What is the difference between a pergola and a veranda and which is right for enhancing your own yard? There are many kinds of outdoor structures that offer shade and protection from the elements so that you can make the most of enjoying your yard even when it is very hot or very wet outside.
Although many of the different names for these structures - such as veranda vs pergola - are used interchangeably in colloquial conversation, architecturally speaking, these are two distinctly different kinds of structures.
Is It “Veranda” or “Verandah”?
First of all, after a few Google searches with mixed results, you may be asking yourself if the proper spelling is with or without the “h” at the end. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, both spellings are technically correct. However, the spelling without the “h” at the end is commonly preferred and thought to be the more refined of the two options, so many people prefer to spell it “veranda” over “verandah.”
The History of the Veranda
The veranda first became popular in Australia in the 1850s with the widespread rise of colonial buildings. Next, they became popular in the Southern United States of America in the early 1900s as a way to deal with extreme summer heat prior to the invention of air conditioning. This architectural feature is particularly common in Creole townhouses found in New Orleans.
What Makes It a Veranda?
Structurally speaking, verandas are similar to covered porches. They are always attached to a residential building at ground level with a flat, curved, or slanted roof that provides both shade and protection from the elements. Like a wrap-around porch, they often wrap around the front and multiple sides of the building and are accessible from many rooms throughout the house. They tend to be partially enclosed with a railing and serve as a midway point between being indoors and being outdoors. They offer a cool place to relax and often people would sleep outside on the veranda during hot summers (prior to modern air conditioning).
How is a Pergola Different From a Veranda?
Unlike a veranda, an aluminum pergola is not required to be attached to the main structure, though it often can be. A pergola may be its own freestanding structure that is set apart from the main house, or it can be a pergola that is attached to the house.
While a veranda often wraps around multiple sides of a building, a pergola would not. If you wanted shade on more than one side of your home, you would likely build two separate pergolas rather than connecting the structures. On that note, while a veranda would likely start at the front of the structure and extend from the front door, a pergola is more commonly found around the backyard (however, there’s nothing to say you couldn’t put a pergola at the front of your house).
Structurally, pergolas can be much less elaborate than a veranda, sometimes consisting of little more than beams and rafters to provide intermittent shade rather than full covered protection. However, more modern pergola designs that are made with vinyl or aluminum pergola kits can offer 100% protection from sun and rain, without the bulky structure of a full-on veranda. A pergola with a retractable roof also gives you the option for shade or sunshine, while a veranda is an immovable structure by definition.
Pros and Cons Pergola vs Veranda
Roof covers are indispensable if you want to enjoy nature from the comfort of your home, so verandas and pergolas are definitely working the indoor/outdoor trend. But what are the main advantages and disadvantages of a pergola compared to a veranda?
A traditional pergola is a wooden structure or an archway that shades a path or patio. The framework is often covered with climbing plants. Pergola’s have both pros and cons:
The foliage adds shade to your patio
A touch of romance: a pergola sprinkles your garden with rustic charm.
It is possible to add a pergola to an existing deck or house.
The plants that line your pergola need regular grooming.
Pergolas offer no shelter from the rain, and are difficult to attach an awning to.
A veranda is a kind of lean-to conservatory. Verandas become comfortably warm once the sun hits the glass, making them the perfect place to relax and recharge. Their biggest advantages:
Additional living space: a veranda is the perfect lounge area. You can have a seat to read a book or enjoy a cup of coffee anytime you like.
Plenty of natural light: treat yourself and your plants to a sunshine fix.
Available in all price ranges.
However, a veranda’s biggest plus can also become a bit of a bother. The glass structure can make the room become as hot as a furnace on summer days, heating up adjacent rooms as well (nothing that can’t be fixed with a sun awning, though). In the winter months, it’s the other way around: without heating, verandas become too chilly to use.
Do You Want a Veranda or a Pergola?
The last question you need to ask yourself is if it is really a veranda or a pergola that you are looking for to complete your backyard oasis. This question is best answered standing outside in the actual space you want to enhance and imagining each structure and how you would use it.
Keep in mind that verandas are often more narrow and designed for side by side seating while looking off at the sunset or sunrise or chatting with a friend or maybe two. On the other hand, pergolas can be wide enough to accommodate an outdoor table for sharing family meals and entertaining at a backyard party. Pergolas made of aluminum also allow BBQ fans to include an outdoor kitchen or a well-organized grill area. Which of these do you imagine doing in your own yard most often?
It is also important to consider how much sun protection you want, or if you would like the option to adjust on a whim. A veranda can lock you into a significant amount of protection from the sun and other inclement weather, but it also limits you much more than a louvered pergola.
Lastly, consider your budget and tolerance for remodeling. A veranda can be a much more significant structure to integrate into the architecture of your home and will likely cost much more with additional material and a larger time commitment to install.
In the end, it comes down to a personal choice between a pergola and veranda and which will serve you best in your outdoor space.
A few weeks ago, we've discussed the difference between a pergola and a gazebo.