When you want some backyard shade – but not too much – a pergola could be just right

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 23, 2016

 Britsky added pergolas to his deck to enhance the outdoor entertaining space his family uses in warm weather.

Britsky added pergolas to his deck to enhance the outdoor entertaining space his family uses in warm weather.

File photo by Donna Agusti

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METRO DETROIT — Nick Britsky is something of a connoisseur of cocktails. The bar blogger has been following trends in Detroit drinking for years, and has been sharing advice on how readers can create their own libations at home.

So, it’s no surprise that entertaining is a major priority for Britsky and his wife at their Royal Oak home. During the summer, friends and family head outside to the deck to enjoy their drinks in the warm air. But Britsky thought his outdoor space needed a little more oomph.

“I redid my deck and I actually put up two little pergolas,” he explained. “There was one bump-out that was already there, so I did a pergola over that, then I put one over this other nook that’s there.”

Why a pergola on his deck and not a large umbrella or canopy? There were a few things that factored into his decision, but namely it was about character.

“I felt it made sense, and it fit with the local décor of the neighborhood,” Britsky explained.

And that’s really the point of a pergola, according to Bayn Wood, president of Autumn Wood Construction in Shelby Township. His company has been building pergolas for years, though he’s noticed an uptick in requests recently from trendy homeowners. But pergolas aren’t for everyone.

“I think more than anything else, they’re decorative. They create a mood or an atmosphere, to kind of mark off a ‘room’ outside where you’d put a table and chairs,” Wood said. “But a lot of people think you’re going to gain a lot of shade from them. You do gain some shade, and you can add canopies to give you full shade, but more than anything, it’s a decorative touch.”

When Britsky set out to build his own pergolas, he knew he wasn’t looking for something that would protect against the elements. He did find a way to protect against prying eyes, though.

“I wanted to have something that looked nice (to neighbors), but also added some privacy. So I hung Roman shades off of it that we can pull down to close that space off,” he said.

And it didn’t end there. Britsky also popped in ceiling fans and decorated the pergolas with seasonal items and additional lights. The basic pergola’s simple structure makes it customizable.

“We’ve built pergolas along a sidewalk between houses, and (the homeowners) added climbing vines for privacy,” Wood said. “And then we did one in Ferndale with a pitched roof to protect from the elements.”

Even without a roof, though, pergolas can run a pretty penny. Wood said a 10-foot-by-10-foot pergola made from treated wood — the most affordable option — would cost around $2,000, including installation. Prices increase from there depending on size and material, like cedar or maintenance-free fiberglass.

Some pergolas can be purchased at a lower cost as kits to be assembled, especially smaller ones meant to attach directly to walls over a garage, for instance.

Britsky’s project cost a couple thousand dollars because he was able to eliminate the cost of labor by building the pergolas himself. He’s a big advocate of DIY, but he admits that building a pergola isn’t for the faint of heart.

“This was very much advanced for a DIY project. It required two ladders to lift these 50-pound beams overhead, so you’d definitely need a friend to help you with it. And you’re cutting big pieces of wood, so you need the right tools and safety gear. I wouldn’t say this is one to tackle for your first DIY,” he said.

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