There’s such a wonderful grace to a pergola and so many ways in which they can be used. You can create a shaded walkway or fashion them into a type of gazebo. They can also be an extension of a building, although I tend to favor freestanding pergolas—but that’s just a matter of tastes and one’s needs. For some it makes every bit of sense to attach a pergola to their home; others much prefer something grand at some distance from their home.
But I started this by saying that if you weren’t careful, pergolas can define your springs, so let’s get into that. Depending on where one lives, wood can be just the thing for a pergola. It can also doom the happy homeowner, relegating that poor schlub to a perpetual hell of paint, fix, repair, replace, restore, rebuild. It’s because of the nature of wood.
There are woods that are advertised as being resistant to termites and dry rot, and I suppose they are, but that is not the same thing as being impervious to those ills—I mean, it’s not the same thing at all. Assume a test of the properties of various woods. We can make something of redwood (a common choice for this purpose in California) and also of poplar, then expose them to the elements for a period of time. Poplar may become infected with termites in a year or two. The redwood may not become infected for three or four years, so we can properly say that it has resisted those things, but if in the end it became infected, then we know the origin of the phrase, resistance is futile.
Trust me on this, you don’t want your pergola to give dry rot and termites a good fight before going down; you want it to win every battle every time. Personally, I’m beginning to think that Sequoia sempervirens means termite food. That or quits easy. But that’s the bitterness talking, a bitterness formed of spending a long time with my own backyard paradise to finally finish it and then learn that it was not finished at all, because the next step is maintenance, unending maintenance, which really runs contrary to what motivated me to create that space in the first place. I’m not a hobbyist looking for wood to refurbish every spring; I’m an old guy looking for a place to relax. So, that brings us to the subject of today’s blog, namely Walpole.
I was recently at the PCBC (Pacific Coast Builders Conference) and had an opportunity to examine Walpole’s products in person. I have to say I was very impressed with what I saw, to such an extent that I decided to write this blog.
One of the biggest frustrations I have encountered in writing these blogs is in learning what might have been. I finished that yard in 2004, but we did not begin the blog site until 2008. Since then I have written over 875 blogs, a fair number of which have been devoted to items I fervently wish I had known about BEFORE I began work on that yard. Had I but known, it would have been a much different place. In that sense I feel a lot like Moses. I can lead people to the Promised Land; I cannot enter. And that brings us back to Walpole. The one essential difference between theirs and mine (apart from their wonderful designs) is this: PVC.
If you’ve ever had anything made of PVC you know that what they say about that material is true. It doesn’t rot, split, chip, mildew, or get infected by bugs or dry rot. Now I know what you’re thinking if you’re at all knowledgeable about construction. PVC cannot be used for structural purposes. Yes, it is durable; yes it does well and so forth, but there is no way that it is going to hold up to that kind of use. Good catch, my man. Walpole caught it too. Their solution is simplicity itself, with a bit of genius thrown in. They place aluminum hollow core beams inside all the supporting members. That holds these structures up just fine. Aluminum also does not crack, split, et cetera, and since it is completely inside a PVC shell that is pretty much impervious to the elements, it means that the aluminum will not oxidize. See what I mean? Genius.
Because I’m currently in the throes of my own backyard maintenance, I have concentrated on pergolas, but Walpole also makes Fences and Gates, Railings, Mail and Lantern Posts, even Buildings and Enclosures. Their products are available in wood for those who live in a climate that is more hospitable to that material, but my focus throughout has been on PVC because those are the products I wish I’d used myself.
I flatter myself that what I did make for our yard has its own grace, but there is a profound difference between what they have done here and what I have done. Their PVC products are blessed with permanence and the easy living one really has in mind when decides to opt for a backyard paradise. The cellular PVC material Walpole uses has the look and feel of natural wood, but it won’t rot or deteriorate and it requires virtually no maintenance. Well, OK, you will have to hose it off from time to time, but that’s not maintenance. That’s magic!
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