Pergola roof - here's what to know

Pergola Roof – Here’s What You Need to Know!

Last Updated on July 8, 2024

When you think about it, pergolas are better than arbors and gazebos because of their unique roofing systems.

Table of Contents

Why would you need a roofed pergola?

Well, for starters, because it is uniquely designed to let some sunlight shine through while also providing partial shelter and shade in a garden or patio. It’s the perfect addition to the outdoors as it allows you to enjoy nature while dealing with changing weather conditions.

Popularity of Pergola Roofs Throughout the Centuries

Pergolas have been a popular shade solution since the dawn of ancient Egypt. The Romans made pergolas a quintessential aspect their public and private bathhouses. The ornate pergolas of the Renaissance built of marble and stone, still stand today.

While pergola designs have changed over the centuries, the one very consistent design element has been the slatted pergola roof. The partial shade of an open louvered pergola roof instantly brings an Old World feel to any outdoor space. Modern pergolas, with advanced powder coatings and customizable designs, can also compliment any type of architecture from country relaxed, to nouveau contemporary. So, it’s no wonder that homeowners love pergolas with their slatted roofs.

Modern Pergola Roofs

And that’s just the start. Talk to a reliable pergola builder, and they’ll introduce you to a world of options. For example, did you know that you can build a pergola with a mechanized roof that automatically adjusts to provide optimum sunlight and ventilation? You can even add dimmable lighting systems and remote-controlled retractable paneling. In short, your pergola can have it all.

What Material Should Your Pergola Roof Be Made Of?

Roofed pergolas have a certain elegance to them. But more importantly, they provide functionality and durability –this depends significantly on what material the roof is made of.

Choose what’s right for you depending on the weather conditions in your locale. Imagine having a fabric roof that isn’t waterproof in a city where it rains all week. No one wants to deal with the aftermath of that!

So let’s explore your options:

Wooden Roofs

Wood is a very traditional material from which to fabricate pergola roofs. Most contractors will be able to design and install a wooden pergola for your home readily easily. While a wooden pergola roof may seem like an accessible option, wooden roofs have some serious drawbacks.

First, wood tends to rot over time, especially when exposed to excessive sun and routine rains. Wooden roofs will also need to be clad in shingles, which require regular maintenance.

Metal Roofs

A metal pergola roof, on the other hand, will deliver a lifetime of durability with minimal maintenance. Our aluminum pergolas are treated with an exterior powder coating that protects against damaging heat and seals out rain and atmospheric moisture. Most impressively, an aluminum pergola roof is strong-yet-lightweight so it can uniquely accommodate integrated amenities such as embedded LED lighting, motorized retractable curtains and motorized louvered roofs.

For homeowners looking to bring the rustic style of a wooden pergola roof to their patio, pool deck or garden, our modern aluminum pergolas can be coated with several wood grain powder coatings. This offers the modern advantages of an aluminum pergola with the natural look of a wooden roof. These wood grain powder coatings can cover the entire pergola, including the roof, frame and support columns, or can be added as an accent to more standard pergola colors like white, black, grey and bronze. With wood grain roof panels and a dark solid-color frame and column design, a pergola takes on a look of relaxed refinement.

Detached patio ideas: Contemporary standalone luxury pergola in grey charcoal and wood finish - Azenco
Elegant contemporary patio cover - Azenco pergola
Spanish home with wood finish modern louvered roof. Model R-Blade pergola by Azenco

Fabric Roofs

Instead of traditional materials like wood or metal, this type of roof utilizes fabric. Fabric roofs are typically made from durable, weather-resistant materials such as canvas, vinyl, or specialized outdoor fabrics. These materials can withstand various weather conditions while providing effective shade and protection. They offer a wide range of colors and patterns, allowing for customization that complements the home’s exterior or the garden’s design. High-quality pergola fabrics are often treated to offer UV protection and are lighter than other traditional pergola roofing materials, which can simplify the support structure and engineering requirements.

Some fabric pergola roofs are designed to be retractable, giving homeowners the ability to control the amount of sunlight filtering through. This feature can be manual or motorized, adding convenience and functionality.

