Pergolas are interesting backyard features that are popular due to their unique visual structure and their ability to facilitate plant growth. Since they have an open latticework roof, they’re ideal structures for vine growth, which can add personality to your backyard. The fact is that there are a ton of articles out there about the advantages of pergolas. One of the reasons I started this website is to keep people as informed as possible. In the interest of doing just that, here are 6 pergola disadvantages you should know about.
1. Regular Maintenance
Many people want a backyard structure that doesn’t require any maintenance. Since pergolas don’t actually have a roof that can leak or walls that protect against weather, they seem to be a low-maintenance candidate. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a maintenance-free pergola. In fact, pretty much any structure that’s exposed to the weather will require some kind of regular care.
Wood is the most popular pergola material because it’s inexpensive, readily available, and it looks good. But wood requires regular sealing or painting to protect it and keep it looking good. You can also construct a pergola out of metal or vinyl, but even those materials require some maintenance— usually in the form of cleaning, painting, or repairing chips or breaks. Even fiberglass pergolas can become brittle over time, which can cause breaks that need to be fixed.
2. Plant Care
One of the main reasons many people get pergolas is to create a beautiful, shady spot with the use of climbing plants that can eventually cover the entire structure. It’s easy to envision the finished product: a beautiful, vine-covered pergola with sweet-smelling blossoms and comfortable shade underneath. However, even though many climbing plants are hardy and resilient, they do still require some care. If this is the main reason you want a pergola, you’ll be interested to know that it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Getting certain climbing plants started on the pergola can be difficult. You’ll have to “train” them to climb the pergola, usually with wires tied strategically to the structure. You’ll also need to make sure they get the appropriate amount of water and sunlight to prosper. Too much or too little of either can cause frustration if your plants don’t thrive or climb.
But if you do get your vines to climb the pergola, the work is not done yet. You’ll have to wait a while for the plants to grow over the latticework. And as they do grow, you’ll have to guide them where you want them, trimming here and there to keep them manageable and allow enough sunlight through to keep the plant healthy.
Depending on where you live you may be able to choose an evergreen plant for your pergola. If not, you’ll have to clean up leaves from a deciduous or semi-deciduous plant in the fall.
Finally, having your pergola covered in vines is nice, but it also makes for difficult maintenance. And without proper maintenance, your pergola won’t last as long as it could. It may also attract pests and insects, which is next on the list.
3. Insects and Pests
Whether or not you want your pergola covered with plants, you’ll want to consider insects and pests as a pergola disadvantage. Wooden pergolas can attract a variety of different insects, including wasps, carpenter bees, termites, and carpenter ants. This also ties in with the need for regular maintenance in the form of painting and sealing your wooden pergola.
But, even if you stay on top of your pergola maintenance, the structure itself can attract other visitors you may not want around. With plenty of right angles and latticework, a pergola is a great place for spiders to spin their webs. If you have plants with blossoms on the structure, they may attract bees searching for pollen.
Birds may also find your pergola an attractive place for a nest. For some people this is fine, but for others the bird droppings can be an issue that they would rather not deal with.
4. Limited Weather Protection
This one should be fairly obvious, but it’s worth mentioning anyway. Pergolas can provide a nice bit of shade with a few modifications, but they don’t do much to keep away rain, wind, or snow.
So if you envision putting furniture under your pergola, you’ll want to make sure it’s weather-resistant, because it will be exposed to the elements all the time, unless you bring them inside when the weather turns. In this sense, pergolas don’t give you a place to enjoy the nice rain shower while staying dry at the same time.
5. Not Guaranteed to Increase Property Value
Let me be clear on this one right off the bat: a pergola can increase your property value, but it depends on many different factors that are not worth it to most homeowners when all is said and done.
The fact is that building a pergola this year may increase your property value marginally, but there’s no telling if the housing market will provide that same bump next year. And it’s pretty much impossible to recoup the full expense of building the pergola in the first place. But that’s the same for nearly any home improvement project.
If your main reason for getting a pergola is the boost in your home’s value, I’d recommend skipping it unless you’re absolutely sure it’s worth it. If you’ll be able to enjoy the pergola in the meantime, while possibly adding to your home’s value, that’s a different story.
6. Pergolas Fade
This last pergola disadvantage ties in with the ones above. The fact is that a pergola’s looks will fade over time. Pretty much any material you use will succumb to the power of the sun and start to lose its color. While having vines on your pergola can help protect it from the sun, the vines themselves can do some damage by trapping moisture and preventing regular maintenance.
Like anything else, a pergola’s value will decrease over time, a process that will be sped-up as the color fades and the materials continue to take a beating from the sun and weather.
Pergolas can be great additions to your yard, if you know what you’re getting into. This is why I wanted to share these disadvantages. I know what it’s like to start an exciting project only to discover that it’s much more involved than I originally anticipated. I hope these help you in your search for an ideal upgrade to your home and your yard.