A deck is a great addition to just about any home, but it can become very hot during the summer months with the sun beating down upon it. Some homeowners are lucky enough to have a tree nearby to provide shade, but for those who don't, a pergola or an arbor can be an even better option that will add style as well as shade to the deck. Adding pergola or arbor construction to your deck-building repertoire will allow you to create new business with past customers and add more value to your company.
When dealing with customers looking to add shade to their deck, the first thing you will want to do is determine what exactly they are looking for. Some deck builders and their clients may use the terms 'pergola' and 'arbor' interchangeably, but there actually are differences between the two. Pergolas are often (but not always) built as freestanding structures, while arbors are typically connected to the house or to another structure. Aside from simple design differences, pergolas tend to be bigger and pricier than arbors.
According to veteran deck builder Kim Katwijk, pergolas and arbors can be a great up-sell for any deck. Katwijk prefers to use a simple design as the starting point for any pergolas he builds. For pergolas, he usually builds along one side of the deck and creates what looks like a T-shaped wall. He then has the ability to leave it as is or create a more elaborate structure by building a second "wall" a few feet apart and bridging the gap with rafters. He fills in between the posts at the end of the deck with vertical lattice panels.
"This last feature in particular is an easy sell," he writes. "As it goes a long way toward distinguishing a deck while offering shade and privacy."
When designing a pergola, you want to make sure you have the measurements and proportions just right or you might end up building a structure that is too skinny and too tall. Some additional sitework may be required too, if the pergola will be a stand-alone structure on top of a concrete pad.
Pergolas can be as simple or complex as your customers want. A complex structure, such as a long or curved pergola, may take weeks to build and install and require some upgrades and work to any structure that might be supporting it, such as a house. You may also need to take special precautions and use resources that will require creativity in how you get the job done.
When designing and constructing arbors, veteran deck builder Bobby Parks offers a few valuable tips and suggestions, most importantly that you keep in mind that your work will be viewed from below and that arbors can serve a number of design purposes—from defining an entry point to guiding people away from heavy traffic areas. Parks prefers to build the arbors on site, but he is not against prefabricating smaller ones off-site.
His arbors all contain the same basic structural components: columns, cross beams, joists, and cross-lathing.
As with any structure you build, you will want to check to see if there are any specific code requirements that you have to meet. Snow and ice build-up on horizontal timbers running across the top of the arbor or pergola may be a concern for some inspectors in northern climates. Another concern may be the weight of plants that are hung from or that are growing up along the side or top of the structure.
Feeling inspired? With examples like these as your guide, it should be a lot easier to sell, design, and build shade structures that will keep your clients shaded and satisfied.
Got any tips or suggestions we missed? Share them with us on our Facebook page.