Fabric Paneling

Another non-retractable option for a pergola roof is fabric. For this type of roofing, the material is stretched over the rafters and pulled straight.

Fabric protects from sunny and rainy weather, but only if you use a water-resistant material. Ordinary fabric will serve no real purpose other than adding to the visual appeal, but it would not be durable.

Backyard wooden deck with fabric canopy
double module cabana with veil curtains

Polycarbonate Roofs

A polycarbonate pergola roof provides partial shade and support for climbing plants. Polycarbonate roofs can be transparent or translucent, allowing natural light to pass through while diffusing it to reduce glare. This makes them excellent for maintaining a bright yet comfortable environment underneath. Polycarbonate is much more impact-resistant than acrylic and provides better insulation than glass. Sheets are available in various colors and finishes, and can be cut and molded into different shapes, offering flexibility in design for custom pergola projects.

Polycarbonate pergola roofs are popular in residential and commercial settings where protection from the elements is desired without sacrificing natural light.

Transparent Paneling

Homeowners are drawn to this style of outdoor pergola roof because of its contemporary visual appeal. It involves building the pergola roof from a transparent plastic material that’s either plexiglass or acrylic.

A pergola with a polycarbonate roof provides a semi-shaded experience where you can still enjoy the sunlight.

fiberglass pergola
steel pergola - galvanized pergola

Different Types Of Roofs

1. Louvered Roofs

Fixed Louvered Roof

It is a type of roofing system that features angled slats, or louvers, which are permanently set in one position. These louvers are designed to provide shade and protection from the sun while still allowing for some natural light and air circulation. Fixed louvered roofs have slats that are static and cannot be adjusted.

This roofing option is popular for pergolas because it offers a balance of sunlight and shade, making the space underneath comfortable throughout various times of the day. It’s also aesthetically pleasing, adding a modern and structured look to outdoor living areas.

The fixed design requires less maintenance and mechanical complexity than adjustable systems, making it a durable choice for those seeking minimal upkeep.

Manual Louvered Roof

A manual louvered roof for a pergola is designed to allow control over sunlight exposure and ventilation while providing shelter from the elements. It consists of multiple slats, known as louvers, which can be manually tilted or rotated to open or close. When closed, the louvers provide shade and protection from rain, much like a solid roof. When opened, they allow sunlight to pass through and air to circulate, offering an open, airy environment. This flexibility makes louvered roofs popular for outdoor structures like pergolas, enhancing their functionality throughout different weather conditions.

The manual aspect refers to the mechanism being operated by hand, typically using a lever or a crank, allowing the user to adjust the louvers to the desired angle without the need for electricity.

K-Bana manual modular system - For Hotels and residences pool deck
White square aluminum cabana. Model K-BANA by Azenco

Motorized Adjustable Louvered Roof Pergolas​

A motorized louvered roof for a pergola is an advanced and versatile roofing system designed to provide adjustable shading and shelter for outdoor structures like pergolas. This type of roof features horizontal slats, known as louvers, which can be rotated electronically, typically through a motorized mechanism controlled by a remote, switch, or smart device.

The primary advantage of motorized louvered roofs is their ability to adapt to various weather conditions. By adjusting the angle of the louvers, you can control the amount of sunlight and air passing through, offering either full sunlight, filtered shade, or complete protection from rain. This functionality makes it particularly useful for enhancing outdoor living spaces, allowing them to be used comfortably throughout different seasons and weather conditions. The structure is generally made from durable materials like aluminum, which ensures longevity and resistance to weather-related wear and tear.

The most flexible pergola roof design available is a motorized adjustable louvered roof. With the right type of louver, even an adjustable louvered roof can provide the sun and rain protection of a gazebo with the flexibility of a retractable canopy. If you want to be free to enjoy full sun exposure by day, open the pergola roof to see the stars at night, and still ensure full rain protection for your outdoor living area, then a motorized adjustable louvered roof is the ideal solution.

