Pergolas are typically open, airy, and relaxing outdoor room structures with cross rafters that add a sense of style, elegance, beauty, and functionality to outdoor settings. They can be freestanding or attached to a structure, are generally much larger than arbors, and their unique beauty exceeds that of awnings or patio covers. Pergolas are great for introducing more shade through cross rafters, lattice, or cloth weavings without blocking too much light. As one of the most popular trends in landscaping, showing up in backyards, parks, rooftops, serenity gardens, and beyond, pergolas are a good way to incorporate climbing plants and vines to create a lush, relaxing setting.
Pergolas may be attached directly to the ground, a patio, or deck while incorporating columns that support the roof structure and solidify the pergola enough to resist twisting or bowing in high wind conditions. Since pergolas have no sidewalls, their support columns need to be robust enough to be wind-resistant. Incorporating a pergola into an existing home or building, versus freestanding, will enhance its ability to withstand strong winds. Typically, shade percentages can range from 40 to 60% depending on the configuration and materials used.
Being popular landscape features since the 17th century, pergolas have often been utilized for training vines to grow over paths to create both shade and a relaxing or romantic scene. Since wood was the predominant lighter-weight building material at the time, most pergolas were made out of locally sourced trees. Over the centuries, pergolas changed in size, durability, and the designs they incorporated, but out of necessity, they were made of wood. That has all changed now with the multitudes of building materials currently at our disposal. These days, the most popular pergola materials are wood and aluminum – each of which has its benefits and disadvantages which are discussed below.
Pergolas made of wood are classic. Wood can be carved into an unlimited array of designs, shapes, and sizes, and can tell the story the pergola designer wants to portray. Wood pergolas have become even sturdier over time, and as mentioned above can be freestanding or attached to a house or building. They can be stained or painted in any color and constructed using many types of wood such as treated pine, cedar, or fancy hardwoods. Various wood grain orientations can be utilized to make a pergola as strong and long-lasting as possible. All of these options have an impact on a wood pergola’s cost, in addition to the spacing of the beams and lattice material.
Wood Pergola Benefits
Wood, as a building material, is very adaptable and can be used in any configuration to build a pergola. Because of this, wood pergolas can be desirable because of their endless customization. And since wood was the first building material that pergolas were constructed of, they have become timeless and classic. Wood pergolas can also work well for small garden or patio projects that incorporate both simple or complex designs. Because any grade wood can be used, the cost of a wood pergola can meet any budget, especially if one is building it themselves and can afford to throw in free labor.
Wood Pergola Disadvantages
Wood is high maintenance, which is one of the reasons not as many wood pergolas are being built today as once were. Wood pergolas are also static, which means whichever configuration is built, that is the configuration it will always be unless it is torn down. Some aluminum pergolas can be adjusted utilizing louvers that can move and allow more or less sunshine, rain, etc. in. Pergola fans have started wondering how they are going to maintain their wood pergola after the wood starts to age and soften and the original paint or stain starts wearing off. They are also concerned about how well they will be able to protect all the intersecting beams and lattice pieces when maintenance is due. There is a lot of work involved in addressing paint chipping and peeling or stain that wears off after just a few years. Scraping off paint or dealing with wood rot is not pleasant. Also, both pressure-treated wood and cedar columns tend to swell, warp and crack over time and need additional maintenance when that happens. Also, wood is a combustible material and can pose an added risk of fire to connecting or adjacent structures.
Aluminum pergolas are becoming more and more popular, especially in urban landscape settings. They look as good as wood pergolas and even better in more modern landscapes. The aluminum material can be fashioned to give it a simulated wood-grain look and appear more traditional if desired. Aluminum pergolas are essentially maintenance-free and are coated in an electrostatic paint finish that can carry a great warranty. Aluminum doesn’t splinter, sag, crack or twist like wood, so an aluminum pergola, in the long run, will require virtually no maintenance, whereas a wood pergola would need maintenance every few years for the life of the pergola…which isn’t near as long as the life of an aluminum pergola. Because of their lighter weight, aluminum pergolas can span a much greater distance between columns, thus affording a more unobstructed view than more narrowly spaced wood pergola supports. Also, aluminum pergolas can include covered canopies or be constructed in an open, classic design.
Aluminum Pergola Benefits
If there is one key phrase that describes aluminum pergolas, it is: maintenance-free. If you are searching for a pergola material that is worry-free and includes the following features and benefits, then an aluminum pergola may be the perfect fit for your project.
- Modern Looking
- Splinter Free
- No Painting Needed
- Won’t Crack or Shrink
- Won’t Warp
- Lightweight but Strong
- Movable Louvers can make it adjustable
- Won’t Attract Insects or Wood Loving Birds
- Won’t Catch Fire
- Won’t Rot
- Custom Designed
- More Styles and Finishes than Wood
- Wider, Unobstructed Viewing between Columns
- Better Wind Ratings
- Increased Longevity
- Insurable, whereas Wood Pergolas may not be
Aluminum Pergola Disadvantages
There just aren’t any viable drawbacks to aluminum pergolas. One possible disadvantage is that there is a learning curve to overcome when designing, building, and putting together one’s aluminum pergola. Kits can help, but it’s still useful to know about aluminum construction. If one has only worked with wood before, then aluminum could present a unique challenge. That’s why it’s best to leave the design and construction to a qualified Pergola Contractor.
Whether you opt for wood or aluminum for the construction of your pergola, it’s good to keep in mind your ultimate goal for the pergola. Do you want it to last up to 10-12 years with constant maintenance in the case of a wooden pergola or do you want your pergola to have far greater durability and last a lifetime with very little to no maintenance in the case of aluminum pergolas? If you live in the Dallas – Fort Worth metroplex, Arlington Pergola Installers are available and would be glad to assist with your project.