Deciding to install a wooden shade structure in your backyard is a big decision. Even more, when using natural materials such as wood, inadequate treatment or installation can seriously affect the lifespan of your investment.
So, using our 40+ years of installation experience, we’ve put together a list of wood material suggestions and popular structure styles to help you feel confident moving forward with your next project.
Why Wood? The Advantages of Wooden Shade Structures
Wooden structures are among the most functional additions to a landscape. They can act as covered seating areas, archways, supports for climbing plants, walling, privacy fencing, and more.
Perhaps most important though, is the naturally inviting visual appeal of wooden hardscapes. The warm, organic aesthetic that wood affords your landscape makes it a natural cross between biological and inanimate, bridging the gap between your ornamental, living softscapes and your unyielding, practical hardscapes.
The Natural Look
Let’s face it: everyone loves the look of natural wood. When it’s sanded and stained to perfection with a deep, exposed grain, wood is easily one of the most attractive means of construction.
It offers endless universal appeal and a classic, enduring look that will likely never go out of style. Fine carpentry is detailed, often painstaking work, but when it’s done correctly, it’s well worth the effort and time!
If you’re thinking about adding to the landscape in your yard, it’s important to consider balance. To that end, nothing is better at striking a balance between different landscape elements than wood.
Moreover, the different types of common structures that can be built range so much in size and purpose that they can work in virtually any yard or residence, functioning as you need, when you need.
Material Tips When You’re Choosing Wood
When it comes to outdoor construction, make sure you always research types of wood before you build anything! Anything you build outdoors is subject to natural deterioration that would not occur indoors – rot, insect damage, and high wind speed being the main culprits of structural damage. Always make sure that the wood you’re using is either treated, fully stained and lacquered, or naturally waterproof.
- Western red cedar and yellow cedar are excellent for outdoor construction. They’re very high quality and have natural water resistance; therefore, they don’t need to be pressure treated or stained. Unfortunately, cedar is both expensive and soft, meaning if you aren’t careful, it can get nicked, dinged, or scuffed easily.
- Pressure treated lumber is lumber that has been immersed in a liquid preservative — usually alkaline-copper quat (ACQ, which is toxic only to harmful bugs and fungi). The wood is then placed in a pressure chamber. This treatment allows it to be permanently water and rot-resistant, but the wood doesn’t look as nice as a natural cedar or stained lumber.
- Stained lumber is wood – generally fir, spruce, or pine, around Vancouver – that has been fully treated with varnish, lacquer, polyurethane, or tung oil. When applied properly, it looks great, but if you add too few coats of varnish or don’t fully sand your lumber, it’s unlikely to look as good or last as long as it should.
- Do not use untreated pine! Pine is a common, nice-looking wood that is often used in indoor construction and residential framing due to its prevalence and versatility. Because it’s extremely common in stores like Home Depot, many people assume that its utility extends to the outdoors. However, left untreated, pine soaks up water like a sponge, causing it to swell up, warp, rot, and/or break.
Types of Outdoor Wooden Structures
Here are a few of the most common wooden structures you’re likely to encounter in homes and residences.
A trellis is usually fairly small, and it’s generally made up of interwoven pieces of wood used to support climbing plants or act as screening. While this choice does not provide direct overhead sun protection, it can act as an excellent sun screen or protective barrier on the sides of gardens or patios.
Even more, they look excellent installed along the edges of landscapes (near fences and walls) and make perfect structures for climbing plants like Japanese wisteria, ivy, or grapes.
An arbor is a structure that usually forms a shaded walkway, passageway, standing, or seating area. They make great landscape accents when installed over pathways and benches.
Like trellises, they can be used as structural supports for climbing plants. Arbors are also often used in wedding ceremonies, where they can be built creatively using a variety of sizes, colours, and wood types. These tend to be faster, smaller scale installations which are optimal for someone with a smaller budget.
Pergolas are generally large, semi-covered structures built on four tall support posts. They’re usually constructed as a seating area with tables and/or fireplaces, and can vary greatly in size and style.
Generally, they tend to have a flat roof though they can also be made at a slight angle. An additional covering or screen can be added to the open roof if you prefer less direct sunlight. Taking this further, plant material is a natural method for providing more shade.
A gazebo is a structure with a closed roof and a seating area that’s generally built in an octagonal shape. Though it’s largely common in parks and botanical gardens, people often build them on their properties for a precipitation-proof gathering or seating area.
Whether your project is large or small, consider adding some wood structures into your landscape. It’s a great, natural way to help balance aesthetics, give your climbing plants somewhere to go, create a common area or outdoor living room, or give you some privacy.
Our landscape services division is trained in wooden design and installation and can work with you to customize an arbor, pergola, trellis, or anything else you might want to build. Get in touch for more details!