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The Difference Between Fiberglass, Wood, and Vinyl Pergolas

The Difference Between Fiberglass, Wood, and Vinyl Pergolas

Jul 16th 2015

If you are looking to fill your space with something practical and functional that is also very aesthetically pleasing, one of the best options available is a pergola.

When considering pergola ideas, one of the most important things to take into account is the material it is made out of. From wood, fiberglass, and vinyl, there are several different quality options to choose from. We discuss these materials below, and pros and cons of pergola materials.

Wood

In addition to being the most popular material for building homes and residences, wood is the most popular material for shade structures including pergolas and pavilions.

Wood is also the most versatile material for a shade structure. It can be fashioned into any shape, and can be painted or stained any color. Wood also has a deep history of being used for outdoor structures and buildings in all sorts of climates. Its performance is well known.

In North America, the most popular wood species used for outdoor structures and roof shingles is Western Red Cedar (thuja plicata). Western Red Cedar is second only to California Redwood in terms of durability. But it is much less expensive than California Redwood, and not a threatened species.

If you are really after the natural wood look, redwood and cedar are by far the two best options available to you. For longevity and aesthetics, redwood gives off one of the best looking natural finishes. If you are looking to stain or paint something that will last a very long time, opting for cedar is one of the best choices you can make.

If you reside in an area that is near the ocean, one of the best materials available for your pergola is ipe. This tropical hardwood holds up very well to natural coastal climates that have a lot of salt in the air from the ocean. However, ipe is very expensive, and very difficult to work.

Possibly the most common wood you will find however is a pressure treated pine. While this is one of the cheapest options, it also withstands insect and rot fairly well, making it a very popular long lasting choice for any pergola kit. It also takes paint very well.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass is arguably the most modern and contemporary looking of the materials. And without question, it is the most durable. This is because fiberglass, unlike any other material, does not expand or contract with changes in temperature or exposure to sunlight. Therefore fasteners won't loosen, and the stuff lasts forever (almost literally).

Fiberglass pergolas are ideal for any weather conditions you may live in. Fiberglass is also a very lightweight option for your pergola, making it very easy to install in your yard no matter where you decide to put it.

Like wood and vinyl, fiberglass can withstand winds of up to 170 mph, if installed with the proper hardware and foundation. It is also a naturally corrosion resistant material so it will withstand standard wear and tear over time to continue looking amazing no matter what.

Fiberglass can span up to 26ft between posts. This comes in handy if you don't want a post to block a door or window. Fiberglass also can be fabricated in any of thousands of colors. 

Fiberglass has only a few downsides. First, it doesn't look like wood. Second, it is MUCH more expensive than either wood or vinyl.

Vinyl

Vinyl has been around for decades, and nowadays comes loaded with UV inhibitors to protect it from the elements. Vinyl is also maintenance-free. It is not nearly as expensive as fiberglass, but is slightly more expensive than wood. 

Vinyl is not structural. So it needs a structural material inside of it. In most cases, this material is pressure-treated-pine. 

Vinyl cannot be painted, and is available in only a few colors. Non-white colors are more expensive than standard white.

Unlike wood, which can be purchased or fashioned into any size, vinyl components are only available in a few limited sizes.

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