White modern pergola system with aluminum fan
white louvered roof pergola design - Azenco Outdoor
Prefer an automated vs. hand crank mechanism

While many adjustable louvered roof pergolas on the market offer manual hand crank mechanisms to angle the louvers, our Azenco R-BLADE puts an easy-to-use remote control at your fingertips so you can control the perfect angle of the louver yourself. If you are looking for even more intuitive control of the louvered roof, the pergola can be integrated with your preferred digital home assistant like Apple’s Siri or Google’s Alexa. With simple voice commands, you will be able to adjust the louvered roof, dim embedded LEDs, open and close retractable privacy curtains, and more.

Rain, wind and thermal sensors for additional comfort

A modern motorized adjustable louvered roof pergola can also be turned into a smart pergola with the addition of a weather-monitoring sensor array. A rain sensor will watch for rain showers, and automatically close the louvers when a shower is detected. This allows you to enjoy an uninterrupted dinner party without having to scramble to close the roof when the rain begins. For areas that see regular wind storms, a wind sensor can be included in the pergola design to track wind gusts. When potentially damaging winds are detected, the smart pergola will automatically open the louvered roof to protect itself from damage. For homes in colder climates, a thermal sensor can be embedded to monitor for freezing temperatures. If extended cold spikes are detected, the pergola can be programed to open its louvers to reduce snow loads and prevent damage from freezing ice.

Louvers - Motorized bioclimatic pergola
Pergola with louvered roof - Miami Beach. R-Blade bioclimatic patio cover - Azenco Outdoor

2. Insulated Roofs

An insulated roof for a pergola is designed to provide better thermal control and comfort compared to traditional pergola covers.

This roof typically consists of panels made from materials such as aluminum, polycarbonate, or composite that contain a layer of insulation between two sheets. The insulation helps regulate the temperature underneath the pergola by reducing heat transfer. This makes the space underneath more usable throughout different weather conditions, protecting against both the heat of the sun and the cold. These roofs can also come in various styles and finishes, allowing them to blend seamlessly with the existing architecture and enhance the aesthetic appeal of the outdoor space.

Insulated roof for patio covers - Azenco
Premium insulated pergola roof in white with black frame - Azenco

Insulated Sandwich Panels

An alternative to transparent static roof panels that allow the sunlight through, insulated sandwich panels are an upgraded option for patio covers intended for full-time shade. The dual-wall design of these roof panels better reflects the sun’s heat away from the outdoor living space below to keep it cool on sunny days. For colder weather climates, the insulated roof panels can help retain warmth under the pergola as well. Combined with motorized retractable curtains, this roof type allows residents in snow country to enjoy their outdoor spaces year-round. Additionally, while many aluminum featuring single-walled roofs will look suitable when first installed, over time, they can present issues as the material wears. Thin single-walled roof panels can warp over time under the stresses of extreme heat and shocking cold.

Modern aluminum pergola with fixed roof in North Carolina - By Azenco
fixed roof - pergola hurricane zone
solid insualted roof pergola by Azenco Outdoor

3. Retractable Roofs

A retractable roof provides flexibility in controlling exposure to the elements. It can be extended or retracted to adjust the amount of sunlight, shade, and shelter from rain or wind, allowing the pergola area to be used in various weather conditions.

Typically made from materials like fabric, retractable roofs can be manually operated with a pulley system or motorized for ease of use. This feature enhances the functionality of a pergola, making it more versatile for outdoor living and entertainment spaces.

Canvas awning with stripes
Fabric retractable awning

Retractable roofing is considered a practical option because you get the full pergola experience but with the option to completely retract the roof like it was never there.

It starts as a full roof pergola, protecting larger areas from inclement weather. The good news is that this option also has motorized versions, so you don’t have to put in manual labor every time you decide to soak in some sun in your pergola.

4. Solar Panel Pergola Roof

A solar pergola not only generates electricity, but creates a comfortable full-time shade space in the yard for entertaining. Building off the insulated sandwich panel roof, homeowners looking to reduce their reliance on the electric grid can adopt a fixed-roof pergola affixed with solar panels to generate their own energy. Installing a pergola with solar panels also keeps the sometimes-unsightly panels off the roof of the home where they can detract from the home’s curb appeal. Additionally, a solar pergola can be positioned anywhere on the property to maximize direct sun on the panels to optimize energy generation.

