Pergolas are great for providing shade and protection against the elements for your patio or any other place in your yard you want to relax in. But actually, Pergolas are not the only option for that!
LandscapingNetwork summarizes the different options very well:
Pergolas are a freestanding structure usually placed within the landscape. They can cover a pathway and define the walking space, or can cover a patio or entertaining space outdoors. A pergola usually has open sides, and either a slatted or solid roof.
Patio covers are similar to pergolas, except they are attached to the house. This can be an advantage, because the patio cover can use the home for support and thus may cost less to build than a freestanding structure.
Gazebos are an eight-sided structure with a solid roof, most commonly used in traditional garden styles like English or French. Gazebos have gotten a bad name since so many of them have been built from cheap kits and placed poorly within the landscape, yet they can be an attractive addition if the style of the surrounding landscape works with the structure.
Shade sails are a modern way of gaining relief from the sun. Fabric is stretched across specially-engineered poles to accent and cover a seating area or patio. Shade sails look great with the straight lines and simple geometry seen on contemporary homes, and do double duty as a decorative and artistic part of the landscape.
Screened porches are built directly onto your house, usually off the back door for easy access. Instead of glass windows, they have large screens that protect from insects. Screened porches are great for dining, since you get the experience of being outdoors without having yellow jackets landing on your burger.
Sunrooms are also built directly onto the home. Because a sunroom can be fully-insulated and built with dual-pane windows, it’s a four-season structure that acts as an addition to your home. They’re fully weatherproof, so you can watch birds and wildlife in comfort, even in winter. A sunroom is really only different from the rest of your house in that it has so many windows to enhance your experience of the outdoors.
One important aspect to think about when planning to build your pergola is the place and type. When you want to have shade on your patio where you plan to grill in the evening, remember that the sun is already setting at that time. A normal pergola would not be very helpful. You could always add a curtain or have one side closed (maybe even by plants) to keep the shade.
Open or Solid roof
Depending on the climate, there’s different advantages for each. If there’s lots of rain, a solid roof can provide cover, so you can enjoy sitting out there, even in the rain. But with heavy snowfall, you will need a very strong roof, or it might slowly give in under the weight of the snow. The more sun you have, and the stronger it burns down, the more heat you will have to take with an open roof. A solid roof can give you full shade. There will be less air circulation though, for when it’s warm but not too hot anymore.
Just like with patios: I’d rather build it too big than too small. Make it high enough so that everyone can easily stand, and wide enough to have enough room for whoever you want to have under the pergola. If you plan to put furniture under it, plan for a bit more room than you need, so it doesn’t feel cramped.