Steel, Aluminium and Timber Pergola Designs – Pros and Cons

Patio Design Ideas

Have you been thinking about building a pergola in your backyard?

A pergola is a fantastic way to enhance your outdoor space. It can add an extra dimension to your home by adding an additional living area and can provide shade and protection from the elements all year round.

However, before any building can begin, you’ll need to make one important decision – what material your pergola is going to be constructed from. Pergolas come in various sizes, forms, designs and materials – the choices are endless.

With so many great options available, we can understand why it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. That’s why we have put together an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of the three most popular pergola materials.


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What Are Timber Pergolas?

Timber is one of the most commonly utilised materials for pergolas and patios. Timber pergolas can either be treated for a natural, rustic look or painted to suit your home’s colour palette. Its flexibility in design makes timber a compatible material for both contemporary or traditional-style homes.

A popular timber pergola design is the ‘open-air’. Without any walls or roofs, your pergola won’t constrain your outdoor space or cut it in half, but instead, create a focal point. This can be complemented with climbing or trailing plants which can provide both weather protection and add an element of greenery to your backyard.

As timber is readily available and relatively straightforward to work with, it is one of the more affordable materials to build a pergola with. While it isn’t as strong as aluminium or steel, it does hold up well on coastal areas where sea salt and sand can batter and deteriorate structures.

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. This includes:

  • Wiping down your pergola frame with bleach during the wet, damp months to prevent mould from growing.
  • An initial coat of heat-resistant paint to prevent dry heat damage.
  • Repainting or restaining your timber pergola at least once every five years to ensure that the frame is kept in optimal condition.


  • Cheap and readily available.
  • A huge array of design capabilities.
  • Resistant to sand and salt.


  • Requires a high amount of maintenance to protect it from the elements and rot.
  • The cost is less upfront but you will spend more time and money on the upkeep over time.
  • Structurally not as strong as steel or aluminium.

What Are Aluminium Pergolas?

Aluminium is another popular choice for pergolas as it’s lightweight and resistant to rust and corrosion.

Being so lightweight, aluminium pergolas are favourable for areas such as decks where weight needs to be kept to a minimum. Most aluminium pergolas can come powder-coated or pre-painted in a colour of your choice. Due to its corrosion resistance properties, aluminium pergolas are well suited to coastal locations. However, out of the three materials, aluminium is by far the most expensive material.


  • Lightweight.
  • Resistant to rust or corrosion.
  • Can be painted to match your home.


  • Very expensive.

What Are Steel Pergolas?

COLORBOND® steel is one of the most, if not the most, commonly utilised material for building pergolas.

Steel pergolas are clean and sophisticated in design, making it perfect for blending in with modern architecture and homes. They are highly flexible and can be finished with either a high-quality powder coat to protect the metallic finish or painted to match the colour of your home. If you have an unusual sized outdoor space, steel pergolas can even be customised to suit your individual design specifications.

Steel pergolas have a very similar look and feel to aluminium but are designed for holding up much more robust structures. It is a very strong material, beating timber and aluminium in strength and durability. This allows it to be used on heavier, freestanding constructions where aluminium and timber are not suitable.

If not treated prior to installation, steel posts can be suspectable to rust and corrosion. However, with the proper treatment of a 100% zinc coating (also known as galvanised steel) or in a zinc-aluminium combination paint upon installation, COLORBOND® steel becomes one of the most durable materials for a pergola. With the correct treatment, steel pergolas can be the best material for those who don’t have the time or ability to regularly tend to a pergola. All you’ll need to do in order to keep it in tip-top shape is to give it a clean over with a cloth every now and then.

If you are on a budget, this doesn’t mean you can't use steel. Due to steel’s durable and low-maintenance nature, steel pergola’s can definitely work out as an affordable solution in the long run. In some cases, steel can actually be cheaper to use than timber and aluminium. Many steel pergolas come pre-engineered, so we can install them quickly and easily. This reduces the labour costs of the build and passes the savings on to you.


  • Quick and easy to install.
  • Strong and durable.
  • Can be powder-coated or painted in the colour of your choice.
  • Budget-friendly.


  • Can be prone to rust and corrosion if not treated with zinc coating upon installation.

Ultimately, the cost, aesthetic and how much time you are willing to put into ongoing care and maintenance will help you decided what material is right for your pergola. To get started on making the most of your backyard, contact the Great Aussie Patios team today!


 Request FREE Pergola Quote

Call Us On (08) 9493 7115


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