Tuesday, June 29, 2010

East of Eden

Product Review of Eden Brand’s “Venetian” Pergola.

Retail Price-               $1, 599.00
Bolt Down Kit-                  99.00
Tax-                                 118.00
Installation-                      647.00

Total                          $ 2,463.00

There was a time when Gardencarpentry.com would refuse to have anything to do with pergolas which were made of vinyl. “We are craftsmen, and pergolas made out of plastic are beneath us” we declared! We also objected on the moral grounds of vinyl being an environmentally unfriendly product of petroleum. Never-the-less, as businessmen, we eventually decided that if a client insists on vinyl then so be it! Different strokes for different folks, right? If they buy it, we will build it… or assemble it in this case.

So in keeping with our new found open arms attitude we recently took on the assembly of Eden brand’s Venetian pergola. There were some things I liked about this pre-fabricated product. There were some downsides as well. To be fair let me start with the positives.

One of the initial big advantages of a vinyl pergola is that it is clean and neat. Unlike wood it is smooth, uniform and consistent in its appearance. This example was no exception. It is also white. Very white!

For those people looking for a clean, uniform, white appearance the Eden Venetian pergola should be pleasing. And in all honesty, for the money, it has a lot of decorative details which would be hard to find at the same price in wood.

That being said let me address some concerns I have after completing the assembly.

1. Vinyl breaks down in ultra violet light. So the clean, white look will slowly give way to a brittle and faded one.

2. The rafters are made of 4 separate parts, and showed signs of sagging immediately upon assembly.

3. The vast majority of the product was made by attaching smaller components together to get larger components which would traditionally be made from one solid piece on a wood pergola. More parts equates to more weak points and a higher probability of failure.

4. The hardware which was sent as part of the bolt-down kit to attach the pergola posts to a concrete slab were not what was described in the directions, and in fact, would have met wind tolerance codes until modifications were made to them on site by gardencarpentry.com using specialized tools.

6. The pergola assembly was predicated upon the structure’s vinyl columns fitting around PT 4x4 posts and the same posts fitting into the bolt down kit’s housing. PT 4x4 posts tend to be a MINIMUM of 3 ½ inches in diameter, but are usually larger. The bolt down kit’s and vinyl column’s housings were at MOST 3 ½ inches wide. As a result, all four sides, top and bottom, of the four wooden posts (32 sides) had to be shaved down to fit the housings. This was either a clumsy engineering oversight or a manufacturing blunder on the part of Eden Pergolas. Either way it was a big time waster during assembly.

7. The pergola assembly instructions were vague, unclear, and hard to follow in some places.

Overall, the pergola looked nice when we completed the assembly. My main issues are that it took two experienced pergola builders, all of our specialized tools, and the better part of two days to assemble it. The sales literature says it should take two people with “some” carpentry knowledge 8 hours with limited tools. Secondly, the sales literature says the product has a twenty year warrantee. Reasons 1 thru 6 above should illustrate why I sincerely doubt that this product will last half that long.