Selecting the Right Type of Wood for your Pergola

Kenneth Wilson

After you finished moving into your home, you’re probably looking for landscaping features you can get for your empty yard or garden. If you’re someone like me who loves spending time outdoors, you’ll need a backyard embellishment that provides shade. There are different kinds of outdoor shade structures and one of the most popular ones is the pergola.

Aside from deciding which type of Pergola design you want, you also need to consider which material will best fit your location, weather, and needs. One of the most common materials used for pergolas is wood.

Wood is one of the most popular materials used for Pergolas because they are affordable, and probably the strongest and most customizable one. The design and size can be adjusted to your needs or how you want it. Its rustic look fits in with different homes and landscape structures. If you prefer a different appearance, you can also give your wood pergola a modernized look. This material can also be painted, stained, or left to weather naturally. You can also add decorative cuts once the structure is in place.

If you’re planning on constructing your own, the wood can be easily sourced and is available almost anywhere. It’s easy to cut and construct Pergolas using common tools. Most wood types are also weather-proof and can resist rot or insect damage. They can also accommodate both freestanding pergolas and those connected to a wall or home.

It’s best to select the wood based on durability, maintenance level, and appearance. To help you decide which type of wood you should get, here are some wood options for your Pergola.

Pressure-treated (PT) Wood

There are different types of wood you can use for your Pergola. Pressure-treated (PT) wood is one of the most common choices because it’s affordable and durable, but it isn’t for people who want a stylish pergola. For some, this material doesn’t look nice because of the green or blue stains on the surface made by the treatment. The treatment is spraying it with a copper-based pesticide which is used as an insect repellent and to make the wood rot-resistant. If left untreated, this type of wood weathers faster and gets easily damaged during the cold and wet seasons.

Fifthroom Markets Garden Pergola 8 Foot by 10 Foot – Treated Pine Furniture

A popular choice for treated wood is pine, which is the most affordable and with preservatives, it repels insects and rot. Pressure-treated (PT) pine has a greenish color which weathers down to golden brown and if it’s not stained or sealed, it will eventually get a grayish color. But since it’s covered with chemicals, the smell and the material may be harmful to people and animals.

Reddish-colored Wood

Backyard Discovery Oasis 14 x 10 Pergola Cedar Pergola

Another option is the cedar, which is a light but durable material that can withstand different weather conditions. You don’t have to worry about cracking, warping, moisture, and insect damage with this type of wood. It can be painted or stained, but if you leave it natural, it weathers down to a grayish color. If you want an amber or yellowish color and fragrant wood smell, you can get a western red cedar. It’s an all-natural wood that is resistant to rotting, light to install, and easy to sand.

The Outdoor GreatRoom Company Sonoma Arched Wood Pergola 12×17 Redwood

Another option for red-colored wood is redwood. People prefer this type of wood because it has a dark red, natural-looking wood color and is a long-lasting material. It’s similar to cedar but it doesn’t weather as fast and maintains its reddish-brown color longer. Both cedar and redwood are more expensive than pressure-treated wood, but at least it doesn’t have chemicals and it will give off a more rustic look.

Tropical Wood

Paragon Outdoor Backyard Structure Soft Top with Chilean Ipe Frame Valencia Pergola

If you’re near the beach or the coast, then you should get the tropical wood, ipe. It’s durable against the weather conditions in these areas. You can stain this material to your preferred color or leave it natural, which would eventually weather down to a brownish silver color. Other tropical wood variations you can get are mahogany, teak, and rosewood. Tropical wood is denser and more durable than the other types of wood. Unfortunately, they are harder to locate and can cost double or triple than the other kinds. Harvesting these woods are also detrimental to the environment, making them a less popular option.

Douglas Fir

The Outdoor GreatRoom Company Lodge II Pergola 14×14

Another option is the douglas fir which you’ll need to invest more time on maintaining it. You need to constantly check for rot or insect damage and to paint it regularly. It also doesn’t look great and tends to be moist when natural, so you’ll need to sand and paint it several times. But this type has a high density which can excellently hold nails and plates. Douglas fir wood pergolas are better at withstanding strong gusts of winds, thunderstorms, and earthquakes.

Modified Wood

If you want an easy-to-maintain pergola, you should get a modified wood for its material. They don’t require treatments and they are water-resistant. This type of wood is great for pergolas near the coast or locations that experience wet and humid weather. It’s also durable and has almost the same appearance and characteristics as real wood. It’s as hard as tropical wood but using this type won’t be detrimental to the environment.

This type is made by using sustainable trees that grow quickly and then enhances it with a non-toxic liquid. This bio-based liquid makes the wood cell structures denser and stronger. When it eventually weathers down, it gets a grayish silver color.

You can combine any of these wood types as long as you paint or stain them to match since you don’t want an uneven looking pergola. Whether you choose one or combine them, it’s best to seal or stain your wood pergola once or twice a year. You also need to get the wood treated so that it resists termites, repels rot, and to keep it weather-proof unless it’s cedar, redwood, mahogany, teak, or other naturally-resistant wood types. For the wood types that weather quickly, you can paint it to maintain its original color and make it look attractive again.

Kenneth Wilson
September 12, 2019

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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