A pvc patio roof is a great way to waterproof and protect a patio from direct sun. However, here’s a few tips on choosing the right roof sheets!
How to choose and replace a pvc patio roof
I spend a lot of time on my patio.
Sitting outside on the patio when weather permits is the first thing I do with my morning coffee. Then it offers a rest during the day with a pretty view, along with ending the day outdoors while still somewhat protected from the elements. It’s safe to say, this patio is indeed my summertime living room!
Since our outdoor living space faces south with no large trees overhead, having a patio cover over summer seating areas really protects us from the direct sun, offering much needed shade.
We also get a lot of rainwater on the west coast of BC, so a roof overhead is a must.
However, just like most anything else, over time the roof panels really deteriorated. It became an eyesore filled with grit and mildew I couldn’t clean where the panels overlapped. And the list of roof leaks grew by the year.
So being well overdue for oh… only 15 years or so, at LONG last we replaced our patio cover system with new pvc roof panels! The patio ceiling is now a gorgeous crisp, clean white plantation vibe! It’s beautiful. With no roof leaks in sight.
BUT… not all went as planned. However in my case, the challenges may have been blessings in disguise…
So before you choose or replace your own patio roofing material with some kind of patio cover kits or roof panels, I’d like to share the pros and cons of what transpired with our own roof replacement, so you can be better informed before you shop for your roof sheets!
Here’s what went right… and wrong.
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Why we replaced the roof
When I first moved into this house about 15 years ago, the patio roof that runs off the 2nd main floor was pretty dirty where the panels joined. And the roof also leaked.
But as time went on, the leaks grew increasingly worse. And looking at roof joins I couldn’t clean was really weighing on me.
The final straw was when a big wind storm ripped one panel off. BINGO!
It was time. Replacing a pvc patio roof was in order pronto.
What roof panels should we get?
My first thought was to rip off the entire roof and start over with a beautiful dream peaked roof with wood beams, so I could get a better view of that gorgeous mountain view out back!
But after getting quotes in the thousands upon thousands, I decided my budget wouldn’t allow that. Plan B it is.
I had always mulled over clear roof panels… maybe I could still enjoy the view that way?
Then we had one of the hottest summers I have ever remembered. And if it wasn’t for the white roof panels filtering out some of the sunlight, I don’t think I would have sat under this patio all summer long like I did.
I was also made aware of pvc (cheaper) vs. polycarbonate (twice the price). But I felt, my own pvc roof lasted a long time, so I’ll just stick with that, since this isn’t my dream roof anyway. What if I wanted to change it down the road?
So cheaper roof panels over the deck while getting in some light transmission through slightly translucent panels became the main goal.
I hired a local roofer, and waited until the pvc white roof panels came in stock.
While waiting, I pressure washed then re-painted all the wooden rafters (which took a week!) with a semi-gloss trim paint to freshen things up nicely.
Can’t have a pretty new roof with wood needing painting!
Roofing panels we chose:
12′ pvc opaque white roof panels (from Home Depot in Canada)
(did you catch the error in my choice yet?)
Other supplies and hardware used:
- Plastic support strips for my given roofing
- White spray paint for plastic
- Cordless drill
- Extension cord
- #10 1.5″ hex head self-sealing roofing screws in white
- Ladder or sawhorse ladder to create easy scaffolding
Choosing plastic roof support strips
These plastic strips attach the roof panels to the roof framing. The roof instructions suggested that I get the strips that come for my chosen roof panels and not to switch brands, as they all differ slightly.
This was an eleventh hour decision. We were going to try and use my original wood strips still on the roof, but once the work started, they didn’t fit. ARG.
So I hightailed it to Home Depot and within an hour I was painting these beige plastic strips white since the strips only came in brown.
Why just brown?! No idea. But paint fixed that up really quickly. All I wanted to see was pretty white panels and nothing else standing out.
And my goodness, did they paint up nice!
How to paint plastic roof panel supports:
- Lay the roof panel supports on top of cedar strips so they don’t lay directly on your drop cloth or work table.
