Best wood for a pergola – What to choose ?

When building a wooden patio cover there are many types of wood to choose from. The most important thing to consider when build a wood pergola, is the outdoor durability of the wood you select. You'll want a type of wood that resists insect damage, rot, and other forms of weathering.

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Choose a material that does not clash with what is nearby. For example, in hot, humid climates with nearby concrete structures, a concrete pergola may be a good choice. Or, if you are considering a pergola for a house with a wood deck or siding, matching the existing wood appearance may be a top concern.


For thousands of years, wood has been the traditional and favored material for pergolas. Many wood species are available and your choice of wood will determine how your pergola will look, whether it will be low or high maintenance, and whether it will last just a few years or many decades.

The six most abundant woods available for outdoor use in the U.S. and Canada are Cedars, Pressure Treated Woods, Pines, Teak, Exotic Hardwoods and California Redwood. This article will review the pros and cons of these woods specifically for use in pergolas.

Teak (Tectona grandis) is a deciduous hardwood renowned for its elegance, durability, and longevity even under severe climate conditions. Teak is becoming the most widely used outdoor wood in the U.S. and Canada. It’s a good economic choice for outdoor furniture or structures you want to last. It has some maintenance issues, but it is reasonably priced and well distributed.
Environmentally, it is a mixed bag with teak. Teak sold in the U.S. and Canada is 99% plantation grown. There are teak plantations all over the world now with a growing concentration in Central and South America. These plantations grow Teak in rows and harvest in 20- to 40-year rotations in most cases. The highest quality teak plantations have up to 80-year rotations, but they are rare. Teak is marketed as a “sustainably harvested” alternative to exotic woods taken from rain forests. The teak industry is large and strongly markets this environmental angle. It’s part truth, part fiction.

The truth is teak does take pressure off the native forests as a source of good quality wood. The fiction is a significant percentage of these plantations are grown on lands that were once forests. And, teak tree farms are not native to the Americas (they are from Asia). They replace native biologically diverse lands with an imported monoculture that is known to degrade the wildlife habitat for many species.

So, it’s a mixed bag with the teak. Good quality wood and better than logging the Amazon, but not “green” in the real sense either.

best wood for a pergola

Redwood was the outdoor wood of choice for most of the 20th century. Like teak, it is a beautiful wood with an excellent reputation for outdoor durability. It was available nationwide and used for anything outdoors until the early 1990s. But, the Redwood forests were over logged and in the 1990s, lumber production collapsed to 1/3rd the levels of prior decades. It has not recovered and will not unless major changes are implemented in the way the privately owned forests are harvested.

Today, Redwood is available only in California and a few western states. The overall quality has dropped because the average size of trees being harvested is smaller than in prior decades.

In 1995, OGA purchased and began to restore its Redwood forestland. Redwood, our most popular grade, has a 15-year decay warranty and is better quality than the standard Redwood available on the West Coast market today. The Mature Redwood, has a 20-year decay warranty and is comparable in durability to the highest grades of teak. And, our highest grade, the reclaimed Old-Growth Redwood, has a 30-year decay warranty. It exceeds the climate durability of any plantation-grown teak.

It takes centuries of slow growth to make lumber that is virtually decay-proof. Only a natural, mature forest can do that. We don’t harvest Old-Growth Redwood. Luckily, many logs were left on the forest floor in the early to mid 1900’s to keep our furniture shop busy for many years. Yes, the logs sat on the forest floor for 50 to 100 years and are still in excellent shape! Case closed.

If you want the longest lasting wood available—go with Redwood. If you want to help restore native, biologically diverse forests and save money, consider having your outdoor furniture made from our Redwood.


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