Pergolas have rapidly become one of the most popular outdoor structures for residential and commercial applications. A pergola can help define a space, offer shade, and is less expensive and elaborate than a gazebo to build.
Many pergolas being built today are made from kits, which makes for easier installation and provides better control over the project. However, not every pergola kit — or custom-built pergola — is going to perform the same way.
Materials like fiberglass, some softwoods and un-reinforced vinyl can mean that your pergola is too light or flimsy to withstand high winds. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to both the pergola design AND its material so you can choose a wind-resistant pergola that will last.
Which Materials Are Best?
Pergolas are stationary structures that can be installed in one of two ways. They can be either freestanding or attached to a building. They’re basically constructed of two to four columns, with a roof that can be: open and designed for vines or cloth, tightly layered with maneuverable slats or topped with a different material to create a sunshade.
Regardless of the style and roofing, though, most pergolas are fairly open structures. Whether they’re permanently attached to the ground or fastened to a deck, the columns or legs of the design need to be able to support the roof structure, without bowing, twisting or breaking in the event of high winds. Because pergolas don’t have walls to block wind and help share the load, the legs need to do their part to hold things up.
The type of material you choose to build your pergola is your first consideration in finding the most wind-resistant pergola design. There are several options on the market, with most people gravitating toward one of a few popular choices.
Wood pergolas are popular for their endless customization. But they’re not used as often as they once were because wood is so high maintenance. Cedar and pressure-treated columns both have a tendency to crack over time, and every type of wood requires a lot of work in scraping and painting to maintain its appearance and prevent problems with rot.
When it’s in good condition, wood is very durable and can hold up well in many climates. The problem comes with time and age; when wood begins to age, it develops more cracks and eventually starts to soften. At this point, it begins to lose its structural integrity, and a high wind could be all that’s needed to finish off the structure for good.
To prevent this, you would need to stay on top of the maintenance, by painting and repairing as needed.
Fiberglass is a unique material. It’s made from a mixture of silica sand, soda ash and limestone, among other things. This makes it a fairly tough and low maintenance material that can be used to create lightweight, hollow pergolas. They are lower in maintenance than wood, not requiring the same level of care since they don’t rot and don’t require scraping and painting.
However, fiberglass can become brittle in cold temperatures. It’s also very lightweight, and hollow-core pergolas can’t withstand the force of high winds. Fiberglass being lightweight can be a benefit in some projects, but in a pergola, it means that it may not hold up long-term in a high wind environment.
Hollow Core Vinyl
Vinyl is a lightweight material made from polyvinyl chloride. Like fiberglass, it’s very low maintenance, and therefore, popular as a material for outdoor structures like pergolas. You don’t need to paint it, and it’s completely impervious to insect activity, moisture and rot.
Many manufacturers simply make their vinyl pergola columns hollow, though, which means that the pergola is subject to the same problems as fiberglass. The structure is too light when it isn’t reinforced, and it’s not going to be able to withstand high winds without taking some damage.
Metal pergolas are a good option for durability and security, and heavy enough not to be an issue in high winds. However, metal pergolas on their own tend to be higher in maintenance.
Steel can corrode if it’s exposed to the elements, and all it takes is a scratch on the paint for it to start to rust. Aluminum doesn’t corrode, but it can dent as well as fade, so it needs to have its finish retouched every few years to look its best. Not retouching a fading metal can sometimes mean that the baked-on finish will come off on your hands and clothes; not ideal for most applications.
Metal Reinforced Vinyl
One solution that manages all of these issues is the vinyl exterior and metal frame insert pergolas from Heartland. The metal of the frame inserts gives the pergola the strength and stability it needs to stand up to high winds, while the vinyl gives you that low maintenance exterior you’re looking for.
These pergolas give you the best of both worlds; they don’t require paint or long term care, and they’re going to hold up to years of use, no matter what climate you install them in.
Pergola Styles for Wind-Resistance
If you’re truly looking for a wind-resistant pergola, choosing a durable material is a good start — but it isn’t the only thing you can do to provide strength and stability. Pergolas can be either freestanding or attached, and attached pergolas gain the benefit of the strength and wind buffer from the house.
Attaching a pergola to the home either on the deck or patio can dramatically increase its wind resistance. Paired with the right materials, these pergolas will last for years with fewer issues in strong winds.
Get the Best Pergola for Windy Areas
If you’re looking for a high-quality pergola that’s attractive, low maintenance and durable enough to withstand high winds, check out the selection at Heartland Pergolas. Our custom and prefab vinyl pergola kits can help you achieve your project goals quickly, with the strength and stability you’re looking for.
Contact a representative today to add a durable, and beautiful, outdoor pergola to your home.