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Understanding the Parts of a Pergola

Designing your home to your liking can be challenging, especially if you can visualise how you want certain elements to come together but experience trouble articulating them. Even worse than guessing is describing a vision that turns out to be entirely off the mark, so it’s best to familiarise yourself with the different parts of any outdoor design you may want to come to life. 

Outdoor pergolas are fast becoming a popular option for courtyards and patios. It’s perfect for brunch, tea, or any other casual outdoor get-together. Knowing the different parts of your pergola and the steps required to construct it can better understand how it can work best for your home. Here is a guide to pergolas that you can refer to before embarking on this exciting new outdoor project. 

About the Pergola

Pergolas are a Mediterranean structure with Italian roots. The term itself refers to specific wooden outdoor structures ranging from shaded walkways to open roofs and freestanding. Pergolas can be used as building extensions as well, and builders will typically create them using steel or timber. Here are the different parts of pergolas for you to know, especially since they are essential for drafting the construction design.


Beams are structures that run parallel and perpendicular to houses just under the pergola’s roof. 


The horizontal pieces of wood that make up the central part of the roof are called rafters. When pergolas are connected to a house, rafters join the ledger board on one end while the other end is placed on top of the beam. Rafters will typically sit on top of both beams for free-standing pergolas.

Ledger Board

Ledger boards or ledges refer to the long pieces of timber that are anchored to the wall frame. These are usually the same height as the rafters and run the length of the pergola.


Footings are created when builders pour concrete into a hole in the ground to support the pergolas’ posts.


Usually considered the most critical components, posts are the vertical support structures that run from the beam to the footing. This allows the pergola to stand upright and provides it with stability. Freestanding pergolas need four posts, while those attached to a building can stand upright with at least two. 


The term ‘freestanding’ refers to any structure not attached to a building such as a house or a commercial property.

Gable End

Gable ends are the triangular ends of roofs, a popular design that adds plenty of character to any building. This can also be customised for your preferences, primarily to showcase the pitch of the roof.


Horizontal pieces of wood or steel that sit perpendicular to the rafters in the pergola’s roof are called purlins. They are included in building the pergola for structural purposes and providing extra shade.


Adding a new structure like a pergola to your home or any other property can be an exciting new project. These structures can add a very aesthetically pleasing look to any open space. For homes, pergolas work best on patios and the like. Familiarising yourself with the different parts of a pergola will allow you to become more comfortable with getting involved in the construction process, where you should be present and fully aware. Getting just the right look for this project can make or break the accent it adds to your home, so knowing your way around the different components is a must!

At Excelfit Pty. Ltd., we design and construct fully engineered pergolas, awnings, carports, sheds, garages, and more. For the best patios on the Sunshine Coast and other structures, get in touch with us today for a consultation!

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