- Ensure they are dry, clean and dust-free.
- Lightly spray paint the strips from the tops, then along the sides.
- Allow to dry.
- Spray a 2nd coat in all directions for any missed spots.
Why these plastic roofing strips don’t come in white for white roofing I’ll never personally understand. But luckily, painting went fast and the roofer was able to come back the next day.
The spray paint I chose was Rust-Oleum American Accents Spray Paint in Semi-Gloss White.
It covered so well and dried super quick!
This paint is basically a primer and sealant all-in-one, and is geared to cover virtually any surface, including wood, plastic, metal, wicker, plaster, ceramic and more so I was secretly hoping some would be left over for other projects, and there was. Yay!
Attaching the plastic strips
After the painted strips dried, they were nailed onto the roofing framework.
Then the pvc roof panels were attached to the white strips using white 1.5″ self-sealing hex screws.
Installation of roof panels
Next, roof panel install time!
The contractor installed most of the roof with a step ladder placed on the patio floor. Then he used a long ladder to attach the outer edges of the roof panels. So I am glad I hired out for this installation.
Where things went wrong
Once the contractor placed up the first panel, I noted that the light didn’t penetrate through it. I spoke up, but it was possibly assumed that maybe my own roof panels were just broken down so much they became more transparent…
Trust your gut friends. Because I didn’t.
I shrugged my shoulders, figured once the entire roof was on it would look different (talk about denial) and took my cats to the vet.
Upon returning, I came home to a beautifully completed roof… but with absolutely positively NO light of any kind penetrating through. At all. Oh no…
So I immediately went online to investigate why.
The listing for my chosen roof panels read OPAQUE.
I had assumed all white was translucent.
What do they say about assumptions again?
Why translucent is a perk to consider
In a quick nutshell? This is big. So hear this one loud and clear.
Translucent roof panels allow some sunlight to penetrate through, leading to a brighter home interior.
Case in point: When I lived in my last farmhouse with a wrap around porch, while I loved porch living, I didn’t love how dark it made the interior of the house.
I swore I would never have a wrap around porch again.
Replacing a pvc patio roof with white opaque panels gave a similar result.
I lost a lot of lightness to the interior of the house.
Not exactly what this photographer who requires lots of natural light was hoping for.
As disappointing as that was, I walked around the yard admiring how pretty the roof sheets looked from down below. You can see a lot of ceiling from the ground. And all I saw was pristine white!
I mean… this patio ceiling is gorgeous. Translucent white didn’t look this white! It really is just jaw-dropping pretty!
So while still frustrated with myself, I decided to give it a fair chance.
I mean, a person could add perhaps the odd clear panel to create a skylight effect I suppose?
However, over the next 2 days, my mind started to change. Every time I looked at the roof from inside the house, I loved what I saw.
And slowly forgot about the increased darkness.
Then a big rainstorm hit, and for the first time in years, no leaks! I felt so protected under that very pretty white roof!
Another possible perk about opaque white crossed my mind too.
Grit accumulates where the roof panels join, and with a translucent roof you really see it. And can’t clean it.
And now 3 years later, I see no grit in sight. At all.
So, here’s a little side-by-side comparison of the two plastic roofing choices so you can get a complete picture…
Roof sheet comparisons
PVC roof panels
- Price efficient but doesn’t last as long as polycarbonate.
- I couldn’t find it in translucent white.
- Opaque white blocks all sunlight out, will darken interiors, but may hide grime, and looks much whiter than translucent white.
Polycarbonate roof panels
- Pricier but is guaranteed to last longer.
- Comes in translucent white, (and other colours) allowing 45% sunlight through.
- Clear is PVC protected, but doesn’t cut out the heat or brightness as much as translucent white.
So… what’s the right choice?
How to choose the right roof panels for you
- What’s your budget? Can you afford to get the best?
- Do you want some light penetrating through? Or to completely block it?
- Think you want clear? I suggest to stand under some in hot sun to determine if it’s enough protection for your desires. I found them too bright and hot for my own needs.
