What is a Pergola?

What is a Pergola?

San Antonio Pergola

As a contractor specializing in outdoor construction in San Antonio TX I have been asked this question on countless occasions. I started questioning my own definition of a Pergola, was it an arbor, a shade arbor, a trellis arbor??? To better answer the question, What is a Pergola? I decided to do some homework to see what other professionals were saying.

Let me start by explaining that after looking into how other industry professionals define a Pergola, I am now more confused. It seems that Pergola, Arbor, and Arbour are used synonymously in describing what I always thought a Pergola was.

By definition “A Pergola, arbor, or arbour is a garden feature forming a shaded walk way, passageway or sitting area of vertical posts or pillars that usually support cross-beams and a sturdy open lattice, often upon which woody vines are trained. As a type of Gazebo, it may also be an extension of a building, or serve as protection for an open terrace or a link between pavilions.” (wikipeda)

That didn’t really help me at all…. So what is a Pergola as defined by me. The best way for me to explain this is to define what each is typically used for.

Arbors are primarily used in gardens and entrances. They are smaller and almost always have plants climbing on them. I mostly see what I call an Arbor at a gate entrance or over a bench. They are built very similar to a Pergola with one big difference.


We build a lot of Pergolas, some of which are substantial in size. The columns are often 12”X12” posts, sometimes constructed with stone or brick. Most of these structures are built to define an area. Todays Pergolas are used to create a space to gather. Throw a Fireplace in the mix and you’ve got a year round escape. Though they don’t offer complete protection from the elements they are visually attractive and becoming more and more popular. Ask an outdoor company if they had any key word focus on Pergola 10 years ago, they probably didn’t. Today, a Pergola is an affordable extension of the home allowing many homeowners to create a beautiful outdoor space. Easy to construct, our crews can usually be in and out in under a full day. 

Regardless of the definition Pergolas offer a beautiful extension to a home. With many functions you are sure to love the space it creates. With just enough shade, and just enough sun, a Pergola adds the perfect balance for enjoying life outside.  

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