is the height. This is important to ensure the structure blends seamlessly with its surroundings. So, how tall should a pergola be?

Typically, a pergola can be anywhere from 8 to 12 feet tall. It could be more depending on your available space, proposed width, location, and HOA regulations. It is best to check with your local council in your area for any restrictions before you get started.

In this article, we will discuss how to choose the correct pergola height, the different factors to consider, and some popular pergola ideas and sizes. Let’s delve straight in!

How Tall Should a Pergola Be?

Normal pergola height is usually about 8 feet. But this can change depending on how wide the pergola is and where it’s located. A wider pergola would need a taller roof structure for it not to look short. Likewise, if you have shrubs and trees close to the pergola, that will also influence the height.

How Tall Is A Standard Pergola?

A standard pergola is usually around 8 to 12 feet tall. It can be more or less depending on the available space and where the pergola will be placed.

You can choose to build the pergola as a standalone unit, or you can attach it to the walls of your house or a similar building. An attached pergola affixed to a building should be the same height as the building; it shouldn’t be taller or shorter.

If the pergola is covered with vines or plants, you would want it lower than the eaves of the building. This is to prevent the vine tendrils or leaves from getting under the roof shingles and obstructing the gutters. The patio or pergola should be low enough to avoid this problem but high enough to provide good head clearance. It will be awkward to build a pergola that is taller than the main building in such a situation.

Freestanding pergolas can be any height as long as it complies with any local restrictions, unlike the standard pergola.

Ultimately, you want to get the correct pergola height, not too high or too short. If it’s too high, it won’t provide adequate protection from the sun or rain. Also, the house might look a lot smaller in comparison with the pergola. Likewise, if the structure is too low, it may feel confining, and the area might not get enough light and ventilation.

What is the maximum height for a pergola?

There’s no height restriction on pergola placement as long as you follow your area’s local codes and guidelines. Your chosen height will depend on the size of your yard and the available space.

In most places, 12 feet is the highest pergola height. If you’re planning to build anything higher than this, you will need to check with your local council or building department if any special permit is required. This is important to avoid any penalty down the road.

Am I better with a taller or shorter pergola height?

Shorter pergolas may have provided enough clearance. On the other hand, if the pergola is too tall, it will not provide adequate shade from the sun and rain. Thus, the correct height is neither too tall nor too short but somewhere in-between.

As earlier indicated, a pergola should not be shorter than 8 feet, so there would be enough head room. Likewise, it shouldn’t be taller than 12 feet, except you’re building a larger pergola or adding longer fixtures. For the best comfort and weather protection, 9-10 feet would be a sweet spot.

Why is the Height of a Pergola Important?

Choosing the right height for a pergola is important for two major reasons. First, it ensures proper air circulation, and secondly, it will keep you protected from the sun. You don’t want a pergola that is squatty, as that can hinder proper airflow and limit your entertainment space. Likewise, a pergola that is too tall will look underutilized and may not provide adequate shade from the sun.

So, it’s important you choose the correct pergola height to enjoy adequate cover and warmth.

Also, you should make proper use of the space available. For instance, if you have a large pergola with a 12ft. ceiling, you can add a light fixture or ceiling fan to the rafter. But make sure there’s enough overhead clearance for the fixture.

You can also add curtains for decoration, privacy, or to reduce the breeze in the area. With the height of the pergola, you can determine what curtains to add.

Other ideas for filling your pergola space include adding climbing plants, using decorative vases, and adding furniture. Everything should be done in moderation in order not to make the area too cramped.

How to measure the height of a pergola?

As earlier indicated, when deciding the height of a pergola, you need to consider the width. Thus, you should start by determining the width if you haven’t already. Measure the side by starting from where you plan to put one post to where the next post or wall is located. Do this for all the sides.

Depending on the clearance you need, where the pergola is located, and the type of roofing you have, you can determine the height. For instance, if the pergola will be located near a tree or some other barrier, you can measure from the ground up to where you want the top beams to be. Ideally, it should be below the tree. You will need a tape measure to take the height.

For a pergola with a high ceiling, you want the height to be above 8 feet. Before you start building the pergola, ensure you check your local government for any restrictions on height placement.

Factors To Consider When Selecting The Right Pergola Height

There are a few factors to consider when selecting the right height for your pergola project.

Local Council or HOA Regulations

If you live in an area that has a homeowner’s association, you will need to check with them to see if you need a special permit for pergola projects. You can also check your local council or building department. Some municipalities have guidelines and restrictions for building permanent outdoor living structures, while some don’t. This usually includes building codes for layout and sizing, as well as zoning laws.

Building a pergola in such areas without the required permit will often lead to takedowns or a fine. So, before you decide on a pergola height, make sure it doesn’t violate any HOA covenant or regulations.

Location (Freestanding Pergola or Attached Pergola)

You should also consider where you plan to place the pergola when determining the height.

If you’re building a freestanding pergola, you have more freedom with height. However, ensure the height corresponds with the proposed size of the pergola. If you’re planning to place the structure beneath an overhead object like a tree or power lines, make sure there’s enough clearance in-between.

For an attached pergola, make sure there’s enough clearance underneath so people can walk freely. The height should match that of the structure you’re attaching it to. If you’re living in a 2- or 3-story building, you can go a bit higher with the pergola height. In any case, the pergola must not be taller than your home or whatever building you’re attaching it to.

