What are the Different Types of Pergola Fabric?

Kaitlyn N. Watkins

Pergolas are structures that can either be attached to an existing building or freestanding. While pergolas can have roofs open to the elements, a variety of coverings are often used to make the space more weatherproof and functional. Of these coverings, fabrics are a versatile covering and may be canvas, vinyl, lace, sheer. An endless color spectrum makes the suitable to individual tastes. It is relatively easy to install a fabric pergola covering.

A pergola with a sheer covering allows light and cover from the elements.
A pergola with a sheer covering allows light and cover from the elements.

When choosing a pergola fabric, it helps to use a heavyweight material that will withstand strong winds and loads due to snow, while still having the flexibility to move with the breeze. Many types of pergola fabric are treated to resist ultraviolet light from the sun’s rays, which can cause colors to fade and material to wear out, in addition to damaging furniture within the pergola. Ultraviolet protection will also keep the shaded area cooler. Another important element of a permanent pergola fabric cover is water resistance. Heavy canvas and sail material are fabrics that meet these criteria.

Canvas, vinyl, lace, and sheer are all possible types of pergola fabric.
Canvas, vinyl, lace, and sheer are all possible types of pergola fabric.

The aesthetic appeal of pergola fabric coverings lends flexibility in decorating. Besides the availability of colors, prints, and style of fabric, there are also transparency variations, too. Pergola fabric can be sheer which allows diffused light to shine through and provides some privacy. Lace-textured fabrics let in mottled light and give a romantic look for entertaining or special events.

Fabrics can be installed in different ways, too, creating effects within the space. A fitted pergola cover is a clean, uniform look and may come with detachable sides, creating a weatherproof room. When draped flat over the roof of a pergola, fabric allows breezes to flow through and keeps the view unobstructed from inside the pergola. Sheers or laces hung from the inside of a pergola create a softer impression and can be tied back to allow openness or hang straight for privacy.

Compared to other covering materials, like fiberglass, plastic, or even metal, a fabric pergola cover can be quite durable in the elements, while still being relatively easy to remove and change as the seasons or occasions demand. A more permanent heavy-duty pergola fabric, like a sail, may be pricier than a sheer version, but will likely be less expensive than metal or fiberglass. Pergola kits sometimes come with a fitted fabric cover included, which is not as easy to swap out but might be more durable.

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Our pergola cover -- not sure what it is -- is some kind of synthetic fabric that is a little like nylon etc. and a little like a thin canvas. It gets filled with (sometimes large) pockets of water every time it rains. I have to go out and lift it up in sections until the water all rolls off. It's hard to do this immediately after every rain. It gets stains from leaves that sit in the water, and is mildewing.

Since it lets some light through, you can see this easily from underneath. What are my best options?


I am starting to see more pergolas all the time and think they really add a nice dimension to an outdoor patio area. If you have any carpenter skills and can read a set of plans, you will save quite a bit of money by building one yourself.

There are many different pergola plans available at most home improvement stores. We found several at Lowe's and Home Depot. We finally decided on the style we wanted, but have not bought the materials yet. I am really looking forward to having this nice addition to my back yard area.


When we built our pergola, we decided to go with an aluminum awning. We looked at all the different choices and weighed the pros and cons of each of them. The aluminum is more expensive than fabric, but I thought it would provide a little bit better ventilation.

We also have a lot of windy, rainy days and I felt that over time an aluminum one would hold up better. No matter what you choose to go with, an outdoor pergola can add a lot of charm and function to your yard. I wish we had built ours a long time ago.


We have a retractable fabric cover for our patio pergola that provides some nice shade. Having the retractable cover makes it so easy. All I have to do is push a button and the cover rolls up and out of the way.

We use our patio a lot more that we have some shade and protection from the sun. It is so much more enjoyable to sit outside when you don't have the sun beating down on you.

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