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Updating a Ranch Style House Exterior with a Front Yard Pergola

January 5, 2018
Adding a pergola is one way of updating a ranch style house exterior

Updating a ranch style house exterior with a front yard pergola gives the home an entirely new aspect.

Ranch style houses are the homes of the American Dream. Also known as ramblers and California ranchers, these are houses that were developed in the 1920s, built during the 1950s and into the 1980s, and, because familiarity breeds contempt, abandoned in the 1990s for a variety of revival homes that have collectively and contemptuously become known as McMansions.

But the humble rancher endures, and was actually the first home designed for the modern lifestyle. They’ve been built and refined for over a century, and they’re a staple of the American landscape for a reason. Yet these homes were built in batches, and as a result, they can blend together. It can be hard to make a ranch house stand out or reflect your family’s personality, but updating a ranch style house exterior with a structure like a pergola can change the whole look of a home and give it a unique and sophisticated style.

The Versatile Front Yard Pergola

If you’re not familiar with construction, you may not be familiar with what exactly a pergola is. They’re simply raised structures with an open roof of rafters or timbers. The word arbor is often used interchangeably with pergola, but an arbor is a totally freestanding structure, while, technically, a pergola must be attached to a house or other structure. The term comes from the Italian word pergula, meaning projection. These were structures that projected from the walls of a house, creating the look of a Roman villa. Both arbors and pergolas were originally built as a place for climbing vines to grow and cast shade for Renaissance nobility.

Today, pergolas are perfect for making a ranch style home stand out, as well as adding a multiple-use space next to the home. Structurally, pergolas are simply beams attached to posts with rafters running on top of the beams. This makes pergolas incredibly flexible, and they can be built to any size, large or small, and in a variety of shapes and styles, such as half-circle or multi-level. The majority of front yard pergolas project out from above the front entryway. Depending on how your front step is laid out, a front entry pergola can range from just large enough to cover the front stoop to large enough to serve as an impromptu front porch.

The Benefits of Updating a Ranch Style House Exterior with a Front Pergola

Why add a pergola to your rancher exterior? There are lots of good reasons to build a pergola, but we’ll list just a few here.

  • They can be built across different types of ground. One of the most interesting things about adding a pergola to the front of a ranch home is that a pergola can ignore changing elevations. This means that a single pergola can span a driveway, a flower bed, a sitting area on top of a slab, and a walkway. Different types of hardware make this possible–on the ground you’d use a post anchor to stabilize the pergola’s posts, while on an existing concrete patio or walkway you would choose a post base. It’s also easier to build a pergola along the front of a home if that home has a simple, consistent roofline, as most ranchers do. Adding a pergola across a large section of the home’s frontage is a bold, dynamic approach that can radically update the plain exterior of a typical ranch home.
  • They add some of the decorative styling cues of Craftsman and other style homes to the exterior. Craftsman-style homes favor exposed rafters, and a pergola in front of the existing gable or hipped roof of a ranch home mimics this profile. If you favor more ornate styles, then things like hanging plants, climbing vines, and other non-structural add-ons can shift things towards a more Victorian style. With the right design and coat of paint, an Asian-inspired pergola can lend your home a bit of zen. Both styles benefit from hardware details like steel post-to-beam brackets, rafter clips, and joist hangers in a black forged-iron look. Rugged details like this are an important part of making a pergola that engages the eye.
  • They provide practical benefits like shade and privacy. A pergola can support beautiful flowering vines like climbing roses or wisteria, which also provide shade for people and plants below. A shaded sitting area can be handy in an older ranch home where a garage provides enough space to park a car, but not much room for anything else. A temporary cover or a more permanent roof on the pergola can add protection from the rain and snow.

All of these benefits are great, but won’t do you any good if your pergola doesn’t stay beautiful and sturdy, year in and year out. That’s where good-quality hardware comes in. Different ground types require different types of post fixtures to anchor the posts in place, while hardware like rafter clips easily attaches rafters to your joists.

The best hardware is hot-dipped galvanized steel that comes in a decorative pattern and with a black powder coat, so it adds to the beauty of the pergola. The Laredo Sunset line of hardware from OZCO Building Products falls into this category. This line of black powder-coated hardware looks like it came straight from the smithy, and includes post bases for anchoring posts to concrete, ornamental anchors for driving posts into the soil, and post to beam connectors and rafter clips for rugged but classically elegant details across all parts of a pergola. OZCO hardware works for styles from Craftsman to Victorian, and it serves anyone looking to update a ranch home’s exterior.

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