Pergola vs Patio: Which Cover Should I install?

If you’re looking for partial protection from the sun, a pergola is right. But, a patio cover is better if you want complete protection from the harsh sun and rain.

A pergola adds beauty with its open lattice roof and climbing plants, while a patio adds functionality by offering complete protection from weather elements.

Both structures are ways of using your outdoor space, but if you can’t decide whether to choose a pergola vs patio cover, we’ll fill you in on their functions and differences.

What Is a Pergola?

A pergola is an outdoor structure featuring four beams and an open lattice roof. It can’t fully protect you from weather elements but can offer partial shade.

A pergola is free-standing or can be attached to your home. You can also install it on a walkway, driveway, or pool deck. Pergolas are made of wood or vinyl and can provide support to climbing plants.

Traditional pergolas have wooden posts supported by beams and can also support climbing plants. Modern pergolas can be adjusted by motors that open and close the roofing slats. The closer the slats, the more shade they offer.

Pros of Pergolas

  • You can add a retractable canopy to add shade
  • You can grow vines and other climbing plants on it
  • You can add decorations like hanging lights and curtains
  • It’s possible to move it elsewhere
  • It’s easier to use a fire pit. There’s less risk of staining the roof.

Cons of Pergolas

  • They can’t be cooled or heated since all sides are open
  • You can’t add entertainment due to exposure to weather
  • Pruning is required if vines climb on it 
  • Climbing plants make it difficult to paint or reseal a pergola

What Is a Patio Cover?

A patio cover is a direct extension of your home. It’s like another room in your home, but outside. This structure has a solid roof that protects you from the sun and rain.

Patio covers can be customized with built-in light fixtures, ceiling fans, and speakers because rain and the sun won’t damage them. Some designs feature sliding doors to close during cold weather.

Pros of Patio Covers

  • They offer complete protection from the sun, rain, cold, and wind
  • Patio covers block heat from entering your home.
  • You can install ceiling fans to cool you during summer
  • Offers privacy from neighbors
  • You can add entertainment options

Cons of Patio Covers

  • You can’t move it since it’s a permanent structure.
  • Fire pits can cause staining of the roof.
Patio Cover

Differences Between Pergolas and Patio Covers 

Next is a summary of the design, support, and cost differences between pergola vs covered patio.


Patios give you more creative options because they can be furnished just like your home. You can add entertainment, light fixtures, and a fire pit.

You can’t furnish pergolas entirely due to their exposure to weather elements. Still, if you have a green thumb, you can transform your pergola into an aesthetically pleasing structure using climbing plants.


Support is one of the biggest differences between patios and pergolas. A patio is an extension of your home. It attaches directly to your home’s outer walls.

Pergolas are independent structures that you can place anywhere on your patio, yard, or walkway. They can also be attached to the house.


Pergolas are simple structures that take a shorter time to construct, while patio covers extend from your home and need more material and time to construct. They are more expensive to build than pergolas.

Although patio covers are more expensive to build, they increase your home’s value if you decide to sell.

Which Materials Build Pergolas and Patio Covers?

Below are materials used to construct patios and pergolas.


Vinyl is popular due to its durability and little maintenance. It’s available in many colors and is fade-resistant.

Vinyl gives your structure a classic, timeless look. Most people use white vinyl for their pergolas and patio covers.


Wood is readily available and shaped to various designs. Cedar and redwood are popular choices. 

Another advantage of wood is that you can paint or stain it to match your home’s exterior or give it a more countryside look.


Aluminum is popular because it doesn’t rot or rust. It’s easy to clean and not damaged by strong winds, making it a good choice if you live in a windy area.

What To Know When Building a Pergola or Patio Cover

The foundation is the most important part of patios and pergolas. Build a solid foundation that supports the entire structure. You don’t want it to sag or crumble during the rainy season.

Maintenance depends on the material you choose. Unpainted wood is the most difficult to maintain due to exposure to weather elements. Vinyl is the best when it comes to maintenance. Just clean it with soap and water.

There’s a difference between a pergola vs patio cover in terms of cost. Patio covers are more expensive than pergolas to build, but the cost depends on the material used for each structure.  Wood is more affordable, followed by vinyl and aluminum as the most expensive of the three.

Should I Install a Pergola or a Patio Cover?

A pergola is excellent if you want partial shade or a structure unattached to your home. This hardscape structure is also the best choice if you want to grow climbing plants.

However, install a patio cover if you want full protection from weather elements and additional features like light fixtures and television or speakers.

The following considerations will help you decide whether to install a patio or a pergola.

  • Budget – How much money can you spare? A pergola is cheaper than a patio cover
  • Protection from weather elements – A patio cover is sufficient if you want full protection from rain and shine.
  • Fire type you like – Using a fire pit in a patio cover stains the roof with soot. On the other hand, a pergola’s open roof allows smoke to escape.
  • Purpose – A patio cover is perfect for family entertainment because you can furnish it fully. A pergola is good for casual lounging and adds aesthetic appeal.

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