DIY Pergola Cover Ideas: 7 Ways To Protect Your Patio From Sun and Rain
In the summer, I love to grill and entertain outdoors. But since I live in an area that often gets lots of sun and afternoon rainstorms, my outdoor cookouts are either really hot or getting rained out. To fix that issue, I went on a hunt for ways I could cover the patio around my outdoor kitchen and came up with these DIY pergola cover ideas – some that just provide lots of shade, and some that are waterproof.
Back in the spring, I did a deck and patio makeover that included sprucing up my outdoor kitchen area.
Now that it’s looking good, I’ve been doing a lot more grilling out there.
And while I love my new updated cooking space, there’s one thing missing. And that’s a cover for the pergola that goes over my outdoor kitchen area.
While the pergola provides some shade, it isn’t very helpful during the day when the sun is directly overhead (prime cookout hours!) And it doesn’t provide any protection at all when it’s raining.
Not that I expect to be standing out there all day in the rain. But here in South Carolina, we tend to get a lot of 15 minute rain storms in the afternoon. Which always seem to occur right after I have put the food on the grill.
So I would love to be able to stay out there and not get soaked.
Which is why I’ve been searching for DIY pergola cover ideas (ideally that are waterproof) to provide some extra shade and rain protection for my little grilling area patio.
DIY Pergola Shade Ideas
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These first few pergola cover ideas provide a lot of shade and some protection from rain but aren’t totally waterproof.
1 | Grow Vines Over The Top
When I first built my pergola, my shade idea was to grow vines over the top of it. Specifically, Wisteria.
I love the look of those beautiful purple flowers in the spring.
And it provides lots of shade.
Vines aren’t quite as good at rain protection as some of the other options in my pergola cover ideas list. But if you plant something like grape vines (or wisteria) that have a lot of foliage, they will keep you relatively dry as long as it’s not pouring.
You may ask, if I planted vines over the top of my pergola, why am I looking for some other shade solution now?
Well…in my neck of the woods, Wisteria is quite invasive (it’s now on my invasive plants list). So trying to get it to stay just over the pergola was (and to be honest…still is) a nightmare.
Plus, it drops a lot of leaves. I was constantly having to clean up the grill area before I could use it. Which was more work than I wanted to do.
But I’m leaving it on the list because growing vines over your pergola could work well in other situations.
2 | Make A DIY Stationary Pergola Canopy
The next one of my DIY pergola cover ideas is to use outdoor canvas to create a stationary canopy over the patio.
If you are never going to want sun on your patio, then a DIY stationary pergola canopy is probably the way to go.
It uses outdoor fabric to create some shade and rain protection…and is the easiest way to cover your pergola.
Because there are still some gaps in the fabric, these options may not keep you completely dry in a down pour, but will provide some protection from getting soaked.
Stationary Pergola Canopy Option 1
For this stationary canopy, all you need is some heavy-duty outdoor fabric (find it HERE)*, 1/2″ upholstery staples and a staple gun.
Then hang the fabric up by stapling it onto the bottom of the pergola beams every 2 feet or so.
The main trick is to get them even so about the same amount of fabric is hanging down in each section.
One note: If you get a lot of really heavy rainfall or snow, this type of canopy may not stay put. So you might want to consider one of the other options.
It looks really pretty from outside the pergola, too.
One of the great things about using outdoor fabric, is that it comes in many different colors and patterns. So you don’t have to stick to plain white if you don’t want to.
Stationary Pergola Canopy Option 2
The second DIY stationary canopy is very similar to the first, but loops the outdoor fabric over the top of the pergola beams.
This is still relatively easy to put up but makes the canopy a little sturdier.
In this case, staple the canopy fabric to the top of each of the beams to hold it in place.
This option may not work as well in areas with a lot of wind, since it may tear the fabric off the top of the pergola.
Stationary Pergola Canopy Option 3
The third stationary pergola cover makes use of the beams again, but pulls the fabric tight across them.