Size or How You Plan to Use the Pergola

The size of your pergola and how you plan to use it will also determine the height.

There are different pergola sizes – 10×10, 12×12, 14×14, 16×16, 16×20, and so on. Each of these pergolas has different height requirements. For instance, if a pergola is 10×10, the ceiling height should be 8 or 10 feet. Likewise, a 12×12 pergola should have a ceiling height of at least 10 feet. The idea here is to ensure the pergola height is proportional to its area size or floor space.

You can opt for any size as long as the pergola posts are strong enough to carry the roof.

What do You Plan to Add

Another thing to consider while determining a pergola height is the additions (lighting, ceiling fans, chandeliers, etc.). The minimum height of a pergola should be 7-8 feet. This is to ensure there’s enough space for someone to stand comfortably in it. A lower pergola roof will reduce ventilation and brightness in the area.

If you plan to add something like an overhead head fan or lighting, more clearance (usually 1-2 feet) will be needed to ensure the fan is out of reach. For instance, if you were going to build an 8-foot pergola and later decide to add a fan, the new height will be 9-10 feet. Likewise, you will need extra clearance if you plan to decorate the structure with vines or other greenery that will be hanging down.

What are the Popular Pergola Sizes

Pergolas are available in various sizes for different budgets and outdoor living spaces. You want to choose one that has enough room to accommodate you, your furniture, and anyone else that will be using it. To make your decision easier, here are the common pergola sizes to look out for:

For Small Decks & Patios

The following pergola sizes are recommended for a small deck or patio – 10×10, 10×12, and 10×14 square feet. Each of these pergolas is 10-foot tall, which is the standard height that is common with freestanding pergola units. It’s not too short or tall, so it won’t look out of place. You can add ceiling fans or lighting to the rafter to fill up the space, together with a few chairs and a table (dining table or coffee table).

Specifically, for a 10×10 pergola, you can fit in two chairs, which is perfect for small or intimate gatherings. For a 10×12 pergola, you can fit in 2-4 chairs, while a 10×14 pergola will accommodate up to 6 chairs which makes it perfect for an outdoor dining area.

If you want something bigger for a small patio, you can opt for a 12×12 pergola. With this, you can host moderate gatherings and outdoor dining. Most 12-foot size are usually attached pergola, so they won’t look too big or out of place.

For Large Decks & Patios

A 12×16 pergola is perfect for a large deck. It provides more room to move around and plenty of space to fit a dining table, chairs, and even a couch. Simply put, you can add more furniture, especially for entertaining or moderate gatherings (up to six people). You can also add a fire pit or a swing depending on your preference.

Other larger pergola sizes include 16×16, 16×20, 20×20, etc. These pergolas are suitable for larger backyards and can cover an entire patio or deck. They are great for large family cooking or outdoor entertainment and can be a sweet spot next to a pool or lake. The 16×20 pergola can accommodate up to 12 persons.

FAQS – How tall should a patio pergola be?

Can a pergola be higher than a fence?

Yes, it can. But it’s probably not the best way to plan things. If the fence was there before you built the pergola, then it’s fine. However, if you’re erecting both outdoor structures at the same time (i.e., the fence and patio cover), it’s better to make them the same height so they don’t look out of place next to each other.

Can the local council make you pull down your pergola?

Yes, your local council can make you pull down your pergola. This may happen if the structure is not built in compliance with local regulations (if there are any) or if it interferes with other buildings. This is why it’s recommended to seek counsel from your local municipality before you embark on any major outdoor living space or home improvement projects.

What is the average size of a pergola?

The average size of a pergola is about 144 square feet (i.e., 12 feet x 12 feet). However, if you want to create a more intimate seating area suitable for two people, a 48 square feet (i.e., 6 feet wide x 8 feet long) pergola would be perfect. In general, your pergola size will depend on your budget and available space.

Is there a height restriction on pergola placement?

Not really. As long as the pergola is built according to local regulations (if there are any), there’s no height restriction on its placement. In some places, this could mean building a pergola that is not more than 12 feet tall. Once the height exceeds 12 feet, you will need to visit your local council to check if there are any restrictions to keep to.

What is the Best Height for a Pergola?

The truth is that there’s no “perfect” height for a pergola. What you want is for the width and minimum height to be in the correct proportion. You don’t want the structure to be too high or too low, so it doesn’t block out the sun or affect air circulation. Instead, it should be tall enough to provide good shade from the sun.

How wide should a pergola be?

Your pergola’s width will be determined by your available space and how much of this space you want the structure to occupy. The general recommendation is to make the width not less than 6 feet assuming you won’t place furniture inside. But if you plan to use furniture, then make sure it’s wider than 8 feet.

Summary – What is the best height for a pergola?

So, to crown it all, there’s no perfect height for a pergola. The best height is subjective and depends on your landscape, location, planning permissions, and what you intend to use the pergola for. A general rule is to make the height 8-12 feet, which is the standard height for a covered patio.

To avoid falling out with your local municipality, make sure to follow any height restrictions or zoning rules on pergola placement. This is why it’s important to contact your local council or HOA before you start building the pergola. If you want to save yourself from the hassle, you can simply hire an experienced contractor or pergola manufacturer. They can help you determine the optimal height for your pergola and obtain any necessary permits.

Let us know if you have any more questions about choosing the right pergola height. Till then, happy pergola installation!

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