A Guide to Pergola Costs and Budget-Friendly Design Ideas

Eye-catching pergolas are skyrocketing in popularity. Here's how to build one on a budget.

With the pandemic lumbering onward, there's been hardly any decline in the desire among Americans to make our homes as comfortable, functional, and inviting as possible. This widespread rethinking of our living quarters has included plenty of lavish exterior remodeling projects, including outdoor living spaces and even the construction of pergolas.

In fact, a well-appointed backyard might be the newest American status symbol—and some companies have seen orders for pergolas in particular increase by more than 300% over the past year.

Offering shade and structure, pergolas are a great way to add beauty and function to your outdoor space and can be placed over a deck, patio, or even in the corner of a backyard. And the good news is you don't necessarily have to invest a fortune to add a pergola to your home's exterior.

Here's a closer look at some of the costs associated with a pergola construction project, and tips for building one on a limited budget.

pergola with curtains
Bob Stefko

Typical Price Range of Pergolas

The cost of constructing a pergola can range anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000, or $10 to $60 per square foot, depending on the size, materials selected, and whether you hire a pro or DIY, says Bailey Carson, home care expert at Angi.

"For a simple pergola, hiring a pro will typically cost about $500 to $1,000 more than DIY, to account for labor," says Carson. "Costs can go up depending on size, complexity, or level of customization."

The home services website Thumbtack, meanwhile, estimates that the cost of materials and labor to install a 10x10-foot pergola is around $3,600. But Thumbtack adds that prices can range from as little as $1,000 for a small prefab vinyl or PVC kit to $9,000 for the design and installation of sprawling custom patio covers and structures made from high-end materials such as teak wood. The final overall cost, however, depends highly on the finish of your pergola structure, its size, and its function.

Minimize Costs by Reducing Size

If your project has a tight budget, there are a few ways to lower costs without sacrificing your dream pergola. Material and labor costs, for instance, are based on the project's size, so opting for a smaller pergola that involves less work and raw materials will bring down the final price tag, says Carson.

"You can also save money on labor costs by building the pergola yourself, but do your research beforehand to make sure you have what it takes to get the project done well," adds Carson. "Otherwise, you could end up spending more to fix mistakes than you would have to simply hire someone to do it right the first time."

Opt for Less Expensive Building Materials

While the cost of pergola installation can fluctuate between contractors, it's usually the building materials that impact the final cost of a pergola the most, say experts.

"Adding complex designs, flourishes, or luxury building materials can easily double the price of a patio cover," explains David Steckel, home expert for Thumbtack who has 15 years of experience as a general contractor. "Redwood, for example, is a commonly used wood thanks to its natural weather-resistance and rustic look. However, redwood costs are nearly double the price of pressure-treated pine, another common building material."

Steering clear of lumber while wood prices are skyrocketing and selecting alternative building materials, such as vinyl, can bring down the cost of your project substantially, advises John Smucker of Pennsylvania-based Smucker Fencing, a local fence and outdoor living specialist.

"Most pergolas are made from either vinyl, wood, or cedar. If you want to save money while also getting a low-maintenance pergola, I suggest investing in vinyl," says Smucker. "It's virtually maintenance-free, is the longest lasting, and in today's upside-down ecosystem, is actually more affordable than lumber."

Consider a Pergola Kit

In general, there are two main options when building a pergola: You can hire a pro to handle the construction, or purchase a DIY pergola kit and build the structure yourself.

"[Building the pergola yourself] is a good option for those who have the time, tools, and talent to do the project well," says Carson.

There are countless options nowadays for prefabricated structures, and you can find kits all over the place. Wooden DIY patio cover kits often start around $2,500 for pressure-treated pine, but quickly top more than $3,000 for precut cedar, with larger premium kits costing more than $5,000, says Steckel, of Thumbtack.

"Smaller freestanding vinyl DIY patio cover kits can cost as low as $600, although the average price for a standard 10x10 foot aluminum pergola kit can be anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 and can be found at places like The Home Depot as well as more boutique hardware store locations," adds Steckel.

Just be careful when taking the DIY route. Make sure you fully understand the process and what you're getting into. It's also important to have plenty of assistance to complete the labor. Regardless of whether you opt to build a pergola from scratch or assemble one using a prefabricated kit, it takes at least two (often three) qualified people to assemble and install even the simplest structures, says Steckel.

Wait Until Fall to Construct a Pergola

Similar to saving money when traveling in shoulder season or off-season, you can also obtain reduced rates on professional services and labor when contractors are not at their busiest.

"Labor costs can also vary depending on the time of year. Summer is a busy time for outdoor contractors," says Steckel. "Build your pergola in the fall. Contractors are much more likely to negotiate rates, if not material costs, when they have fewer clients."

It's also a good idea to get multiple quotes before you hire a contractor to ensure you're getting the most competitive price.

Do Your Research Ahead of Time

Finally, before you embark on any type of home remodeling project, including a pergola, it's a good idea to spend plenty of time doing your research and making a detailed list of what you're looking for and hoping to achieve with the final project.

Different styles, materials, and features come at different price points, so it's important to develop an understanding well ahead of time about what you can realistically build within your budget, says Carson.

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