Adding a pergola to your home is a great investment, but they can create some problems. In northern winters, pergolas can become so weighted with snow that they break. Wind during the winter too, can be a problem to a pergola, especially a free-standing pergola.

You can create a temporary pergola using iron posts, which will then have a sailcloth “roof” that only stays up during the spring, summer, and fall. It’s removal is easy before the winter and thus, you don’t have the winter pergola problems.

1. Determine area parameters and location of vertical supports. Finding the size and shape of your sailcloth cover should be fairly simple: measure all 4 sides of your area. But it can be partially determined by the shape and size of sailcloth you choose to use. You’ll need to decide on and buy the sailcloth to lay out in your space before proceeding. This will determine where to place the vertical supports.

Sailcloth comes in specific sizes with grommets pre-installed in the corners. Sailcloth is designed to be pulled taut, so you can fit it exactly to your space, but it should not overlap the posts it will be attached to. You will place the posts 3 to 6 inches from the corners of the sailcloth. The sailcloth can attach to the post with a simple carabiner. 

2. Add in your vertical iron supports. Before cementing your iron posts in the ground, add eye hooks to the tops so that the canvas can easily attach. The iron posts should be cemented into the ground at least 2 feet deep for clay soils and 3 to 4 feet deep for sandy soils. (If you live in a windy area, you may want to consider 3 to 4 feet regardless of your soil.) Dig a hole 3 times the width of your beams to the correct depth. Place the beams in the ground (ensuring that are perfectly upright), and cement them in place. You’ll want the vertical iron supports to extend at least 8 feet above the ground to hold your sailcloth high above your head. A sailcloth does not need to be installed perfectly level; it can be higher on any side you choose, so the height of the posts is determined by how you want the sailcloth to lie.

3. Finally, attach your sailcloth with carabiners to your post. It should be pulled fairly taut, though all cloth will have some “sag” toward the middle. 

Your new sailcloth pergola can stay up through the warm months, when it provides solid shade for you to enjoy, and then come down in the cold months when you don’t want it to become weighed down with snow or rain. The soft ceiling above your head will feel welcoming and enjoyable for many years to come. For more information about iron work, visit Woodbridge Steel Ltd.