Pergolas add a lot of function, beauty and value to your property. They can define a patio, give you some shade on a hot day and enhance the aesthetics of your yard. So it’s important that the pergola you choose is able to do these things year after year — without losing function or declining appearance.
Some materials, like wood, require a lot of upkeep to stay at its best. This can add to the cost of the pergola and detract from its enjoyment. That’s why many homeowners invest in low-maintenance materials for their pergolas instead.
There are many different materials on the market, each with its own attributes that may make it a better choice than high-maintenance wood. Not every material is created equally, however, or will give you the best performance. That’s why it’s important to consider your material choice carefully, and learn what makes the best material for building a low-maintenance pergola.
The Issue With Wood
Pergolas have been around for centuries and, until recently, have always been built from wood, as this was previously the toughest and most durable material. Wood is versatile and has such a long history that many people simply think of it first when it comes to building materials.
However, wood requires a lot of attention and upkeep to maintain its appearance and structural integrity. It can swell, warp and crack over time, which can require a lot of expensive repairs. It also needs to be frequently painted or stained to help protect it from the elements, and over time, the UV rays from the sun will delaminate the paint or stain from the wood, causing it to peel.
This lowers the appearance of the pergola and leaves it vulnerable to the elements. Homeowners end up spending less time enjoying their pergola and more time scraping, sanding, painting and repairing it.
Low-Maintenance Pergola Options
There are several building materials on the market that can be used to build a low-maintenance pergola. And while all of them are indeed lower in maintenance than pressure-treated wood, they aren’t all created equally.
Many people choose to try engineered or modified wood instead of natural wood. The idea is that you can get the versatility and look of wood, but with less maintenance. However, engineered woods still require painting or staining, though less frequently, and they still peel and chip over time. So while they may be more durable, they still aren’t what you would consider low-maintenance.
Fiberglass is another material that is sometimes used for pergolas. Fiberglass doesn’t require painting, so it’s a better choice than wood in that regard, but, it can become very brittle over time and is known to crack after a few years in the elements.
These cracks can sometimes compromise the integrity of the pergola and need to be carefully monitored for safety and maintenance. Repairs are often noticeable and may not match the rest of the structure which lowers the aesthetics of the pergola as well. So, while fiberglass is definitely lower in maintenance than wood, it isn’t always the best choice for a long term, durable structure.
While less common, you will sometimes find pergolas made out of materials like wrought iron, aluminum or steel. These are often exceptionally durable materials that will give you a long-lasting structure that won’t crack or warp over time.
However, metal pergolas often have the same problem as wood; they don’t hold onto color or pigment, and even when powder coated, they can still chip and require retouching to help prevent issues such as rust. Some pigments on metals can also fade and become chalky over time, which can rub off on your clothes or hands. The only remedy is to have the pergola repainted, which in turn, raises the expense and maintenance of the structure.
Vinyl is a low-maintenance material that is often used for pergolas, and like fiberglass, vinyl doesn’t require painting because the color goes right through the material. This makes vinyl low-maintenance with regard to the fact that it will maintain its color year after year without needing to be painted or stained.
The key to making sure that you get a vinyl pergola that is truly durable and low- maintenance is to ensure that it has a solid structural base on the inside. Vinyl by itself is fairly thin, and the pieces that make up a pergola on their own are hollow, like fiberglass. Vinyl pergolas that are reinforced by an interior post stiffener can last much longer without suffering from the effects of heat, cold or UV rays, making for a virtually maintenance-free pergola.
When looking at vinyl pergolas, make sure that they have an insert to help add structure. Ideally, the insert should also be made of a low-maintenance material, like the aluminum inserts in the pergolas by Heartland Pergolas. Aluminum is lightweight and easy to assemble, but won’t rust or degrade over time like other metals.
Choose the Best Material for Your Low-Maintenance Pergola Kit
While there are many materials on the market that can be described as lower maintenance than pressure-treated wood, not all of them can truly be described as low-maintenance. To be low-maintenance, the building material shouldn’t require frequent painting or repairs and only require periodic cleaning to look its best.
Materials like vinyl that have been reinforced with aluminum can give you that truly low-maintenance pergola that has the durability and longevity you need — and the beauty you want. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance pergola, make sure you go for the material that will stand up to time, such as a vinyl pergola from Heartland Pergolas.