Outdoor Living Structure Guidebook A Roadmap to Your Perfect Pergola, Pavilion, or Gazebo
A glistening white canvas securely perched on the easel in front of you invites the creative touches of your brush to its clean surface. Yet, maybe your canvas is not the white fabric of an acrylic artist, but rather the green open space of your yard. Any of the spaces in your care are yours for infusing with your creativity, color, structure… in order to create a special and unique experience.
Crafting the Perfect Outdoor Experience
With every artistic touch, whether it’s to a white canvas or a backyard, there is an experience that we try to achieve. In your case, you want an outdoor structure because you are after a certain outdoor experience. You desire an outdoor structure to create an atmosphere of beauty, class, inviting mystic, charm, or relaxation. In a nutshell, you want to bring an experience of outdoor happiness home to your home and family.
You are on the Right Track! A magnificent outdoor structure can certainly bring a renewed happiness to your outdoor experience! Just as an artist plans for his painting by thinking about the design and by laying out the necessary choice of colored paints and brushes, you also recognize the need to prepare and to plan thoughtfully for the anticipated addition of a stunning backyard structure.
Planning is Crucial for Success
In order to have successful execution of any project, the planning process is key. While planning is essential for attaining ultimate satisfaction, it can also feel overwhelming and confusing.
Partner for a Sure Victory
At Lancaster County Backyard we understand the importance and challenge associated with thorough planning. We are here to help you navigate this process seamlessly. In this blog we will do the work of planning while you enjoy dreaming and discovering the structure that will fulfill your desired experience.
At Any Stage of the Game
Whether you are entering this process open-ended, with a few vague ideas, or if you know what you want and just want it installed, we are here to help! Review the following steps, and jump right into any stage that’s applicable to the state of your project!
Step 1: Start with Purposeful Dreaming
Dream and ask yourself this question, “What kind of outdoor happiness do I want?”
Are you looking for a personal retreat or haven at the end of the day?
If so, then gazebos offer a private, enclosed sanctuary perfect for solitude.
Are you hoping to host parties, barbeques, or large groups of people?
In that case, a pavilion is the most fitting structure for a host/hostess at heart.
Are you desiring simply to enhance your backyard aesthetics?
The intricate beauty of a pergola is hard to match and offers the best aesthetic enhancement to your property.
Are you seeking a space to create memories and quality time with your family?
A gazebo, pergola, or pavilion can make an inviting and memorable spot for your entire family.
Outdoor Structure Summary
Gazebos – A quiet sanctuary
Pavilions – A space for hosting parties, barbeques, and large groups of people
Pergolas – An aesthetic enhancement
Gazebos, Pergolas, and Pavilions – Structures for having great times and making lasting memories outdoors with family and friends.
Step 2: Decide on the Best Location
Placement is a key factor to fully enjoying your outdoor structure. Take some time to walk around your property, and consider the following location spots while keeping in mind the purpose of your structure.
Locations in Your Backyard
Backyards offer a wide range of options. For some of you, deciding on the right location for your structure is as easy as walking out your back door and onto your patio. For others, you may need to do more hunting, and this can be part of the fun!
Possible outdoor structure locations:
Placed on your patio or deck as an extension of this space
Set underneath the shade of your trees
Set on an open, fully sunlit area of your yard
Placed by your pool
Surrounded by the foliage of your garden
Locations in your Front Yard
Often the front yard is smaller than the backyard, but that is not always the case. If you own a large property with a private front yard, then setting up your outdoor structure there would be an option as well.
Possible front yard location spots:
Set by a pond or creek
Placed beside a child’s playground
Set along a volleyball sand court
Placed in a small fountain garden
Does your Outdoor Structure’s Location and Shape Fit?
Consider what shape of building will fit the best in your designated space. If you want to fit your structure into an oval, rectangular, or octagonal space then a gazebo offers the most flexibility. Both a pergola and a pavilion will only fit into a location allowing for square or rectangular shapes.
Remember to consider the viewing angles of your structure and whether you desire to see your structure from your kitchen or living room windows.
Step 3: Make a List of Requirements
What do you want from your outdoor structure? Are there non-negotiables that instantly come to your mind? What additions to your outdoor structure would create an atmosphere to bring you the most fulfilling outdoor experience?
