Building a Pergola…Is there a Better Way than Wood?
January 13, 2011 2 Comments
Here’s a contractor asking a question to other contractors about replacing a wood pergola with a low maintenance alternative. This guy is a legitimate “all around” contractor, and he doesn’t even know, so you’re probably wondering too:
Gotta replace a rotted Pergola and wondered if there are any worthwhile alternative materials besides wood? Its rather large………probably 30 ft wide and 12 ft long and the rafters are attached to the house into pockets in the brick. Its supported by 3 round synthetic columns with 2 doubled 2 x 8’s for the beam. The rafters are 2 x 8 around 12 ft long. Cedar would be my lumber choice, but my customer wants to be informed about any synthetic alternatives that wont rot. It is painted to match the house color. I have read some about fiberglass Pergolas, but not sure about the details and availability. I dont think PVC(Azek or something similar) would be strong enough to span 12 ft like that. Any suggestions?
Wood is the traditional choice for pergolas. Depending on your locale, the most common lumber species used are either cedar or redwood. The benefit of using wood to build a pergola is that it’s typically much less expensive than synthetic options and it’s relatively easy to customize on site. With wood, you can really do anything you could image design-wise.
The major downside of wood is that it requires maintenance in the form of both cleaning and staining or painting. Staining or painting a wood pergola is tedious work at best and it borders on something that even professional painters don’t like to do because it’s so time consuming to do. Unlike a deck with one surface to clean and finish, nearly every side of every piece of wood has to be addressed with a pergola so it’s slow going. Really slow going.
Vinyl pergolas are popular these days because they look good, are extremely easy to maintain, and are cost effective relative to custom fabricating a wood pergola. Vinyl pergolas come in kit form and are assembled quickly much like an erector set. Most kits come in a variety of sizes and are expandable or even customizable if need be.
Maintenance is simple, just like a vinyl fence. Powerwash it with a good detergent as needed and you’re done.
The downside to vinyl is that you can have whatever color you like as long as it’s white. Color options for vinyl pergolas are limited to white and buff or almond for the most part. If you want a custom color, look for fiberglass models.
Fiberglass pergolas are similar in all aspects to vinyl pergolas except they must be painted either before, during, or after installation. This is a benefit for some people as they’d like to match a color on there home or simulate a darker stained wood color in lieu of the standard white that vinyl provides.
Fiberglass pergola kits are typically more expensive than vinyl kits and are considered to be an upgrade from vinyl.
Pergolas are great outdoor structures and add a lot of character to any yard. My company, Bergen Decks, installs a fair amount of pergolas as they are becoming requested more and more by homeowners.
In fact, I was interviewed on a television show called HouseSmarts to discuss pergolas and popular options, so rather than read, you can watch! Check out the interview on YouTube here.