Multi-level Pergola Designs That Offer Easy Installation With a Complex Style

multi-level pergola designs

A multi-level style pergola can add interest and variety to your deck and yard.

I’ve put a pergola in the back of my house and a pergola in the front (which led to my pergola ideas for the front of the house post), and I’m at the point now where putting one together is a pretty easy process for me. So I was looking at other pergola designs, looking for a more challenging project, and I discovered a unique setup that I thought I might try out (if I can find a place in my yard for it), called a multi-level pergola. This style is an adaptation of the basic pergola and there are a lot of fun ways to make it your own. The best part is that with the right plans and hardware, multi-level pergola designs are easy to customize for your outdoor space.

Multi-level pergolas are a great way to create an outdoor structure for multiple uses. You can use the main section for socializing, with another tier as an entryway or even a separate garden area. You don’t even have to stop at two tiers. You can do three, or even four if you have the space. Really, the only limit in coming up with multi-level pergola designs is your imagination.

Ideas for Multi-level Pergola Designs

While some look into multi-level pergolas as an option for a standalone outdoor structure, others might want to attach the pergola to the house to provide a covering for an entryway or walkway. Pergola styles vary a lot, but there are a few basic multi-level styles that act as good starting points for any design.

  • The traditional three-tiered pergola: This multi-level pergola has the main pergola at the center. This large pergola style works great as a standalone structure for outdoor socializing and as a stylish place to provide shade in a large backyard.
  • The two-level graduated pergola: This is a design you’ll most often see used to cover a walkway and a porch area. In this design, the lower side of the pergola will cover the entrance to the porch or deck, while the higher level will provide a covering for the deck itself.
  • The mixed shape pergola: A really unique design that I’ve always enjoyed is a two-tier pergola that mixes shapes. This type might have a large square center pergola, with a triangular or circular pergola attached. With a mixed shape pergola, the secondary pergola becomes something of an embellishment to the main pergola.
  • The wall-connected multi-level pergola: This type of design uses a ledger board on one side to connect the structure to the house, while the main pergola supports the additional levels. This can put a fair bit of pressure on your home so you should follow a good multi-level pergola plan that will provide the proper guidance. Wall-connected styles are also good pergolas for small patios and other tight areas.

Those are the basic options you’ll find in multi-level pergola designs, though again, all of these designs can be adapted as much as you want to create something that’s unique to your home. And what I really love about multi-level pergolas is that despite their sophisticated style, they’re not that complex to build.

Tips for Building a Multi-level Pergola

Building a multi-level pergola is a project that can be accomplished fairly quickly, but you’re going to need a helper. Every pergola plan is different, but multi-level structures do tend to have a few steps in common. Some basic tips to keep in mind are:

  • Focus on your main structure first: Build your primary pergola first. Your main structure can then be used to provide the measurements (and support) for your smaller structures. In addition, by completing your primary pergola first, you’ll be able to work out any issues with the smaller ones, like changing the height or width to get the look you’re going for.  
  • Don’t be afraid to attach temporary supports: It’s not unusual for multi-level pergolas to ‘share legs,’ so to speak, in that the main legs of the primary pergola will also support the secondary structures. It’s sometimes easier to use temporary legs for your secondary structures until you’ve attached those to the primary pergola, and then remove the temporary legs after the sections are secured together. Look for a plan that includes these temporary options.
  • Use durable post anchors: For a structure like this, you’re going to want to use post anchors or post bases (if you’re building your pergola on an existing deck) made of hot dipped galvanized steel that, preferably, has also been powder coated to keep water from causing them to rust through. Often, your posts are going to be supporting more than one structure, so the tougher your post anchors are, the better.
  • Ornamental hardware should be used at visible connections: There are a lot of connections to be made in your multi-level pergola, so there’s going to be a lot of visible hardware. Using ornamental hardware is an excellent option for creating a strong connection without ruining the appearance of your project (shiny silver galvanized fasteners, to me, signal ‘cheap’ and ‘unfinished’). When choosing that hardware, make sure that’s it’s not just ornamental, though. Some ornamental hardware is only designed to look nice but does little to provide stability. Use hardware which is made of thick steel and is coated for durability as well as looks.

I don’t know if I’ll get around to building my dream multi-level pergola, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in building my pergolas, it’s that starting with a plan is key. If you choose to customize, make sure that your customization doesn’t remove any necessary support structures that were included in the plan. Keep the post amounts and ledger boards the same and you’ll be able to make your multi-level pergola work.

And it’s good to remember that multi-level pergola designs tend to be heavier than single story ones, and require especially sturdy connectors. I’ve found that OZCO offers a lot of great hardware options for managing a project like this, like ornamental wood ties and powerful post anchors. Taking your pergola to the next level means that you need a good plan and a powerful selection of hardware at your disposal, and OZCO’s got all that. Use their (gorgeous) hardware and plans, and you’ll have a safe, sturdy multi-level pergola design which will last for years to come.  

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