What Type of Materials are Best Suited for Pergolas?
Do you want to sit outside with a cocktail, a good book, or the kids running around as you enjoy the afternoon heat without the sun bearing down? One can take only so much sun exposure, both for pleasure and physical health, before it becomes unpleasant. Rather than packing up and being stuck inside, you can bask in the shade of a pergola. If you have been debating getting a pergola but are unsure what material to go with, we have the answer for you today!
What is a Pergola?
As a quick reminder, let’s review what a pergola is! A pergola is an outdoor structure that can be attached to an existing structure, like a house, or as a detached stand-alone feature. This open structure design has a lattice-style roof that provides shades without entirely blocking out the sun.
Pergolas have been around for thousands of years, providing functionality to an outdoor space without impeding the landscaping, views, or overall design.
We do want to quickly note that pergolas and patio covers are not the same things, as they often get confused. Pergolas have an open roof system that does not keep out the elements. While you get shade, other elements like sun and rain will still come in. A patio cover, on the other hand, has a fully closed roofing system. Therefore, if you are looking for full shade and total protection from the elements, you may want to switch to a patio cover as your structure choice.
Common Pergola Materials from Worst to Best
When building an outdoor structure, especially if you choose to attach it to your home, it is critical to pick a material that suits not only your personal aesthetic but also your environmental needs to ensure that it is long-lived. Wood, vinyl, and aluminum are the most common materials for pergolas, and we are giving you the inside scoop on which ones are the best…and the worst!
Coming in last place is wood! While wood is one of the most common building materials on the market and has been the primary pergola building material for centuries, it is actually a poor choice for pergolas and even patio covers.
First of all, the most affordable wood materials are softwood. Unfortunately, most softwood has to be pressure treated before being used as an outdoor building material, or it won’t stand a chance against the elements. Even more unfortunate, pressure-treated wood is rather ugly. While it can be painted, you then have to keep up on regular paint maintenance so it doesn’t look shabby.
Of course, you can buy hardwoods, but you will pay a pretty penny for it. The downside, even with expensive wood, is that it is still wood. Wood has a shorter lifespan than other building materials, and it is prone to decay, insect infestation, cracking, warping, expansion, chipping, splitting, and even fading. All in all, it takes a lot of maintenance to attain a high-quality wood appearance.
Pergola Materials: Vinyl
Coming in second is vinyl. Vinyl is a common plastic material that you often see on cheaper countertops and floorings indoors as well as fences, decks, and even siding outdoors. The plus side to vinyl is that it is durable and relatively maintenance-free. It will need a quick wash every once and a while, but for the most part it is quite impervious to the elements.
Sadly, there are a couple of downsides to vinyl as well. First, while vinyl is durable, it is known to soften or sag due, often because of fluctuating temperatures. If you live in an area that swings in temperature significantly from one season to the next, your vinyl pergola will take a hit.
Additionally, vinyl pergolas often come as a one-size-fits-all style kit. There is very little room for design changes or adding a unique flair to make it your own; what you get is what you get.
Due to their high-quality, durable nature, aluminum pergolas come in as the #1 material for pergolas. Unlike wood pergolas, aluminum pergolas will not crack, warp, split, chip, or peel and will not chalk or fade even under constant UV and wind exposure. As well, unlike vinyl pergolas, aluminum will not sag or soften and have significantly more design options.
Aluminum pergolas are maintenance-free due to being constructed out of high-grade aluminum and embossed with a wood grain texture, resulting in the look of real wood without the upkeep. Plus, they come in several sizes, shapes, and finishes and can be adapted to create any desirable combination of shade and sunlight. On top of that, they are affordable and easy to have installed.
Overall, aluminum pergolas come in at the top because they meet the three primary requirements of outdoor building: durability, low maintenance, and beautiful aesthetic.
If you live in Eastern Washington, you know that we get over 300 days of sunshine! Match this with a backyard pergola, and you have the ideal space for barbecuing, hanging out with friends, relaxing with a good book, and even providing potted plants with the shade they need to thrive.
With Patio Covers Unlimited Northwest, we can design your pergola to suit your specific tastes. Do you want to have a more tightly-spaced lattice for a darker shade or a more widely-spaced lattice for more sun? No matter what option you choose, you can pick the features of your pergola to match the function and aesthetic you crave for your outdoor space and compliment your home.
Learn more about your pergola options by visiting our website today! We provide free estimates to curious homeowners living in the Tri-Cities, Walla Walla, Yakima, and the surrounding areas. Not sure if a pergola is the right choice for you? Check out our other outdoor structure options!