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A pergola is a wonderful architectural element to add to any garden or landscape design. Pergolas are great for casting shade, providing support for climbing plants, and marking the transition point from one area to another. But with the vast array of designs and styles available today, how does a homeowner know which is the best? In this article, we'll discuss the pros and cons of several common pergola designs so you can determine which is right for you.
When we talk about pergola design, we're partly referring to the materials used to construct it. The most common material choices are wood, plastic, or metal. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. We'll begin with wood, which is arguably the most popular material choice. When purchasing or building a wooden pergola, the most important consideration is the type of wood used. Redwoods, such as cedar, are preferable because they are naturally resistant to rot, decay, and insect infestations. If building your own pergola, you may want to shy away from treated woods, particularly if the structure will be used to support climbing plants. The chemicals in treated wood can poison and kill some types of plants. When constructing the pergola, be sure to use stainless steel fasteners that won't rust.
Plastic pergolas, while not as rustic and traditional looking as wood, can offer a more upscale and polished look. The primary advantage of plastic over wood is longevity. Where wood will eventually decay, plastic will not. A high density vinyl is the superior choice for durability and weather resistance. PVC vinyl can be an especially good option, because of its extreme sturdiness. The other critical consideration in vinyl products to be used outdoors is UV resistance. Look for a plastic that contains a UV inhibitor to prevent the material from discoloring when exposed to the sun's strong rays.
Metal is another material choice that offers a completely different look and style. While metal pergolas are rather expensive, they do offer a whole new level of sturdiness and durability, even more so than plastic. Cast iron is a common metal choice, though it is very heavy and will rust when exposed to the elements. Aluminum is better alternative, because it's lightweight, yet still extremely strong. When shopping for aluminum pergolas, be sure to inquire about the hardness rating of the metal. Hardness ratings of aluminum should be T-4, T-5, or T-6, with T-6 being the hardest, or strongest, and thus the most preferable. The other major advantage of aluminum is that it will not rust.
Aside from material choice, the other major factor in pergola design is the style of the structure. Classic pergolas usually feature straight lines with a craftsman style, but there are a multitude of other design options available today. Determining which design is right for you and your yard is a strictly personal choice, but should be affected by the style of your home and garden. A colonial home with English garden is a perfect setting for a traditional pergola. If you live in a modern home with a Japanese garden, look for a pergola with Asian-inspired design. For Tuscan style homes, look for a pergola with Mediterranean flair.
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