Wood vs. Vinyl: Choosing the Best Outdoor Structure Material
Wood or vinyl?
It’s a good question. After all, once your structure is built, it’s pretty hard to go back and switch the material.
That means you want to be happy with your choice! Today, Fisher’s Backyard Structures will walk you through the pros and cons of wood and vinyl and give you some advice for choosing the best material for you.
Ready to get started?
Wood: Pros and Cons
Wood is a classic, well-known building material. Most homeowners are likely already familiar with some of its pros and cons.
However, here is an overview of the good and an honest look at the bad when it comes to building outdoor structures with wood.
Wood is cost-effective
While there are plenty of expensive, high-end woods available for outdoor structures (cedar, teke, tropical hardwood species), the average homeowner probably isn’t interested in them. Pressure-treated hardwood is the most common (and a very effective) choice for outdoor structures, and it easily wins the cost competition against vinyl.
Wood is easily modified
If you decide the color of your pergola doesn’t go with your house like you thought it would, you can easily modify the look by painting or staining it. You aren’t stuck with one color. You can change it every summer if you like! It’s up to you.
Wood is charming
You can’t beat the look, charm, or smell of a real wood structure. It’s classic, charming, and will never go out of style!
Clearly, there are some distinct benefits to building with wood. But don’t be fooled–no material is perfect. Here are a few of wood’s cons:
Wood requires maintenance
You don’t just have the choice to repaint or restain your pergola–you must repaint or restain it. Wood needs regular maintenance, or it won’t stay in good condition.
Wood isn’t durable in all types of weather conditions
As an organic material, wood is rot, pest, and mildew prone. That means it’s not great at surviving bad weather conditions long term, especially without proper maintenance. Temperature, humidity, and salty conditions all accelerate the deterioration of your wooden gazebo, pergola, or other outdoor structure.
Not as easy to install
If you don’t want to install your outdoor structure yourself, this isn’t a big deal. But DIYers should know that installing a wooden structure is normally more difficult than assembling a vinyl kit. Wood normally takes longer, even for the pros, to install.
So there you have it: wood is charming, easily modified, and easy on the wallet, but it’s also high maintenance (especially in bad weather conditions) and doesn’t go up as easily.
Let’s move on and find out how vinyl stacks up against all that!
Vinyl: Pros and Cons
Vinyl isn’t quite as tried-and-true as wood, but it’s been around for quite a while. The fact that it has stuck around means it has to have some things going for it!
Vinyl is low maintenance
Unlike wood, vinyl requires very little maintenance after installation. It’s not prone to rot, mold, mildew, or warping and never needs refinishing. In fact, the coloring permeates the entire structure, so scratches and other marks of wear barely show up. So say goodbye to regular maintenance! The only maintenance you need to perform on vinyl structures is the occasional pressure wash to remove dirt and grime buildup.
More durable under certain weather conditions
Since vinyl is an inorganic material, it’s less prone to deterioration than wood. It’s a better choice for environments with harsh conditions. In fact, vinyl is one of the best materials for fences, gazebos, and other outdoor structures by the coast, as it’s not easily affected by brine and water. It’s also more resistant to humidity and temperature fluctuations than wood.
If you just want a pro to install your structure, that’s perfectly reasonable. But if you like to DIY, vinyl could be for you. Vinyl structures such as pergolas often come in easy-to-install kits that the average handy person can easily erect themselves. It’s simpler than wood and normally takes less time, even for beginners.
So vinyl is tougher, lower maintenance, and easier to install. But, like all things, that’s just one side of the story.
Here’s the other side:
You could argue about the more expensive types of wood, such as pure cedar, but for the average homeowner, vinyl is normally a more expensive choice than your typical pressure-treated wood.
Note: This is true for upfront costs. However, there are also ongoing maintenance costs that come along with wood. You may want to consider these when crunching your numbers. The time factor also comes into play.
Also, pricing is fluid and may fluctuate depending on your area and changing prices for materials. It’s normally not the best idea to rely on the internet for accurate price estimates. If you want an accurate price estimate, it’s best to talk to a local expert who can give you an up-to-date and informed estimate for materials and labor costs in your area.
If you do not like the color of your vinyl gazebo, you cannot change it–it’s baked in. It won’t go away, and you can’t cover it with paint or stain.
Also, there are fewer color options for vinyl structures. With wood, you can simply go to the paint store and pick out whatever shade you desire. But vinyl tends to come in a limited array of whites, beiges, tans, and other neutral colors.
So if you are hoping for a super unique purple pergola that will stand out from every other pergola within 100 miles, think again.
The charm factor is lower
The charm factor doesn’t matter to everyone. But there is that authentic charm that comes along with wood that you simply cannot replicate with vinyl. There’s also the wonderful smell of the lumber and the way the wood forms that weathered, rustic patina over time. There’s no doubt about the charm, and to some, it may be worth the extra work!
Which Is Better For You?
Both wood and vinyl are excellent materials for outdoor structures. Which is better for you depends on what you want.
- Are you too busy to add another chore to your regular maintenance schedule? Don’t go for wood! Low-maintenance vinyl is a better option for you.
- Do you live in a rustic, old-fashioned cottage packed with character and charm? Vinyl could look out of place–wood may be a better choice.
- But if your cottage is by the seaside where your structure will get hit with brine, rain, and wind, go for vinyl to avoid the rot, cracking, and warping that wood might undergo.
- If upfront cost is your main concern, go for wood. But if ongoing time and money investment is your primary concern, consider investing in vinyl.
It all depends on your unique situation and needs. The only person who can make the final decision is you. We hope this article helps you make an informed decision!
We wish you the best of luck as you make decisions about your outdoor space. May it turn out exactly as you envisioned it!
If you want to check out some quality outdoor structures today, visit the Fisher’s Backyard Structures website.
We specialize in outdoor structures, including:
We build in the Lancaster, PA, area with several materials, including wood, timber, and vinyl. Give us a call today to start the conversation about your structure!
You can also check out some more of our educational resources:
- Everything You Need To Know About Timber Frame Pavilions
- The Ultimate Guide To Gazebos
- Designing The Backyard Pavilion Of Your Dreams
- Pergolas: An Introduction
We look forward to hearing from you!