- choose roof slope that will drain water sufficiently
- consider additional framework to support snow load
I personally think it comes down to personal choice and budget. Polycarbonate roof sheets are said to last longer. So if you have the budget, I’d go that way.
If I have to redo the roof again, I will likely go white translucent polycarbonate and put up with the overlapping grit again.
Just read all the fine print on your chosen roofing, because I sure didn’t.
And now that I have an opaque white pvc roof, will this choice ultimately be ok?
My own summary
While I lost some interior light, I gained a super pretty white ceiling with a stunning plantation vibe… which is much prettier than what I had.
We then proceeded to get one of the hottest summers on record for our area with this massive heat dome cooking the outdoors to over 40 degrees celsius for an entire week! That was quite an event.
And know what? It’s my bet those white opaque roof panels basically saved us so we could continue to use our ‘no central air conditioned’ upstairs.
Which leads me to think, maybe my mess-up is more of a dress-up after all…
Update: 3 years later
- Some of the side panels loosened from the wind, so I hired someone to tighten them up. A more permanent solution would be to use some kind of edge cap along the edges so they can never lift again.
- No leaks! However the ceiling can sweat when it’s been iced over and starts to melt.
- No grit showing between the overlapping panels.
- Panels still look flawless and spotless!
But do I miss the interior light I use to have?
I don’t notice the loss any longer because I’m use to it as-is. But if I had to replace the panels again, I’d go polycarbonate translucent white. Or perhaps a very daring clear with some added protection for direct sunlight when I desired to sit outdoors. But don’t quote me on clear just yet!
I was also told of a story of someone having an outdoor propane fire pit which cracked their PVC roof panels! However I have lit mine previous without issues, but now I’m not sure I will!
Do you have one of these roofs? Which did you pick? How do you like it?
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30 thoughts on “How to choose and replace a pvc patio roof (with pros and cons)”
Donna, it’s gorgeous, and I think you found your silver lining 🙂
I hope you have another area in your house that lets in lot’s of light.
You sure have had a productive summer!
Thanks Kim! And I do… my photo studio is my saving grace… always! And I’m pretty proud how many changes transpired this summer!
The roof you picked is stunning; I love it! I think you made the right choice. But personally, I don’t know about the reduced light. I’d find that tough (but that’s because I have a small dark house!). If I was going to do this, I’d probably try to work a compromise; i.e. install in a section with a clear ‘skylight’.
Thanks Sara. The first thing my contractor suggested was to add 2-3 clear panels so I get a little of both. But he can’t guarantee they’d be lined up with the rafters underneath. I’m too OCD to not have them line up! haha
In a perfect word, I could have clear all winter, then 2 months out of the summer, opaque white. Part 2 is yet to be determined…
I think your roof is beautiful. Just add a couple strings of pretty outdoor lights for evenings or not so sunny days. It is true that building materials are taking an extra long time to arrive. We’ve been waiting about a month for a new shower/tub combo to come in for a local home improvement company to install in our second bath. Luckily we have a second shower in another bathroom to use while we wait.
Thanks Sharon, it really truly is pretty to look at! And a big yes to checking out some string lights. I had them on my last roof and never turned them on because they were too bright. I’m going to attempt to find some lower wattage solar types this round perhaps… doubt they come in white though so I’ll have to paint that too!
Can someone please just invent white stuff? Ok, I will. LOL
I think you made the right decision. I love it. It looks really nice!!
Thanks Terri! I know, I just love how it looks. We’ve yet to have a sunny day since the roof went up so I can’t even gauge a true loss of sunlight quite yet…
Well, by keeping out the additional light, you will also be much cooler in the hot weather. It looks fantastic!
You are absolutely right Toni. It’s a really HOT back yard all summer long with no tree protection for the house and my 2nd story gets VERY hot.
I’m just uncertain if I want to pay this high of a darkness price 10 months out of the year for 2 months of heat relief. haha (groan…)
Donna, all of your summer projects look wonderful! I especially love the patio. I would eat my breakfast, lunch and dinner out there as long as I could. I hope you’re correct about the opaque not showing the seam grime. That would bother me.
