Wooden Pergolas: Building Laws In Israel

One of the most important things in life is knowing how to enjoy it. We have so many things to worry and stress about, and we all wait for those moments when we can relax from the daily grind. I feel this is precisely for those moments that the pergola was invented.

There are two main types of pergolas: wood and aluminum. Recently, other types of plastics and metals have joined the list, but in this article we will focus on wooden pergolas – practically and legally. Obviously, this article is no replacement for a consultation with a certified professional.


The Colosseum

The origin of the word pergola is from the Latin word pergula, which means ‘projecting roof’ (similar to pergere ‘to come forward’). In Ancient Rome, the Romans built useful, simple shading structures, which were made of large wooden beams laden with branches. At the foot of those structures vines were planted, and slowly but surely they climbed the beams and branches, supplying shade in a comfortable and easy manner. This is still common practice, by the way and many people choose to plant various climbing plants, in order to give pergolas that natural look.

The pergola is a roof of sorts, and its primary goal is providing shade. Even though this is the most obvious reason, many build a pergola for the beauty, aesthetic, and grace it brings with it. A well-made pergola has a kind of charm which you cannot ignore. It’s a convenient and popular way to upgrade your home’s garden, yard, or other external space.

The Romans knew how to build, without a doubt. They erected some of the world’s most famous structures, and the Colosseum can be found on the list of the New Seven Wonders. Their wisdom notwithstanding, a lot of time has passed since Ancient Rome, and I feel the Romans themselves would agree that today we now possess sturdier materials and more sophisticated building techniques.

Designing Wooden Pergolas

Finnish pine wood

So, the original pergolas were wooden, and many choose to continue that tradition. Aluminum is also becoming very popular, since it is a light and durable metal, and it has a certain plasticity which other metals don’t. This quality is what makes aluminum very appealing for pergola artists, because they can design it to their liking and achieve beautiful results.

If you choose to add dividers of some kind to the pergola, it becomes impervious to weather. The ability to sit outside and relax, mere feet from hot stifling summer heat or a bitter, rainy winter! This is what the pergola is essentially about.

Putting up actual walls in a pergola is not allowed, but there are different ways of closing it off. One method, which is popular in Israel, is using a clear tarp. It protects you from the weather, and some of them even filter out potentially-harmful UV rays.

Wooden pergolas provide a much more natural look for any garden or yard. Like aluminum, wood is a substance which is easily designed and sculpted. It is durable and resilient, but it’s also flexible. You can work with it however you want, and the end result is a natural, practical, convenient solution.

Types of wood:

  • Finnish pine wood – Finland has some fine pine. The Finnish pine has a reddish-brown hue which blends in perfectly with nature and scenery.
  • Bamboo – thin, tough, cheap, and highly unique. Made of bamboo sticks of varying sizes and gauges, it’s a pergola which arrives with a very high level of finish. This contributes to the aesthetic quality of the pergola, in spite of the seemingly more simple, primitive material.
  • Pressure-treated wood – blocks and chunks of wood. These massive beams normally arrive cut in a rough sort of way, a thing which adds a ‘country’ kind of feel to any location, without being any less impressive.
  • Multi-layered wood – this allows for the creation of arches and other designs. The idea is using thin wooden veneers, as opposed to using poles or sticks. This is one of the more expensive options, since it is usually heavier, but it does allow for greater flexibility.

Every place, every type of earth, and every homeowner has a pergola which will fit perfectly to them. To this end, there is a need for careful and proper planning, so that once the work starts, it will be able to run its course smoothly.

The Legalities Of Wooden Pergolas

101st amendment to the building law

Legally, a pergola is like any other structure, and it must adhere to the relevant safety regulations and building specifications, like any other structure. Pergolas are considered “small structures”, and until recently getting a permit for one was a veritable bureaucratic nightmare. It used to be a hassle, but then the 101st amendment to the building law was implemented, and things became a lot easier. Now, citizens are able to build a pergola without having to wait months for a permit.

The exemption from a permit will be given if:

  • The surface of the pergola is under 20 square meters. Over that, and you need an engineer’s authorization.
  • The surface of the pergola is not more than 50 square meters, or it occupies less than a quarter of the overall external surface. Whichever option works.
  • An official notice of the work which was done must be filled out and sent to the municipal planning and building committee.

If the pergola which is being planned does not meet the criteria for an exemption, you need to contact the local authorities for getting a permit. Building without a permit is not recommended, since you run the risk of being taken to court by the city. This often ends up in heartache and significant financial damage. Many times, the authorities will force the homeowner to dismantle the structure, or at least a part of it. Unpleasant, however you look at it.

By definition, a legal pergola is one which is situated in a yard, garden, or roof. A balcony is not the place for a pergola. You may not be allowed to put up walls, but you can use materials like wood and metal.

The pergola is not allowed to be a leaning or angled structure. Also, be aware that every local community council has specific laws regarding pergolas. Before beginning construction, it is best to consult with a professional. Even if you plan on building it yourself, get the technicalities in order before breaking ground.

Keep in mind that the 101st amendment pertains to pergolas alone, and not to boilers, sheds, shades, mini-roofs, or any structure which is not a pergola. In the planning and building regulations, there are sections which speak of those structures and apparatuses, and which also specify how to go about gaining a permit exemption for them.


One last thing – maintenance. Wooden pergolas are among the most beautiful and natural structures you can erect. They are cheap, they do not require too many resources, and they have the ability to last for many years. That being said, wood is also a material which is constantly exposed to the environment and the elements. It needs to be taken care of, at least once a year. This includes cleaning, filing, and oiling the wood, depending on the type of wood used.

Here they come – peaceful days” sang the Israeli Navy Choir. Indeed, there is nothing like catching some shade and quiet under a beautiful pergola which is covered in vines, branches of jasmine, and a sea of green passion fruit leaves.

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