For this canopy version, staple the fabric to the end of the pergola, then weave it in and out of the cross beams. Pull the fabric tight at the other end and staple it in place.
Keep the fabric rows closer together to provide more sun and rain protection.
Because there isn’t any loose fabric, this option should work better in wind and heavy rain than the other two stationary options. Which is why these are often used as patio covers in the tropics.
Stationary Pergola Canopy Option 4
The last of the stationary pergola canopies is a little less DIY than the rest. It comes in a kit which you can find HERE*.
However, it isn’t terribly expensive and you can order custom pergola covers in pretty much any size you want.
Then it installs over the top of your structure with grommets.
Again, because it is held tightly to the pergola frame, this canopy should stand up better to wind and heavy rain than some of the others.
You’ll have fewer color choices, but it might be worth it for better coverage and durability.
3 | Build a DIY Retractable Canopy
If you want to be able to control when you have sun on your patio, then a DIY retractable pergola canopy may be what you want.
They work similarly to the stationary canopies above but are installed on guide wires that let you open and close the canopy as you please.
Watch this video for the step-by-step instructions on how to make one:
Of course, if you prefer, you can go for the not-so-DIY approach, and buy the retractable canopy already made.
They come in custom sizes, but a very limited selection of colors. You can find them HERE.*
DIY Waterproof Pergola Covers
These next few options on the list are waterproof pergola covers which can also provide shade but may take a little more work to install.
1 | Put Up A Shade Sail
The next one of my DIY waterproof pergola cover ideas is to use a shade sail over your patio.
Shade sails are not usually associated with pergolas, however they actually make really good pergola covers. Especially if you get a rectangular one that is the right size (you can find them in a few different sizes HERE*).
Then all you need is the shade-sail installation hardware (find it HERE)* and you’re all set.
Shade sails are already made for providing shade and rain protection. And attaching them to the pergola posts is much easier than the usual shade sail installation methods (trying to find a free-standing post or screwing it into the side of your house).
Plus you can take them down easily for the winter if you need to.
In my case, I would install the shade sail right under the beams of my pergola. That way it provides the shade without changing how the pergola looks.
2 | Install A Tin Roof On Your Pergola
The next few options are more expensive than the last few, but they are longer lasting and provide the best shade and rain coverage.
This homeowner used tin roofing (find it HERE)* installed on top of their wood pergola to keep the sun and rain out.
It adds an industrial vibe to the pergola that looks great with the rest of the eclectic decor.
Note: Installing it on a bit of a slant will prevent the water from pooling on top.
If you want to get creative, you could buy galvanized steel roofing panels* in different colors and create a pattern.
Make a solid roof if you don’t want any water or sun to get in. Or leave some openings for some extra ventilation (if you don’t mind getting a little wet).
3 | Add Pergola Roof Panels
Along the same lines as using tin roofing, plastic pergola roof panels (find them HERE*) provide good protection from the sun and rain.
You can put them down right over the top of your pergola like a roof.
Like the tin panels, installing it on a bit of an angle will help the water run off.
And if you don’t need the shade but still want to stay dry, you can even install clear ones, like I did over my outdoor bar.
You can find the step-by-step tutorial HERE.
4 | Install Wood Planks
The last one of my DIY waterproof pergola cover ideas is to install wood planks.
This is pretty much like building a deck…only on top of the pergola.
Be sure to use boards that will last outdoors, like pressure treated wood or cedar.
Creating a slight angle will help with the water run-off, which prevents the wood from rotting.
Well, that’s it for my list of DIY pergola cover ideas. Now I just need to decide which one I want to use for my outdoor kitchen!
Hopefully you’ve found some inspiration to build your own pergola patio cover.
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Do you have comments or questions about our DIY pergola cover ideas? Tell us in the section below.
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This post was originally published on August 2, 2019 but was updated with new content on May 22, 2023.