Take a moment to think through the following questions to help you consider helpful add-ons and/or pleasureful additions. Writing out a list of requirements will help you conclude which structure would best suit your needs and wishes.
Now separate your list of requirements into a list of what you consider essential versus optional. This will be helpful once we get to the budgeting step of the process.
Step 4: Select the Structure’s Specific Style
You either want your structure to be a pristine and complementary addition to your existing house or garage, or you may be trying to create an entirely unique structural experience. The next step is to choose or discover your structure’s style that best supports your personal taste and highlights the experience you want to achieve.
1. Choose a style that fits your house.
Is your house’s style rustic, modern, traditional, tropical, mid-century, farmhouse, contemporary, beach etc…? Certain house styles go better with a pergola, pavilion, or gazebo. Identify the style of your house in this article on selecting styles.
In our opinion, here are the best structure matches for the following house styles:
Traditional homes . . . think gazebos & wood pavilions.
Rustic homes . . . think wooden pergolas, wood pavilions, & heavy timber gazebos.
Majestic homes . . . think timber frame pavilions.
Modern/Classy homes . . . think vinyl pergolas and pavilions.
Tropical homes . . . think vinyl pavilions topped with metal roofing.
Farmhouse homes . . .think with gazebos or pavilions.
Mediterranean homes . . . think wooden or vinyl pergolas.
2. Choose the material for your outdoor structure.
Choosing and understanding your material type is an important step in determining what structure is right for you. There are three main categories of materials to choose from for an outdoor structure: traditional wood, modern vinyl, and timber frame construction. Use the following table to choose what material would be best for your project:
Able to be painted multiple colors
Cheaper than vinyl
Regular Maintenance required to prevent warping or rotting.
Needs re-stained every 2-5 years.
Little to no maintenance required
No necessary staining, sealing, or painting
Easy to clean
Limited color choices
No rustic appeal
Can make dirt and algae more visible (though easy to clean)
100% rustic, natural elegance
Copes well in all seasonal changes
The most ancient construction style
Biggest “WOW” effect
More expensive than vinyl or wood
When it comes to your project, don’t place artificial limits on your creativity. You can mix it up by choosing a material type that will match simply one existing structure on your property or choose a design that pushes in an entirely new direction. At the end of the day, it comes down to your personal preference and budget.
Step 5: Choose the Outdoor Structure That is Right for You
Now it’s time to choose the outdoor structure that is right for you and your backyard. We will go through each of the outdoor structures along with a basic overview of desirable locations, spots and supportive additions for optimal and enjoyable use.
Gazebos can offer a quiet oasis in the corner of your backyard or shade to your sunny, outdoor deck. Not to mention this structure is most picturesque by a pond.
Electricity – You can add a fan to cool off your gazebo or lights to brighten your late evenings.
Screens – If you attract insects then repel them with the addition of screens for maximum bug protection.
Roofing – All gazebos come with a roof which offers full shade coverage.
Pergolas are a graceful addition to your garden. They can act as stand-alone beauties amidst your flowers or be incorporated into the garden itself by growing vines interwoven through the beams. Pergola’s beauty accents any porch, deck, patio, or pool while offering semi- shade or shade on demand.
As mentioned before pavilions are an inviting structure perfect as a central gathering spot for hosting, parties, and family time. Pavilions are best located in spacious openings such as a good-sized deck or patio, by the pool, or in an open yard.
Electricity – Run electricity to your pavilion for the addition of fans, lights, outlets, and a functioning kitchen area.
Kitchen Area – Add an outdoor kitchen to partner with you in your hosting adventures.
Outdoor Fireplace – If you want a jaw-dropping pavilion, the beautiful stonework of an outdoor fireplace meets this awe-inspiring requirement.
Step 6: Get a Quote
Now that you have your structure, its material, and additional add-ons figured out, it’s time to get a free estimate. This action will help gauge the cost of the project and help you further narrow down the finer details. Depending on the projected cost and your budgeted spending amount, it is helpful to refer to your categorized list of requirements which can help you decide which additions to drop if the cost grows out of your price range. Additionally, you may be able to add more than you thought originally.
Want an Idea of Your Potential Structure Cost?
