Get OPTIMAL Shade From Your Pergola

A pergola is a stunning feature that can bring together any backyard space with grace and elegance. But most importantly – it offers shade for those hot summer afternoons. A pergola offers the best of both worlds with its open-air structure that provides ample coverage from the sun when properly placed.

But, how should you place your pergola to obtain optimal coverage from the sun?

It’s a simple question with a simple answer, yet getting it right makes all of the difference in the world.

A pergola can be the perfect solution to an overheated backyard space, or it can just be another open structure that leaves your guests squinting, hot, and sweating. It all comes down to how you set your pergola up, so here are some tips on how to face your pergola to best protect you from the sun.

Backyard walkout deck with a pergola facing the direction of the deck

What Direction Should A Pergola Face?

There are two major decisions that you must make when setting up your pergola: where to place it, and what direction to face it.

The direction of the rafters will be the deciding factor in how much shade you receive throughout the day, so we’ll start there. In order to receive optimal shade from your pergola, you need to find out where the true north is. Place your rafters so that they’re oriented in a north/south manner.

Why place them so that they face the north/south? It’s all based on the direction of the sun. Because the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, placing your rafters perpendicular to that will get you the longest shadows. If your rafters are running in the same direction as the sun’s path, there will be a massive section of the day where the rafters are directly underneath the sun, providing no coverage.

With the north/south orientation, you’re getting longer, fuller shadows and protection.

Another important decision is where you place your pergola in your space. While moving it from one side of your backyard to another won’t change the angle relative to the sun, it could offer you some more natural coverage.

You might even get to use the shade from the pergola to cover other features of your space (like your patio or seating area)! Try to get the most out of the least materials used – that’s the whole point of pergolas.

Use Natural Shade to Your Advantage

Like I said, bringing your pergola from one end of your yard to the other won’t change the shadows you’re getting from the rafters, but it could provide some quality natural protection depending on the tree coverage your yard offers. If you’ve got trees in your yard, feel free to use them.

They’re a fantastic way to bump up the shade protection of your pergola.

Natural shade can come in quite handy when it comes to sun protection. There will always be sunny spots under the pergola as they’re open-air and typically feature no walls. However, locating them near things like trees or bushes that provide natural coverage will add much-needed relief from the sun in the height of summer.

As an added bonus, the rafters will protect you from leaves and branches from getting into your space.

Covering Your Windows

Another benefit of placement could be the use of your pergola to shade parts of your house. This won’t compromise your outdoor space and could keep a room inside from getting overheated due to being exposed to the sun. Proper placement can “kill two birds with one stone” as the rafters could prevent a window from getting sun at an inopportune time.

This will all depend on the orientation of your yard and the window at certain points in the day, but if you’re lucky and that works out, cover that window!

You might need to consider the opposite perspective: will the pergola make a room too dark inside?

The placement could prevent a room that needs natural light from getting any sun throughout the day. Perhaps some plants need direct sun in that room or a space that needs a splash of natural light to brighten it up. The placement of your pergola in your backyard could impact the sun that gets to that room.

You have much to consider before you place your pergola facing a particular direction.

Finding the Right Pergola for Your Space

Pergolas come in many different shapes, sizes, and materials. It’s important to choose the right combination for your space. Some styles might fit spaces better whereas others might provide better coverage.

Are there any added features that you should include with your pergola? Lattice fencing? An awning? How much shade are you looking for?

Choosing the type of pergola for your yard will be just as important as deciding where you place it and in which direction it faces. This will ultimately come down to your space and where you are relative to the sun. Deciding how to orient your pergola and what features to include will be massive when it comes to sun protection and shading your space.

Vinyl pergola in backyard next to house with sun shining

The Optimal Space for Your Pergola

When picking out space in your yard where your pergola will sit, it’s important to keep the sizing requirements in mind. Your typical pergola will feature rafters that hang over the edge of your space. These can be anywhere from 18-20 inches further than the box you’re trying to cover.

You should consider every inch of the pergola when plotting the placement as this could become an issue during construction.

Your typical pergola features some heavy rafters which need to be spaced apart. If the rafters are right on top of each other, you’re sacrificing the whole point of a pergola to provide an open-air space that protects you from the sun. Typically, pergola rafters are spaced about 18-inches apart from one another. This allows for the sun to get through, but not too much during pivotal parts of the day.

Final Thoughts

Always remember to keep your rafters facing the optimal direction for sun protection. A north/south orientation is sure to provide you with a cool, protected space for entertainment in the backyard. Don’t let the sun ruin your day, find the perfect direction for your pergola, before you install it!