Many homeowners are finding backyard shade structures to be a great way to expand their living space, without buying a larger different home.

Let’s take a look a the most common types of outdoor structures in Texas and their uses.

Arbors and Pergolas


The terms arbors and pergolas can be used interchangeably. Arbors are one of the most simple landscape structures. An arbor is an open roofed structure with shade slats. It is comparable to sitting under a tree, with patches of sun and shade. 

Arbors can made water tight by adding a clear pergola cover made from polycarbonate. Installing this on your pergola provides shelter from the elements while still allowing the sun to filter into the space. These covers works well on flat pergolas or other structures with a slight roof pitch. 

Arbor with clear cover

One of the downfalls of a pergola is the maintenance. At The Complete Backyard, we use a pre-sealed western red cedar for our outdoor structures because it is naturally termite and weather resistant. In addition to this, cedar will shrink and swell with the humidity, it does not dry out and crack. However, the cedar still needs to be treated every year with a sealer to maintain its integrity.

Pergolas can be designed as an extension of your existing covered patio or cabana or they can be freestanding in your yard. Depending on the layout of your yard, either option can help you to maximize the use of your space. 

Shingled Building Structures

Shingled structures, those with a solid shingled roof unlike the open slats of an arbor, can be built in one of two ways, either as a patio extension or cabana style. A patio extension is simply a structure which extends off an existing covered patio, providing more shaded space to enjoy. Cabana style structures can be built near an existing covered patio or freestanding in the yard.

At The Complete Backyard, when we build a patio extension or cabana in your yard, we work to be sure the roof matches the existing home. If possible, we use the same manufacturer and color of shingles already in use on your home. However, homeowners need to be aware that even when matching the manufacturer and color of the shingles, there may be some variation in color depending on how old the existing roof is and if those shingles have faded or weathered.

Another decision for homeowners is what they want the ceiling inside of the structure to look like. Generally there are two types of ceilings:

  1. Exposed rafters with cedar beams or
  2. Enclosed rafters with no beams
Cabana with exposed rafters
Cabana with enclosed rafters

If homeowners want to use can lights in the ceiling, enclosed rafters are the way to go as there   is room to recess the can for the lights.

When building a shingled structure, homeowners will also want to consider including factors which will extend the use of the space. Ceiling fans are important for creating a breeze on a hot day. Fans also help to deter bugs, like mosquitos, which do not like to fly in a breeze. Ceiling fans can also be installed in arbors. For the cooler days or nights, installing patio heaters will make a real difference in how comfortable it is under the shelter.

Many homeowners are also looking for extra features such as built in sound systems and outdoor TVs or movie screens. Knowing what you want before beginning a project creates good design, allowing for the desired features to be incorporated seamlessly into the finished structure.

Louvered Roof System

Louvered roof system with open and closed louvers and built in gutters

Louvered roof systems function as a cross between the shade slats of the pergola and the solid shingled roof of the patio extensions and cabanas, allowing for a customizable experience. Each section of the roof can open and close independently of the other sections. This allows the cook to open the roof in their section to allow cooking smoke to escape, while others can be under a closed section in the shade while lounging. 

We use the Equinox system because of its many advantages. Equinox comes with a built in  enclosed guttering system so it’s virtually invisible. The individual sections are also electronically controlled, opening or closing at the touch of a button. When closed, the louvered roof system is water tight, allowing the use of the extended living space even during rainy weather. 

How much will this cost?

The cost of your new outdoor structure depends on many factors. Is it an arbor or a shingled roof? If it’s an arbor, do you want to add a waterproofing membrane? What size structure do you need? While you are still in the planning phase, decide how you plan to use the sheltered space. Common uses for a sheltered structure include a grilling area, a seating/living area, and a fireplace area.

We build completely customized structures based on the needs and desires of the homeowner. We ask lots of questions about how your family will use the space. Are you looking for a place to grill? Entertain? How many people do you want to be able to seat comfortably? Once we have those answers, we design a custom structure, tailored to your space.

Can you remodel my existing space?

We are happy to meet with you to determine your needs. We can remodel and redesign an existing space or design a completely new space. We have done everything from outdoor bathrooms and pool houses to multi-car garages or in-law suites.

If you are thinking of adding an outdoor structure to your yard, give the experienced professionals at The Complete Backyard a call today. We would love to discuss the different options available to you and create the perfect solution for your backyard.