Good Heights for Pergolas

An outdoor pergola is a gorgeous addition to any backyard or garden.

Grapevine Pergola

A rose-covered walkway requires a higher ceiling to account for hanging vegetation.A rose-covered walkway requires a higher ceiling to account for hanging vegetation.
A pergola is, in its most basic form, a covered walkway. Typically, pergolas are constructed to support vine or trellis-growing plants, with an overhead construction that allows for the plants to grow and provide shade. A pergola does not have to be strictly constructed over a walkway, however, so choosing a good height for your pergola means deciding what purpose you want your pergola to serve.

One of the most common types of pergolas is the grapevine pergola. Constructed over a patio or path, these pergolas are typically 7 feet or higher in height. Grapes will hang down between the overhead trellis cross members, allowing them to ripen. Additionally, grapevines tend to grown in all directions, including down, so space must be given to allow an adult to stand and not brush against vines and leaves. The pergola should be built at a height that will enable the homeowner to reach hanging grape bunches without the need for a step-stool or ladder.

Pathway Pergola

A pathway pergola, or traditional pergola, is one that is constructed to give shade and decoration to a pathway or walkway in your garden. These types of pergolas can typically be built in an archway-style design, with a height higher than the grapevine pergola. Since there is no fruit to pick, a higher height will allow for a more comfortable and less claustrophobic feel for someone walking down the path. Also, if your pathway pergola contains rosebushes, care will want to be given to allow plenty of room to prevent brushing against thorns. A height of 8 or more feet is typical.

Deckside Pergola

Building a pergola alongside a deck, near seating or a barbecue, is a great way to provide shade for your outdoor seating or cooking area. Care must be taken to construct the pergola with sufficient height to not only clear the grill top when it is lifted, but to prevent the pergola from being burned by flame. A pergola constructed near a grill or cooking surface should be at least 6 feet above the heat source. Additionally, any vines or plants growing on the pergola should be pruned back away from the heat source to prevent fire.

House-side Pergola

A pergola constructed along the outer wall of a house can be a great way to cut home air conditioning bills by providing shade. Construction height of such a pergola depends on your region, and what height will maximize shade time for your wall. Pergola height should be higher than the tops of your first floor windows, but low enough to allow your vine or plant to grow on the top of the pergola and not immediately be clogging your gutter, or spreading onto your roof.

About the Author

Andrew Leahey has been a writer since 1999, covering topics as varied as technology how-to guides and the politics of genetically modified organisms to African food supplies. He is pursuing his J.D. while renovating an 1887 farmhouse located in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.