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Aluminum vs. Wood: The Best Material to Build a Pergola

Have you ever experienced one of those sweltering summers where it feels like you just can’t get enough shade? That’s where pergolas can come into play. Pergolas are a trendy backyard landscaping element that offers relief from the shade by casting shadows in different directions throughout the day.

Installing and maintaining a pergola is easy, especially when you pick out the right pergola materials to withstand the weather conditions in your local climate. Although wood pergolas were one of the first styles to explode onto the scene, more options are available now than ever before. We encourage you to select an aluminum pergola instead of wood since aluminum materials are made to last. 

Cool Off Your Patio With a Pergola

Pergolas are increasing in popularity among homeowners because they’re easy to install and can be personalized with several exciting accessories. You can utilize this shade structure during the daytime to cool off or create the perfect nighttime hangout spot using attractive outdoor lighting solutions for pergolas.

Explore the different pergola accessories and the materials they are most often built from before deciding on what’s best for your property and its environment. Many materials are available, ranging from classic wood pergolas to modern PVC, aluminum, and pressure-treated lumber. Plus, you can pick from lighting accessories, covers, curtains for additional sun relief, and so much more.

Additional Pergola Accessories

Although a pergola will be effective in creating pockets of shade on your property, there are also several unique ways to enhance shade levels and aesthetics around your pergola. Choose a local landscaping company to help determine which accessories will work best with your existing landscape design and pergola style. Once you have a better idea of what you’d like to include in your ultimate pergola design, it’s time to shop for modern pergola accessories such as:

  • Mosquito screens
  • Sidewalls
  • Curtains
  • Awnings
  • Shade sails or cloth
  • Pergola roofs and covers
  • String lights
  • LED lighting solutions
  • Patio furniture
  • Landscaping elements like flowers and vines

Common Pergola Materials

On top of all the useful accessories you can find for your pergola, these structures also come in all different shapes, sizes, and styles, so you can always find one to perfectly match your property’s design and aesthetic. There are many different materials to choose from for your home’s new pergola. Some common pergola materials include:

  • Composite wood
  • Vinyl
  • Aluminum
  • Cedar
  • Pressure-treated lumber
  • Steel
  • Cellular PVC

Each of these materials listed above has its own unique benefits and drawbacks. Classic cedar, composite wood, and pressure-treated lumber all look great but are more susceptible to damage over time. Alternative materials like vinyl, steel, and aluminum are more likely to withstand harsh weather conditions wherever you live while also creating a beautiful landscape design. Below we look more closely at the answer to a common question homeowners have when installing a pergola: wood materials or a metal option like aluminum?

Aluminum vs. Wood Pergolas: An Age-Old Debate of the Most Durable Materials

Wood pergolas were one of the first styles of pergolas for sale in the landscaping industry and one of the most affordable options. Upon initial installation, wood pergolas look perfectly picturesque and provide adequate shade around your property. However, over time, wood pergolas can warp and break down, lose their beautiful qualities, and give you quite the headache.

Instead, opt for an aluminum pergola system, so the shade structure lasts for years to come with minimal maintenance on your part. Aluminum pergolas are also affordable, so you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank when budgeting to build your dream backyard landscape design. Let’s dive further into what makes aluminum the best material to build a pergola over wood alternatives:

Advantages of Aluminum Pergolas

  • Aluminum pergolas have higher material costs than wood alternatives but still allow for low installation costs, especially when installing a prefabricated aluminum pergola kit from your local landscaping partner.
  • Aluminum materials are smooth and non-porous, meaning they won’t be infiltrated and negatively impacted by water like wood.
  • Aluminum’s smooth surface makes it easy to clean and maintain throughout the seasons. You can simply use soap and water to wash away dirt and algae stains or a low-velocity power washer to remove more stubborn debris.
  • Aluminum is resistant to pest damage, including issues like termite and wood fly infestations.
  • Aluminum is highly resistant to weathering and water damage.
  • Aluminum pergolas are lightweight, so they are great for installing on patios and decks without worrying about warping or damaging the base structure.
  • Many homeowners opt for affordable, easy-to-install, prefabricated pergola kits in aluminum materials, then purchase additional pergola accessories to include after installation.
  • Aluminum will never bend, warp, or sag, so it’s great for cold, wet climates like the Midwest.
  • Aluminum pergolas cast the same amount of shade as any other pergola material.
  • Aluminum pergola materials will never rust, making them virtually maintenance-free.

Disadvantages of Aluminum Pergola

Of course, like any other material, aluminum still has its disadvantages. If you’re considering installing an aluminum pergola, be aware of these few minor issues:

  • Aluminum is lightweight, so it’s susceptible to wind damage without the proper anchor system. Avoid aluminum pergolas if you live at higher elevations or in an area where gusty wind conditions are common.
  • Material costs for aluminum are slightly higher than wood and PVC alternatives.
  • Aluminum can get hot in the summer, especially after sitting in the sun all day, so it’s crucial for both adults and children to be careful when touching the pergola surface.

Benefits of a Wood Pergola

Wood is another common material option when it comes to pergolas. Although wood pergolas aren’t as durable as aluminum ones, there are some advantages to installing pergolas in this material:

  • Wood pergolas allow for a lot of personalization since lumber can be cut to your exact specifications.
  • Several types of wood can be used to construct a pergola, including cedar, redwood, tropical hardwoods, and pressure-treated lumber.
  • Implementing additional pergola accessories is a straightforward task with wood materials.
  • Wood pergolas are sturdy, so they can easily stand up to strong wind gusts.

Wood Pergola Drawbacks

The drawbacks of wooden pergolas are more numerous than aluminum. Here are just a few of the issues you should consider before installing a wood pergola:

  • Wood warps and weathers with heavy rains, ice, and snow, so it requires a lot of maintenance and repairs over time.
  • Troublesome pests like termites and wood flies love to make their homes within older, failing wood, often causing irreversible damage. 
  • Since wood pergolas require more maintenance and repairs, the ultimate cost is always higher than aluminum over time.
  • It’s much more challenging to clean dirt and debris off of wood, typically requiring specialized tools like a pressure washer.
  • Wood materials are more likely to be damaged by rainwater, ice, and snow. Wood becomes waterlogged and warps or fails entirely, resulting in an unstable pergola structure.
  • You’ll need to repaint, stain, and seal your wood pergola every few years as the sun impacts its original vibrancy.
  • Since wood is a much heavier material than aluminum, it isn’t a suitable option for pool decks or raised patios and can affect their overall structural integrity.

Make More Shade Using the Best Pergola Materials

It’s clear that aluminum is the more cost-effective material choice when it comes to building a pergola. Although would will look attractive, it requires much more intensive care and upkeep over the years. In addition, wood is susceptible to a wide range of issues, such as water and pest damage.

Don’t waste your time and money on materials that won’t last. Instead, install an aluminum pergola with the help of your local landscaping company. With an aluminum pergola as the focal point of your backyard landscape design, you can count on the structure to last for years to come and provide your yard with the shade required to escape the sweltering summer sun.