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Wood vs. Vinyl Pergola

Updated: Mar 20

The Pros and Cons of a Wood vs. Vinyl Pergola

Thinking about buying a pergola? It’s a great option to consider. With a classic, airy Italian design they are a popular choice because they are a minimal addition to a home or business, are easy-to-install, and easy-to-match to your current style. Most can be set on a pre-installed and leveled base.

For that semi-shaded, comfortable place to relax in pergolas can hardly be beat, but there is one question many pergola buyers have:

Should I buy a wood or vinyl pergola?

Haven’t decided whether you want a pergola, gazebo, or pavilion? Here are some quick links to get you started.

  1. What is a Pergola?

  2. What is a Pavilion?

  3. What is a Gazebo?

Back to the wood vs. vinyl question in pergolas. For your convenience we went ahead and highlighted some points below to give you a quick guide to the questions.

Skim the pros and cons

  1. Does a wood or vinyl pergola last longer?

  2. Will a wood or vinyl pergola need more maintenance?

  3. Could vinyl crack or blow off in the wind?

  4. How long will paint last? Will it crack or chip?

  5. Design & Style: making the choice for a wood vs. vinyl pergola

Let’s get started.

Does a wood or vinyl pergola last longer?

They both have approximately a lifetime of use with proper maintenance. The vinyl takes less major maintenance, though it can crack or become brittle with age and may be a harder fix if certain sections need to be replaced. Wood can withstand a little more in regards to being hit with stray objects, such as a rock thrown up by a lawn mower, but will need to be repainted or stained periodically.

Takeaway: both have a lifetime of use with good maintenance.

Will wood or vinyl pergola need more maintenance?

Wood siding won’t last nearly as long if it isn’t maintained, though if kept properly painted or stained every 7-10 years it will age well. Vinyl can last for decades without major care, needing only periodic power washing to keep it from looking bad.

In some climates mold is more apt to “go green” on vinyl making a difference in how often a good washing is needed. A good rule of thumb is that vinyl will probably need periodic power washing every 1-3 years, especially here on the east coast with the higher humidity and temps. It’s up to the home or business owner to keep the pergola looking as they prefer.

Takeaway: time between maintenance. Do you prefer a large project less often, or a smaller maintenance every 1-3 years?

Could vinyl crack or blow off in the wind?

It could, but it is resilient, especially when it is still new. Over the years it can become more brittle and a fugitive stone from a mower blade can damage it, but it isn’t likely to blow off in winds if it has been installed well, and a storm would need to be extreme to harm it.

We recommend going with a manufacturer that uses top notch material for pergolas. The cost may be a little higher initially, but the return you will see in a quality product will benefit you for much longer than an average building would. Of course, we can recommend our own selection at Ulrich Lifestyle because we know firsthand that top-quality materials are selected, and our craftsmen build them for strength and durability.

How long will paint last? Will it crack or chip?

The sun is paint’s worst enemy. Good quality paint (or stain) should last 7-10 years if the pergola is in a shady spot, or perhaps a year or two less in direct sun. Finishes these days come with a lifetime warranty, but we find that the hard fact of the matter is paint and stain does wear out more often than that if you want to keep the pergola in tip top shape.

Some manufacturers use subpar materials that interfere with how long the structure will last. For example, we try to avoid the “limited lifetime” mindset at Ulrich Lifestyle by using LP Smart Siding as a wood option. The LP option is highly moisture resistant, and with a proper stain schedule the pergolas we build should easily last a lifetime.

Design & Style: making the choice for a wood vs. vinyl pergola

Look around. What is the current material on your home or business? What is the style? Which maintenance will suit your home or business better: periodic washing more often, or  a major paint/restain less often?

  1. An advantage of wood is that the color scheme can easily be changed just by repainting. This would not be possible for a vinyl pergola.

  2. An advantage of vinyl on pergolas is that most houses these days have some form of vinyl siding, so it can be an option that blends easily with your home or business or the neighborhood. The colors will be more limited, but it may be easier choice to match what is already on the property.

Either way you decide, wood or vinyl, they should both serve you well for many years of the ultimate goal here: place of relaxation for customers, family or friends.

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