Homeowners may be surprised to learn that residential pergolas make a fantastic option for a quick, easy, and budget-friendly home and garden improvement. Even the most uncomplicated designs add elegance and charm while saving you on material and labor costs. You can put up a pergola with a fairly modest configuration and still achieve a maximum WOW factor. There are countless design options for any space and budget.

If you’re looking for an economical pergola to spruce up your home and yard, you have the potential to save big when it comes to materials. Let’s look at some cost-effective lumber choices and other structural and decorative options that can help you stretch a dollar.

Economical Custom Pergolas That Won’t Break the Bank

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Pressure-treated Pine

Pressure-treated pine is the most affordable wood option available to date. The chemical treatment this lumber undergoes makes it extremely insect and rot-resistant, adding years to its life. Additionally, this lumber has the superior load-bearing capacity and fastener-holding power. It stands up well to harsh elements and humidity.

Sustainably grown and harvested in the southeastern United States (from Texas to Virginia), it is also an eco-friendly option. Buying pressure-treated southern yellow pine improves local economies, reduces transportation costs that get rolled into the price, and minimizes environmental impacts.

When it comes to looks, pressure-treated pine conveys a classic look as it ages. It first has a greenish tint at the time of installation but dries to a golden-brown shade and then grays if not water-sealed or stained. Because of the saturation during the chemical treatment, homeowners must give it a few months of drying time before staining or painting.

Western Red Cedar

This option is very comparable in price to pressure-treated yellow pine–$1-$2 more per sq. ft. It’s a very affordable option compared to other types of hardwood. Like its comparably-close contender, pressure-treated pine, western red cedar is also durable, highly resistant to decay and insects, and withstands extreme elements.

This wood is also sustainably harvested in North America (from Alaska to California and east into Montana), meaning money from purchases goes into more local economies with this selection. You save on transportation costs while having a lesser negative impact on the environment.

This wood is notably lightweight and easy to work with. In appearance, it is a light amber color with a close, even grain pattern that looks rustic when rough-sawn and has a lovely aromatic fragrance. Alternatively, get a polished look by having it smoothed.

Unlike pressure-treated lumber, it performs well in dry climates, making it an excellent alternative for Colorado homeowners. Plus, there’s no chemical treatment to make this wood rot or insect resistant, so it’s more natural, there’s no drying time needed, and homeowners can paint or stain immediately.

Incorporate Some Existing Features…

Look for ways to use your existing spaces to reduce the lumber needed for posts or overhead beams. For example, take advantage of the two existing outdoor walls of a breezeway or corridor for fewer material costs in lumber for posts. Consider sectioning off a partial area of your deck for a shaded nook instead of covering the entire structure. Erect a pergola at the corner of your yard for a shady, inviting cubbyhole instead of trying to cover larger amounts of square footage.

…Avoid Others

Steer clear of areas requiring massive demolition or construction, such as tree roots. Have your utility company mark underground utilities so that you avoid painful and expensive mistakes when installing posts.

Finishing Touches

Consider alternative overhead options for coverings. Pergolas typically have beams that provide shifting shade. Depending on the alternative roof of your choice, you can save on the lumber costs of beams by substituting materials. Explore various textiles, like lightweight, loosely woven fabrics (ex., voile and bamboo) that look chic and provide dappled shade.

Paints and stains cost very little but can make all the difference. Paint your pergola a light color for a subtle finish. Alternatively, go dark for a bold, modern pop, or paint it gray for a timely, classic look. Stain with a wood color for a rustic charm.

Festive lights do double duty to add pizazz and utility to your pergola. You can find in-ground or hanging solar lighting at most home improvement stores.

Brainstorming Session

Next to choosing inexpensive materials is considering how you dream of using a pergola. Would you like it to serve as a patio or outdoor dining cover? How about adding some privacy and shelter over a hot tub? Do you want it to serve as a walkway covering or a charming entrance into your garden? Would you like to make a cozy poolside reading corner? The most expensive addition to your home is the one you build but never use, so ensure it fits with your lifestyle and entertainment.

Impressive Pergolas of Any Size

Pergolas don’t have to be massive to impress–a few materials can go a long way with these elegant structures. They run the gamut from small to large and can be any shape or material. Material costs will impact your budget the most, so get creative with your space and options. As a leading Denver custom pergola contractor, we can help you maximize your resources and prevent costly mistakes when planning for and installing your impressive pergola.



  • Nate Barrett

    As the President of SRI Decks, my greatest satisfaction comes from the immediate sense of fulfillment that our work brings. From the initial design discussions with our customers to the moment we capture the final project in photos, I feel an immense pride in my team for their dedicated efforts. My passion for hands-on work and outdoor projects is matched only by the joy I derive from seeing a delighted customer when we’ve successfully completed a job. Fun Facts: I like hot chocolate in my coffee. I’ve been with SRI for 12 years, prior to ownership. I have a daughter, 3 dogs and a loving girlfriend.

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