A solar pergola is a great option for homeowners looking to power the built-in pergola amenities like motorized retractable privacy curtains or embedded LED lights without having to hardwire their pergola to their home’s electrical infrastructure. For electric vehicle owners, a solar panel-equipped pergola roof can even generate enough electricity to keep a daily driver charged up.

Aluminum Louvers Are Best for a Pergola Roof

Whether choosing mechanized or manually adjusted louvers, the material the roof is made from is an important consideration. Marble and stone are best left to the ancients. Wood can impart a rustic or Old-World feel, but is prone to rotting over time. Vinyl or plastic will look great at first, but will eventually fade and distort. Metal louvers, like aluminum, are the ideal material for a pergola roof. Aluminum is strong and lightweight, making it possible to automate their controls with quiet electric motors. Protected with high-quality powder coating, a metal roof will seal out the corrosion-inducing rain, ice and snow to last a lifetime.

Louver Design is Important

Not all metal louvers are created the same. Some are simple single-layered wood or steel. This basic design is fine for blocking the sun, but leaves the shaded space below the pergola susceptible to annoying drips when it rains. Azenco uses a unique dual-walled louver design that channels water into an integrated drainage system and away from the outdoor living space below. Homeowners researching a louvered pergola roof for their home should make sure to ask their dealer how the louvers will handle rain water. Even better, ask them to demonstrate the drainage system first-hand.

pergola roof with motorized system - Azenco Outdoor
Modern outdoor cover - Miami - Azenco

Insulated dual-walled louvers are a must

When selecting an adjustable louvered roof pergola look for insulated dual walled louvers that will repel the sun’s heat. Also look for louver panels that extend all the way into the surrounding pergola frame. This overlap will create a tight seal that ensures all the rainwater flows across the louvers and into the internal drainage system. If the pergola you are considering allows sunlight to creep through the gaps at the edge where the louvers and frame meet, you can expect water to drip down there as well.


Select the Right Pergola Roof

Good design is not just about creativity but also common sense. When selecting a roof for your pergola, think about how often you’ll be using it and what times of the year. The right choice depends on your personal design aesthetics for your home, as well as what you need to ensure maximum functionality.

Remember, we’ve only mentioned some of the top-selling options here. You could also opt for fabric, straw, plants, wood slats, bamboo, and a range of other materials for your pergola cover. It’s best to consult with a professional to help you explore these pergola ideas with a roof.

Also, make sure you are working with a qualified pergola contractor. Here at Azenco, we have built a nationwide network of qualified expert pergola contractors. Each has been trained by our team to perfect their pergola installations. This not only means your high-tech pergola will stand the test of time, but it also means you can always expect timely delivery and the right sale price.

Please reach out to the pergola roof experts at Azenco Outdoor for significant quality installations and unique designs.

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13 Responses

    1. Good morning Pamela.

      Thank you for your interest in our outdoor products. One of our representatives will connect with you shortly.

    1. Hello Mary.

      We do gapless aluminum louvered roofs or waterproof solid roof pergolas, which are much more durable than plexiglass or vinyl.

    1. Good morning Cheryl.
      Tahnk you for your interest in our pergola roofs. One of our representatives will connect with you shortly.

  1. Hi, I have a 12×14 white pergola with shade slats. I absolutely love the look, but would like to have a waterproof roof solution without altering the look too much. Is it possible to install something over the shade slats so that when looking up the slats are still visible, i.e., a beam-like appearance?

    1. Good afternoon Gail.

      To enjoy the Azenco design, quality and technology, you have to replace your current pergola by one of our motorized pergola systems.

  2. We have Allen and Roth Pergola with Sun canopy about 50% protection and I placed weather proof canopy on top which pools water when it rains I want a more permanent solution

    1. Good afternoon Jerome.
      Tank you for your interest in our pergolas. One of our representatives will conenct with you shortly.

    1. Good afternoon Nadia.

      Thank for your interest in our patio covers. One of our team members will connect with you shortly.

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