Pavilions – Starting price
Wooden – $4,800
Vinyl – $5,400
Timber frame – $13,000
Pergolas – Starting price
Wooden – $2,400
Vinyl – $2,600
Gazebos – Starting price
Wooden – $2,500
Vinyl – $3,300
Heavy Timber – $13,000
Confirm with a Quote
Fill out this quote form and we will help you find out what your projected cost will be.
Now that you’ve confirmed the details of your structure, including the size and options that will fit into your budget, it’s time to think about managing the project. Do you need someone else to manage the project, or can you handle it yourself? Consider the following:
Think about the scope of your project.
How many desired pieces and add-ons go beyond just the structure? For example: Landscaping, foundation work, stonework (fireplace), or a kitchen area. Are you able to complete these extra pieces or comfortable hiring and managing the contractors yourself?
Will it require permitting?
If you are unsure about your project, contact your local permitting office or homeowner’s association and they will confirm whether your project requires a permit.
Option A: Come straight to Lancaster County Backyard.
If you can manage all these pieces, come straight to us, otherwise hire a landscaper or general manager.
Option B: Hire a Landscaper
If your project consists of many more pieces than simply purchasing and installing the structure, a landscaper or general contractor can be helpful in scoping out and managing each of the pieces of your project. If you don’t already have a landscaper, we recommend Mill Stream Landscapes.
Note on site prep:
For piers or footers, often our customers will get their landscaper to do the installation, but we also offer site preparation for all our structures. We partner with Site Preps to provide a trustworthy footing for your structure.
Step 8: Choose and Prepare your Foundation
Which Foundation Is Ideal for my Structure?
Your foundation holds up your structure 24 hours a day. A well-placed foundation is essential. The following foundations will ensure that your structure will stay stationary and stable at your desired location.
Gazebos – Crushed stone foundation or a concrete slab
Pergolas – Footers/Piers
Pavilion – Footers/Piers
Specific Q&A about Pergola and Pavilion Foundations
Can I mount a pavilion on a concrete pad?
We recommend that the pavilion columns are placed on concrete piers (cut the concrete and place piers in).
Can I place a pergola or pavilion on bare ground?
To place a pergola/pavilion on bare ground, you should first install concrete piers that mound just a bit above the surface of the ground. (for concrete pier details, see Answer to Q. Can I mount it on my paver patio?)
Can I mount a pergola or pavilion on my deck?
If you’re mounting to an existing wood deck, a good and proper mounting method is to drop the posts down through the deck and secure them to the joists. The recommended method is to take the wooden portion of the post down through the deck. (Trim pieces for vinyl make this a bit simpler.)
Can I mount a pergola or pavilion to my paver patio?
We do not recommend fastening to pavers. They do not provide structural stability and are not a secure anchoring method. The recommended method is to install concrete piers 18” in diameter and 36” deep. Remove a section of pavers approximately 24” in diameter. Then dig down 36”. Fill with concrete to approximately one to two inches below the bottom of pavers. After the pergola or pavilion is installed, the pavers can be cut to fit and replaced around the columns. [Note: Footer size to be verified per job.]
Step 9: Prepare for Delivery
Last, but certainly not least, prepare the way for the delivery truck and crew. Your structure is almost home, the only thing left to do is to knock out any obstacles blocking your new structure’s homecoming!
Clear the following away, as necessary:
Fences – if blocking the available entrance to your installation location.
Trees – if planted too close to your designated structure’s location, taking over your desired spot, or blocking access to your backyard.
Debris – remove unwanted items surrounding your structure’s future home.
Old structures – get rid of any old buildings or structures sitting on or too close to your desired location.
At Lancaster County Backyard, we are dedicated to quality from start to finish. Delivery of your structure is no exception. We deliver all our structures within a 300 miles radius of our home base in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. For our large Timber Frame Pavilions, we deliver all across the United States. You are welcome to contact us with any additional delivery questions.
Step 10: You’re here! Enjoy your Outdoors Like Never Before!
Your outdoor happiness awaits like never before in the history of your outdoors! At Lancaster County Backyard, we can guarantee this final step!
Go ahead, take a seat beneath your beautifully designed and thoughtfully planned new backyard structure! Take in the beautiful architecture and allow your heart to feel the deep satisfaction and happiness that only comes from achieving your desired experience!