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type of wood for a pergola

Posted by deets (My Page) on
Thu, Jun 28, 07 at 12:07

Hi, I am having a pergola built in my yard. I have spoken to 2 builders about it. One recommended I use Ipe, as it is harder than just about everything else.. and the other told me the supplier said it shouldn't be used in that application as it's extremely heavy and hard to work with.
Who do I believe and does anyone have any suggestions as to what type of wood is best to use? I really don't want vinyl, nor do I want to HAVE to repaint/stain it annually(but will if necessary). It will receive the south sun most of the day. Any advice? Thanks alot

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: type of wood for a pergola

Ipe is a bit more difficult to work, but not enough to matter. Some folks don't like working with it and advise against using it. It would be just fine for the pergola.

However; cedar and cypress are also good choices. All three weather to a grey color without treatment. There are a couple varieties of mahogany that can be used with minimal care.

The stains to use that will be the most maintenance free are those designed for decks/etc. that are opaque and have added UV protection.

Now, there is one other treatment. Depending on the manufacturer, a deep tint base for paint---#3 or #4---can be used. The reason is that this type of finish is actually a paint that dries clear. A little research will turn up the correct number for each manufacturer.

RE: type of wood for a pergola

  • Posted by dbm (My Page) on
    Wed, Nov 17, 10 at 12:18

There are two factors you got to keep in mind, care and durability. Ipe is a hardwood as Teak, Cumaru among others. Cedar and Cypress are Medium and then the soft ones such us, Pressure treated wood and composite wood. The harder the better, but also they need different methods of installation and time consuming if you can afford Ipe, that's the best choice. I suggest 8" x 8" Post, 4" x 6" Beams, 4" x 12" Rafters. Here is my website you can check it out for more installation details.

Here is a link that might be useful: Composite wood deck builders Miami

RE: type of wood for a pergola

Pergolas were traditionally made of stone so weight really shouldn't be an issue and for the most part is an advantage. You may want to consider white or colored concrete if you really want a maintenance free product.

RE: type of wood for a pergola

Ipe is an excellent choice for a pergola. It is heavy and dense wood, but very strong at the same time. 1x4 Ipe is stronger than 2x6 Redwood or Cedar. You can keep the weight down by going smaller.

There are many South American ironwoods available, but Garapa, Cumaru, and Massaranduba are less dimensionally stable than Ipe. The long spans of a pergola will be way more subject to movement than a deck fastened to joists on 16"

I think Ipe is your best choice.

Ipe is so dense that it can be tempermental with taking a finish. The untinted paint base is a great clear finish for solid wood exterior doors and millwork. However, do not put it on Ipe. Finishes that dry to a film will fail on Ipe.

Ipe needs a penetrating finish. TWP and Woodrich seem to get the best reviews from professionals and no horror stories from DIY'ers.

There is plenty of advice over on the deck forum.

RE: type of wood for a pergola

Ipe is far to heavy. Have you ever picked up a 16' 5/4x6 Ipe deck board?
We have use Spanish Cedar for pergolas and outdoor details. It weathers to a nice gray faster than Ipe, and weight 1/3 as much. This is an Ipe deck with mahogany railings and spanish cedar pergola that we built in '07,

RE: type of wood for a pergola

I agree with Casey. Spanish Cedar would be my choice if Redwood were not available. I think Mahogany would be the best, but it is generally too expensive.

RE: type of wood for a pergola

Ipe is very likely to outlast cedar or redwood.

The weight is not significant, except the folks do not like to lift it during assembly.

It is far stronger than any of the softwoods,as are most hardwoods, but not all.

Balsa is actually a hardwood, Southern yellow pine is a softwood.

RE: type of wood for a pergola

It's easy to choose your timber by price if you are working on a tight budget - the type of wood that is most readily available everywhere is usually pressure treated timber from the Pine family provided from replenished forests. Pine is quite a soft wood so is easy to cut to size, but this does mean that it needs careful looking after with yearly protection from heavy use, the elements and insects. One advantage of pine is that it can be easily stained to any color or tone so you can still get that redwood or cedar look.

Here is a link that might be useful: close up picture of pressure treated pine

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