Maybe you have a covered patio in your backyard. Chances are that it isn’t exactly what you need to stay cool on a warm spring day and it will never lure you outside in mid-summer.
But it could make things more tolerable if you just had more shade. It gets more tolerable when you add some shade, even if it’s 100 degrees outside.
Maybe you’ll be able to enjoy your morning coffee under a perfectly positioned shade structure of some kind. Or maybe you can dine outside under a perfect Arizona sunset once in a while.
The most popular idea for providing that shade is often adding an open-lattice pergola with overhead slats that throw shade but don’t greatly restrict natural light inside a home or on a patio.
The Latin word “pergola” often meant an outdoor structure of columns supporting a roof with rafters and beams. Sometimes it could be a latticed, free-standing roof covered with vines and plants. Today’s pergolas often have different shapes and designs but are often attached to the existing roof of a house or an existing covered patio. In Arizona, we might be more likely to call that pergola a ramada or a cabana. A variety of companies in the Tucson area sell and construct shade structures.
So here are suggestions if you’re thinking about having a new shade structure in your own yard:
Think about putting in a metal or plastic trellis. Trellises, of course, are lattices often used as an artistic design element for gardens. But if you put a trellis in front of a wall of the house that gets a lot of intense sun, it can create shade to cool that wall, especially if you cover it with vines. Build the trellis a foot or two away from the wall so that it won’t interfere with future repainting and so that vines won’t cover the wall itself. Latticed arbors can also throw shade on walkways in a yard.
Aluminum that has been textured to look like wood is a great alternative for building a pergola in Arizona. Traditionally, shade structures they were made of masonry or wood. These days you can often buy inexpensive do-it-yourself kits for pergolas made of wood in big-box stores. Another possible choice is to use plastic composite materials like Trex that can have a long life but are very costly. A better choice in Arizona is aluminum that can be textured to look like wood.
Plan on getting a building permit from your local planning department for a pergola. That’s true even if your shade structure is fairly small. After all, you might want to add electricity to a pergola or ramada for lights, fans or a sound system. Shade structures are also often attached to homes, a situation that requires a permit. A pergola must also conform to rules for lot-line setbacks and similar regulations.
A pergola can be a DIY project but it can be tricky. You might need to do some design work to fit your landscaping. Or you might have to extend some paving from a patio and put in footings to support columns. However, pergola DIY kits do include precut lumber or structural parts and hardware, besides basic how-to info.
You can shelter an outdoor kitchen with a shade structure. But try to build it near the house. In our experience the closer it is, the more likely you will use that outdoor cooking area. If you’re going to supply water, gas or electricity to a pergola, you may need help from an electrician or plumber. You may also want to install lighting, a misting system and a sound system. Another use for a pergola is next to a swimming pool to provide shelter and shade between laps.
For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 29 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio program, heard locally from 8 to 11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson and from 9 to 11 a.m. on KGVY-AM (1080) and -FM (100.7) in Green Valley. Call 888-767-4348.