Pergolas, like any outdoor structure, suffer from constant exposure to outdoor elements like rain, insects and sunlight. These elements can wreak havoc on your pergola, resulting in rot, peeling paint and other unsightly issues. Fortunately, proper maintenance ensures your pergola will remain in like-new condition for years to come, but not everyone has the time required to maintain one of these structures. When building a pergola, carefully consider the properties of each potential material option to find one that meets your maintenance needs.
If you must have a pergola, but you don't want to spend any time maintaining it over the years, aluminum is likely your best bet. This material resists rot, insect damage, warping, cracking and splitting, allowing it to maintain its structural integrity for many years. Even better, aluminum pergolas come pre-painted in a wide range of colors, so there's no need to paint or stain. This factory-applied finish is extremely durable, so it will be many years before you have to touch it up. The biggest drawback to aluminum is its price, and pergolas made from this material will generally cost more than most other options. Some homeowners may also be deterred by the shiny metallic finish, which is a far cry from the natural wood used on traditional pergolas.
Vinyl or PVC represents another low-maintenance pergola option for busy homeowners. Insects, sun and weather can't damage vinyl, and the material comes with integral color, so it will look the same indefinitely. Generally, PVC pergolas only come in white, so they aren't the best choice for those who want a wood-like finish or an alternate color. The bright white finish may require power washing to remove dirt and grime over time depending on conditions in your area.
Some wood species offer natural protection against outdoor elements thanks to integral oils and tannins that reduce rot and repel insects. These woods, including redwood, cedar and cypress, are also strong and stable, making them ideal for outdoor use. While wood pergolas offer a classic look and cost less than most metal or synthetic alternatives, they also require more hands-on care than vinyl or aluminum. Not only will you have to seal them upon installation, but you will have to reapply sealers annually. If you want to add any color to the wood, plan to stain them every year or two as well.
Pine treated with chemicals like alkaline copper quaternary is one of the cheapest materials used in pergola building. The ACQ treatment helps improve rot and insect-resistance, but does little to prevent cracking, warping and other damage over time. Like untreated wood, this material requires sealing, painting or staining, which must be repeated annually or semi-annually depending on the conditions in your area. It's a good bet for those on a budget, but generally not the best choice for those looking for low-maintenance solutions.
For more information, contact Rocky Mountain Fence & Deck.