Which pergola is best?
A pergola is similar to a gazebo, except that the roof has open slats rather than being fully covered. Good pergolas still provide plenty of shade, but they offer a design some consider more attractive. It’s important to purchase pergolas with durable materials that can outlast the wind, sun and rain, as they’re too expensive to keep replacing.
The best pergola is the Vita Avalon Vinyl Pergola. Its slats are adjustable so you’re always sitting in shade, and the vinyl is highly weather-resistant.
What to know before you buy a pergola
Pergolas have one of three roof designs: traditional, gabled and pitched.
- Traditional roofs are flat, with slats that are usually in a lattice pattern.
- Gabled roofs are triangular, like most modern American housing.
- Pitched roofs are flat, but one end is higher than the other. They are usually installed flush with your home rather than further out into your yard.
Some pergolas, either in addition to or instead of slats, use coverings hung underneath the roof to protect you from sun and rain. Many are adjustable. Cloth is the most common material, with plastic, PVC and steel also available.
Most pergolas are sized between 7 by 7 and 12 by 12 feet, with heights from 7-10 feet.
Pergolas are typically square or rectangular, though some can be found in circular or octagonal shapes. Other shapes are possible, but you’ll likely need to have it custom-made rather than find it available to order.
What to look for in a quality pergola
In order of general quality, pergolas are typically made of metal, vinyl or wood.
- Metal pergolas are typically made of aluminum or steel. Freestanding aluminum is the most affordable, but also can be dented or bent, and is the most likely to be blown away by heavy wind. Metal pergolas are available in the widest range of colors and provide a more modern aesthetic. However, If the metal isn’t treated properly, you need to worry about rusting.
- Vinyl pergolas are the most durable, requiring little to no maintenance compared to metal and wood. They are naturally resistant to most weather, including water, wind and ultraviolet rays. They aren’t the most expensive, either. However, they have two major negatives. First, they are rarely any color but a shade of white — it’s possible to paint them with acrylic paint, but you’ll need to keep reapplying as it fades away. Second, their plasticky looks are rarely thought aesthetically pleasing.
- Wood pergolas are the most common. They’re expensive, but wood is easy to stain or paint to match your home, and there are many varieties of wood to choose from. Generally, they can be divided between softwoods and hardwoods, with softwoods less expensive, a bit less durable and a little lighter than hardwoods.
The best pergolas tend to have the best warranties, as manufacturers will stand by their best products. Twenty-year warranties are the best, but 10-year ones are acceptable. Some pergolas have different warranties for certain parts.
How much you can expect to spend on a pergola
Depending on their size and material, pergolas can cost less than $500 or more than $4,000. Metal pergolas are typically the most affordable, followed by vinyl and then wood.
Do I need a permit to install a pergola?
A. It’s possible, depending on your state and local laws as well as the size of the pergola. Your municipal building department should be able to answer this question.
Are pergolas accepted by homeowners associations?
A. That depends on your homeowners’ association. Always check with yours, if you have one, before making any large changes to your home.
Should wood pergolas be stained before or after assembly?
A. Neither method is better than the other. Staining it before means you have easier access to all the materials, but you’ll need to stain in two rounds to make sure every piece is properly covered. Staining it afterward means you only need to stain the surfaces you can see, but you need to go up and down a ladder.
What’s the best pergola to buy?
What you need to know: This quality option is gorgeous, durable and has adjustable shading.
What you’ll love: The vinyl construction is resistant to water, wind, UV rays and other causes of rot, and it includes a 20-year warranty for the pergola and a 5-year warranty for the louvers. It measures 10 by 10 by 8.67 feet.
What you should consider: A few consumers felt the louvers were difficult to adjust. Others had issues with missing parts or no-show installers.
Top pergola for the money
What you need to know: It’s money-saving without sacrificing function or style.
What you’ll love: It can be built and left freestanding — there’s no need to anchor it to the ground — and it has a weather-resistant and light-filtering retractable canopy that comes in three colors. It measures 9.84 by 9.84 by 7.17 feet.
What you should consider: If you want to mount or anchor it, you need to purchase a separate kit. The installation instructions can be difficult to understand and a few people received damaged parts.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This is perfect for those who need large coverage.
What you’ll love: The vinyl construction is fully weather-resistant — it can even be safely cleaned by spraying it with your hose. It can be safely installed to most materials, including wooden and concrete patios. It measures 12 by 12 by 8.84 feet.
What you should consider: It doesn’t include a mounting or anchoring kit. Most reviewers needed a second set of hands to assemble it, though the instructions are easy to follow.
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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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