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Steel Vs Timber Pergolas – Which to Choose?

As we go into the cooler months, it can seem like summer is a far-off dream. Memories of warm days, bright sunshine, and sticky summer nights can slowly fade as we all bundle up to ward off the cold. But if you’ve been on the fence about creating your very own outdoor space, wintertime might actually be the best time to really look into the outdoor solution that will fit your needs best! After all, you won’t be rushing, so you’ve got the luxury of picking and choosing instead of wanting a structure installed quickly to make the most of the warmer months.

Maybe you’re still deciding on whether you want an outdoor pergola in Melbourne. Deciding on your favoured outdoor structure isn’t just about what you can do with it, it’s also about the shades available and the materials that you use to construct it. So here’s a handy guide between steel vs timber pergolas, and how you can choose the best fit for your property.


There’s a reason timber’s still a popular choice with homeowners when it comes to installing an outdoor pergola. It’s because it’s a tried and tested building material that’s cheap and readily available, as well as pretty straightforward to work with. Timber can be treated specifically for a more natural, rustic aesthetic, or even painted over to suit the rest of your home’s colour scheme. In this sense, timber works well with both modern and traditional homes.

A lot of historical timber pergolas have utilised the ‘open-air’ design, which means a pergola without any walls or roofs. This style of pergola is specifically made to create a focal point for your outdoor space, though this does also mean that you will be unable to use it should it rain, and that it won’t provide sun protection from harmful UV rays.

However, it’s important to remember that because timber is a porous material, the right maintenance is required in order to maintain it. This is especially the case when compared to other materials, as not only will timber not be as strong, but it won’t be as resistant to the elements over time. To keep your timber pergolas looking great, you’ll have to:

  1. Make sure to wipe down your pergola frame during the rainy months to fight against mould growth.
  2. Repaint your timber frame every five years to keep things looking in tip-top shape. Make sure to use a heat-resistant paint that will fight against dry heat damage during the summer months.
  3. If you’re not a fan of the painted look, make sure to use treated timber instead!

However, timber does have its own major weaknesses in heat damage, mould and rotting. In order to keep your timber pergola strong, healthy and aesthetically pleasing, a high-level of regular maintenance and cleaning is required.

The Good

  • Affordable
  • Easily available
  • Treated or painted timber give off different aesthetic looks
  • Resistant to coastal area issues such as sand and salt

The Bad

  • Regular, high maintenance needed to make sure it is protected from the elements, ranging from mould and rot, to heat damage
  • Less expensive in the beginning, but maintenance and upkeep costs will add up
  • Not as strong as steel


After a more modern look? Steel pergolas are a great alternative if you’re not too keen on timber, or want a sleek silhouette. Steel pergolas boast beautifully slim lines and sophisticated designs, with a wide range of colours which make them a highly flexible option for both modern and traditional homes. For unusual dimensions for outdoor spaces, it’s easy to customise steel pergolas to perfectly cover the open space you want to transform. This strong material is well-known to be durable, and this means that it’s able to be used on heavier, freestanding constructions, whereas materials such as timber would not be able to withstand it.

In Australia, Stratco steel is the most common type used for outdoor steel pergolas. This steel has been tried and tested against Australian climate, and built to the highest Australian standards, which means that it can withstand extreme weather. This strength and durability means that, when compared to timber, it’s going to last you much longer, especially when you think about how steel won’t rot or decay. So not only will it be less maintenance, but once you’ve installed it, there’s not much more you need to do to keep on top of it.

Keep in mind, however, that because steel can be more expensive than timber, that you may need to plan your budget around the increased initial cost. This rise in cost is because steel isn’t as readily available as timber, as well as the required coatings and treatment of the material. This is because steel frames can be susceptible to rust and corrosion if not coated in 100% zinc coating, or a zinc-aluminium combination paint.

So make sure that if you’re choosing steel pergolas that your builder is using a reputable brand such as Stratco for your outdoor living space, as steel posts with the correct treatment are the best option for those wanting a low-maintenance, robust option for their pergola. All that you’ll have to do with high-quality steel pergolas is to give it a clean with a cloth ever so often.

As for the cost, it’s important to remember that oftentimes a higher initial cost can actually save you money in the long run! Steel is highly durable and will last the test of time, while also being extremely low-maintenance. What you’ll end up saving on treatments, paint, and the overall effort of keeping up with timber over the years can actually be a substantial amount. Aside from this, some steel pergolas can actually come pre-engineered, saving you money when you install as you won’t have to pay extra for customisation.

The Good

  • Easy to install
  • Quick to construct
  • Proven to be strong and highly durable
  • Won’t rot, warp, or twist
  • Budget-friendly, especially when going for pre-engineered options

The Bad

  • Zinc coating necessary, otherwise rust and corrosion can occur

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