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The smart way to find your Tradie

Patio, Pergola, Sail Shades

This area is so diverse that entire books have been dedicated to it. So this is a brief general overview to help you decide how to proceed.

All permanent structures in Australia must have council approval. The cost for this varies from council to council but I recommend having your outdoor structures included on your house plans if possible, so they are approved at the same time as the house or renovation thereby avoiding the additional of having the plans drawn up and approved later on.

There is usually a standard distance requirement (set back) from the boundary (check with your local council). However set backs can sometimes be adjusted if your neighbour has no objections. The set back for a timber structure is sometimes more than for a steel structure (fire hazard) while brick can possibly be placed on the boundary.

If you take into account the following items then your choice will be easier.

  • Allow adequate ventilation if the roof is enclosed, especially if you have a BBQ within it
  • Consider deciduous vines to provide shade in summer and sunlight in winter.
  • Do you want café blinds to enclose the area in Winter
  • Is the roof high enough to accommodate your gas heater.
  • Do you want to install a mist system for summer
  • Place your outdoor shade area with some access to winter northern light if possible. This way it will be a lovely sunny place to sit in winter.
  • What paving or floor covering do you want? Remember to seal the floor due to food splatter in this area
  • Is the area big enough to accommodate your outdoor setting (allow min 1mtr clearance all around the table, more if it’s a thoroughfare)
  • How hot will it be under the structure in summer?
  • What are the prevailing weather issues that need to be addressed?
  • Does it need to be waterproof?
  • Level of glare and reflectivity
  • What level of UV protection is required?
  • What electrical and plumbing requirements do you have? Lights, fans, heaters, BBQ’s, water features, power points, appliances, extraction fans, sink, fridge etc
  • Can you arrange servery access from the kitchen?

Types of structures

The Alfresco

Normally under the main roof of the house with direct access from the house itself. A standard contract allowance would be for paving below and the ceiling lined as per the eaves. Maybe a gas point for the BBQ and a bayonet light point.
Possible upgrades would be:

  • Plasterboards ceiling with cornice
  • Timber or timber look ceiling, possibly vaulted (like a pyramid)
  • Low voltage down lights on a dimmer
  • Ceiling fan
  • Built in kitchen, sink, fridge and bin.
  • Non standard pavers, poured limestone or tile floor.


A pergola is not normally included in a standard display home. It there is one at the display home you are considering, check if it costs extra.
Pergolas come is many shapes and sizes, manufactured in timber or in steel. Metal pergolas are normally pre finished in a choice of standard colours and require very little maintenance. Some councils will also allow them to be placed closer to the boundary than a timber pergola. Timber pergolas can be left raw (in which case they will grey over time) or they can be sealed or painted. This type of finish will require ongoing maintenance over time. Both types of pergolas can be finished in a wide variety of roof cover options and prices will vary accordingly.

  • A metal deck roof (solid/non transparent)
  • Coloured polycarbonate roofing (transparent or translucent)
  • Shadecloth
  • Plant cover
  • Solar Louvres (fixed angled louvres)
  • Open

Timber Pergola        


Steel Pergola       

These are available with flat, pitched, skillion, gabled or domed roofs they can be purchased as a DIY kit or you can order then fully installed. They can be ordered from a standard brochure or you can have then fabricated to suit. There are various standard powdercoat colours available for the frame and roof cover and there are also lots of interior lining options.

  • Cedar
  • Prefinished boards
  • Waterproof ply
  • Plasterboard
  • Compressed Bamboo

Automated Louvre Roof    


An Automated Roof System is at the top of the food chain. It is a motorized roof with louvers that can be opened or closed. The mechanism can have a manual handle or electronic switching. The electronic version is also available with a rain sensor so it automatically closes if it starts to rain. The angle of the louvers can be adjusted to block out the sun or let in the sun depending on the season. The electronic model can be programmed to track the sun or the shade whilst allowing ventilation.

Sail Shades            


There are various sail shade configuration, triangular, rectangular and square. These are available in many colours and can be overlapped to produce large areas of shade. Best attachment is using adjustable marine buckles and ties as they are weatherproof. Relatively simple to install small ones yourself if you’re handy however large sails can be tricky to get right. Call a proffessional. Can be freestanding on poles (timber or steel) or attached to the house, or a combination of the two. Ensure the UV rating is the same if comparing products. Council approval not normally required unless on a boundary. Sails are not waterproof however they are fantastic in an area that you want shaded in summer.....but you can take them down for winter to allow winter sun access to the house. (this makes them suitable for East West and Northern patio areas)

Helpful Hints

If you are going to install or contract your outdoor structure yourself after completion, have the Builder install patio bolts where required to the fascia of the house. This means your patio installer can just bolt the structure to the house without having to remove part of the roof to put the bolts in. It will cost you next to nothing for the bolts but save you big dollars in the long run.

Related Topics

Solar Passive Design
Window tinting
Paving and Outdoor
Roof cover