I want to have 2 built. One over the patio and one over by the pool. The one over the patio would benefit with a roof. I especially like the tin roof. Behind the house is a very wide concrete pad as it is also the driveway into the garage. Not ideal but you work with what you have. So the current people who are moving out used the space to the left of the back door as their patio. I can see a rug. Furniture, grill. And my plan is to build it from the left over the door and down. It would keep snow off the stairs and be easier to let the dog out and in. I have plans. So exciting.
That sounds wonderful, Jody! I also like the tin roof. It’s a great idea to use it for keeping the stairs dry.
I would love a tin roof on mine but I am concered about rust in a few years? My husband wants to put plastic over our pergela but I am affraid it will collect leaves and look dirty?
Hi Rachel…True tin roofs don’t rust because tin doesn’t contain iron (they can tarnish if you live in a coastal area with a lot of salt in the air). However, many of the ones that are made today are just a coating of tin over another metal (like steel), so if the roof gets scratched, the metal underneath may rust. For plastic, it definitely will collect leaves which can stain if you leave them on too long. I pressure wash mine a couple of times a year to get the grime off it.
The one with solid wood roof over pergola, can you show how it attaches to the house? THANKS!!
Hi Deb…I don’t have a picture of the house side. But normally it’s just a beam (similar to the one on the other end) that’s screwed into the wall with lag bolts, making sure that the bolts go into the studs in the wall. Then caulk along the top of the board where it meets the house to prevent water from getting in. There’s a picture of how they did a similar pergola on ana-white.com.
Seems like Solar Panels would be the best roof, depending on the way your pergola is situated;)
Thanks for the suggest! Solar panels would be a great idea 🙂
I’d like to install a clear cover on my pergola to protect the furniture from the rain. How can I install at an angle if the existing wooden pergola is level?
Hi Dee…I added a board over the top of the pergola so that the panels would be raised in the middle and slope down on both sides. It isn’t as much of a slope as the manufacturer recommends so I’m not sure how well it would work if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow. But it works fine for keeping the rain off. Otherwise, I think you would need to build a frame above your existing pergola that is installed on an angle and then attach your clear panels to that.
These are some beautiful ideas. Thanks for sharing
I planted Chinese wisteria years ago for the pergola, which is attached to the pool house, not far from the pool. Beautiful, except, I agree, it’s so invasive. Chinese wisteria has huge trunks. I’m afraid the roots are going to reach the pool liner or pool house foundation. My husband refuses to remove it. I can’t find proof online to show him that it is going to do underground damage. Anyone know about the underground root damage?
Hi Mary…I don’t have any personal experience with the roots being close to a structure, but I found this article that says they can cause damage: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/vines/wisteria/wisteria-root-system.htm. I hope that helps!
Hi! The problem we are having is that our patio slopes towards our house where the drain runs along the bottom of our house. We had an inground pool installed a couple years ago. So we have a covered pergola with our patio furniture underneath it. The issue is since our furniture sits directly on the patio when it rains you have a river running thru there so it’s hard to sit out there & enjoy when it rains. How do you suggest we can raise a floor under it to elevate our furniture to eliminate this?
Hi Robyn…depending on how much water there is, you could try installing deck tiles over your patio. They will allow about an inch of water to flow under them. Otherwise, I think you might have to build a deck that’s a few inches off the ground, or find a way to drain the water under/around the patio so it’s not running across it.
We have a metal pergola and have been thinking about a tin roof. What is the best way to attach a tin roof to the pergola? What if we wanted to raise one end so the rain or snow would roll off?
Hi Steve…I haven’t tried adding a tin roof to a metal pergola, but I found another tutorial that goes through step-by-step how they did it, so hopefully it will help. YOu can find it here: https://addisonmeadowslane.com/diy-tin-roof-gazebo/
I never considered using grapevines for an awning. My backyard is pretty sparse and needs more decoration. I’ll have to consider getting a canvas awning.
I love the beautiful ways of doing this shade; it is seen as not too hard.
I really with try it this summer. Thank you for the help.
Thanks, Simone! I’m glad you found them helpful!