I look forward to your next project. You’re very inspiring! I need to get to work on my own new home.
Looks gorgeous Love it – sitting out there in a rainstorm would be heavenly!
WOW! That turned out beautiful. I love it. I’d be out there all there. I always thought this was downstairs. Is this off your bedroom?
Thanks Reenie! No, it’s off my kitchen!
When I had a back porch roof of metal panels it made my house very dark, too. Instead of changing out the whole roof, I replaced every other panel with a clear panel which made the inside much brighter. Maybe you could do something similar…?
Thanks Emily! Yes, my roofer had suggested that as well, but he felt it would be really tricky getting the panels to line up with the framework underneath… which I would need thanks to my OCD! haha It’s certainly a great thought though! I’ll give it a little more time to see how it plays out first. Honestly, I’m nearly use to it…
Donna, love the new roof, so fresh.
Try “daylight” bulbs inside to help on dark days.
You are definitely an inspiration.
Thanks Jo Ann! Love the daylight bulb suggestion, I’ll have to check that out!
Aaaiiiii, I feel your pain, Donna. We have so many large beautiful trees in our yard, which is a blessing with the temps here in South Africa, but it does mean our house is pretty dark. And when we built our patio, we originally choose translucent panels too, but they always looked so messy from the leaves and whatever elephants were roosting in the trees 😀 Anyhows, we saved up and had one of those metal roofs put up. The ones where you can open the panes/shutters/panels (no idea what the right word is). It was a lot more expensive, but it made so much difference. Enjoy your new beautiful plantation-style roof. It looks gorgeous.
Ok, I must check out your roof, this sounds fascinating! I’d love the option to open or close mine! That would certainly tick all the boxes!
We have sections of translucent panels in our indoor riding arena. They are at the top of the walls where the wall and roof meet. Their purpose is to let light in. Beautiful the first year but then they yellow from the sun and not so pretty. Less light comes in now that they have yellowed also. Your new roof is beautiful!
Oh dear. I appreciate you sharing your experience. Do you remember if your panels were PVC or polycarbonate? I think PVC yellows but polycarbonate not so much…
I’m sure ours is the less expensive of the two, so probably pvc. I love the bright white look of yours!
Wow, just started following your story, what an inspiration. And such talent! And that you are a local gal, so much the better for me.
We have recently purchased a cabin at Cultus Lake that is in need of much work. Thankfully my hubby has that skill set. (I’m the designer/landscaper/and helper.)
We have a pvc patio roof similar to yours that we will need to replace. With a small cabin and not a lot of windows I think I’ll have to go with the translucent pvc. Love the details of your blog- we will follow it this spring when we work on the exterior.
Looking forward to digging more into your blog posts.
PS- I love getting out on my bike too; clears the head.
Congrats on the cabin!! My absolute dream right there…
If you go to the clear, I’d recommend to avoid the PVC and go polycarbonate. It apparently lasts a lot longer and the pvc clear may yellow. Not sure how long mine will last so I guess we’ll see if I made another mistake! haha oh boy…
Was very glad to hear pros& cons of choices. Extremely helpful! Thanks
Hi Donna, we have a similar project we are working on this spring/summer! We have a 3 season room / greenhouse attached to the back of our house. How did you handle the shingle to pvc panel transition? We have had a hard time keeping snow from blowing in. The opaque is a good idea to keep the house from baking in ghe summer! Your project looks beautiful! Such a lovely spot!
Hi Natasha! I didn’t do the work so I didn’t specifically see exactly what was done. However the house roof is 100% intact and the patio panels were placed against them, then a flashing was used for the final transition to avoid leaks. Any pro roofer could guide you I would think.
Thanks for the compliments and best wishes on your projects! What a difference it makes!
does it sweat with condensation ? I have an aluminum cover and the darn thing sweats constantly. Every thing is wet for two thirds of the year.
Hi Rose! The only time I’ve noticed anything is in the winter after a cold snap. I guess it takes time to dry up. Other than that, no water leakages at all.