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Are Pergolas Hurricane Proof?

If you live in one of the hurricane states, making your property and outbuildings wind resistant is a big deal. This is especially the case with pergolas – which at first glance may not seem that robust.

If secured on strong cement foundations with metal bolts, and built with hardwood using cross beams and support joists, then pergolas can be hurricane proof. Their slatted design aids this as wind can pass through without compromising the integrity of the whole structure.

So join me as we discover more about the wind resistant properties of pergolas, what are the best materials to build them from – and how to secure them firmly to the ground.

Are Pergolas Wind Resistant (Even in Hurricanes?)

Pergolas make such an attractive addition to a yard, and you can personalize them beautifully with climbing plants and lighting. But can these elegant structures survive a high wind?

Good news: many pergolas are wind resistant. Indeed, many manufacturers go one better and make them hurricane resistant. So, if you live in a hurricane zone or have a yard that’s exposed to the elements, don’t despair: the right pergola should withstand windy weather.

Of course, a pretty, lightweight pergola that’s entwined with a delicate clematis is not going to be the way forward if your home is exposed to high winds. The key to a hurricane-proof pergola is choosing a structure and material that’s robust enough to withstand heavy winds, then making sure it’s firmly anchored down.

An aside: your pergola might be wind-resistant, but many vines aren’t. If you want to grow vies up your pergola, make sure you’re picking wind-resistant plants that won’t suffer from wind burn or even die after a storm. (We love a potato vine. They are incredibly tough and look beautiful climbing up a pergola.)

What is It About The Structure of a Pergola That Makes it Wind Resistant?

Pergolas, with their typical lattice design and open roof and sides, look more delicate than a hardtop gazebo. Actually, this more open structure helps them to be more wind resistant, as the wind simply passes through its gaps. A more solid structure would resist the wind, leading to an increased risk of damage.

You want to encourage the wind to pass over or through your pergola rather than buffet against it. You can help this by orienting your pergola at a 45 degree angle, pointing in the direction of the prevailing wind. There’s a chance you have to compromise on the location of your pergola, but it’s worth it to ensure it stays upright.

The other important structural consideration is how the pergola is anchored. If your yard is exposed to high winds, your pergola must be fixed firmly, ideally in concrete that’s set in the ground. Stand-alone pergolas won’t fare as well as ones that are attached to solid buildings, so we’d recommend fixing yours to your house wall, like a porch.

The materials used to build your structure also have an impact on how wind or hurricane-proof it is, and we’ll come to that in a minute.

How To Protect Your Pergola in a Hurricane

Hurricane season is approaching, and you want to make sure all your structures are secure. How do you protect your pergola in a hurricane?

Well, hopefully you’ve chosen a robust material, a reasonably sheltered location (relatively speaking), and have good fixings that are sunk into concrete. If all these boxes are checked, nice work – you’ve done most of the things necessary to ensure your pergola is hurricane-resistant.

In that case, the main jobs in the run-up to hurricane season are to double-check the foundations, and make sure any wood or metal treatment is up-to-date (this ensures the structure isn’t going to be weakened by water ingress). Make sure nothing has worn loose, and replace any rusty looking screws.

One of the main problems is damage caused by other objects. Sure, your pergola might not take off, but it won’t survive an attack from a flying BBQ. If you live in a hurricane zone, you’ll know how to store or secure any pot plants, grills, pieces of outdoor furniture, outdoor lights etc before the storms hit. You’ll also be familiar with checking tree branches and so on.

Some people suggest covering your pergola for the winter or in bad weather. This will certainly protect it from water damage; however, you’re basically taking a naturally wind-resistant structure and adding a sail to it. By covering those open sides, you’re compromising the wind resistance of the structure. Best to make sure that the frame itself is made water-resistant.

Terrace with wind proof pergola

What Are The Best Materials To Build a Hurricane Proof Pergola?

There’s a great choice of materials for pergolas, each one creating a different aesthetic effect. But which material is the best if you need the pergola to withstand hurricane-force winds?

Wood is the classic material for pergolas, and it looks especially good if the pergola is built against the house. But is a wooden pergola hurricane-proof? This depends on which wood you choose. Go for a good-quality wood that won’t soften and weaken with time, and make sure it’s treated regularly.

Don’t assume you have to use hard wood. For example, cedar makes an excellent, durable material for outdoor use. It’s stable and weather-proof, and contains naturally preserving oils. Talk to your builder or merchant about what weather-proof timber is easily available where you live.

Fiberglass is another popular gazebo material, as it’s low-maintenance and inexpensive. However, it’s too light to stand up to a strong wind, and the same goes for a vinyl design.

Metal is worth considering, and different types have different properties. Aluminum is light, but is still a popular material as it is resistant to rust and water. You’ll just have to make sure it’s securely put together and firmly fixed.

Steel or cast iron are heavier options; however they must be treated to prevent corrosion and weakening. If you are going for a metal pergola or gazebo in a high wind area, you need to have absolute confidence in the integrity of the structure and the fixings. Nobody wants a metal post flying through their window during a storm.

Combining materials can give you a great result. A strong metal frame coated in weather-proof vinyl gives you the best of both worlds, and should definitely be considered.

When you’re choosing your pergola, look out for terms like “marine-grade” to ensure it will survive heavy rainfall. Some manufacturers will state which category hurricane the structure can deal with.

How Should a Pergola Be Anchored To The Ground To Make it Wind Proof?

As you can imagine, you need very firm anchoring if you’re going to put up a pergola in hurricane territory. To be honest, even if you don’t experience hurricanes where you live, a strong gust of wind is still enough to damage a lightly anchored structure.

The best (and really, only) way to secure your pergola, is to cement it into the ground. Even if it’s going to be standing on your lawn, the pergola will still need concrete foundations. If you want our pergola to stand in the middle of the lawn, think about shelter and wind direction, and try to pick the least exposed spot.

Pergolas do look extremely attractive built right up next to houses or smart outbuildings, and you’d have the double-security of both floor and wall attachments. This could mean drilling down into decking, pavers, or concrete, depending on which surface abuts your property. We’d suggest speaking to a professional to make sure you have the best anchorage for that particular surface.

So, you’ll need to be absolutely sure where you want your pergola to be located, as we’re going for full-on anchorage here. And we know this is an obvious point, but you need robust posts as well as a tough foundation, otherwise the legs will bend badly out of shape or even snap in a storm. Sure, the posts’ feet will stay in the ground, but they’ll no longer be accompanied by legs…

Final Thoughts

If you get the right company to build your pergola, (or build it properly yourself) and ensure it’s bolted to secure cement foundations and built strongly from cross beams of hardwood – then you can definitely expect your pergola to be hurricane proof.

Indeed, there are many building firms in hurricane states that will guarantee their pergolas to be resistant to strong winds – including hurricanes.

The innate structure of pergola with slatted beams and open sides, means they create little wind resistance when high winds do strike – so if your construction methods and building materials are sound – then your finished pergola should be able to withstand whatever the weather throws at it. 🙂

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >