Need shade from the summer heat but lack construction skills? The Toja Grid SOLO is a simplified Pergola Kit is designed to make building a modern looking pergola quick and easy, with minimal tools. How is it to build with, and does it hold up? My review:
The Toja Grid system is designed as a simple, do it yourself pergola system. It is designed to minimized or even eliminate the need to cut boards, requiring only a few very basic tools to assemble. It is essentially just a few powder coated steel brackets. Wooden beams slot inside the brackets and are bolted into place with no cutting or measuring required, typically. My particular kit is designed for 4×4 beams (12 foot long and 8 foot high in my case). It includes four corner brackets, four base brackets, a sun sail for shade, and some hardware. Base anchoring hardware and lumber isn’t included. Mine retailed for $560.
The tools I used for my personal build included:
- Drill/Screw driver
- heavy rubber mallet
- Electric Sander
- Stain Brush
- Concrete Anchors
- Masonry Bit
Starting with the build quality, the Toja Grid system is mostly good. The brackets themselves are decently heavy, rigid, and seem to provide plenty of strength for the 12 foot 4×4 beams I’m using. These aren’t built to hold more than the boards and a sail themselves, however. The powder coating held up well during construction and has survived the assembly process mostly scuff free, despite my use rigorous use of a fairly heavy rubber mallet at a few points (more on that later). The welds on the outside were good quality, but were only spot welds instead of a long, continuous beads. The welds on the inside, on my particular brackets, were however were actually rather sloppy and caused problems with the wood fitting inside (more on that later as well). The sun sail fabric is great, with a much heavier and more robust fabric than I expected. It is constructed from woven polyethylene and has a good amount of reinforcing on the stitching. The sail also includes integrated clips, which are only built O.K. The plastic feels a little cheap, one clip was connected upside down, but otherwise hasn’t been problematic so far. The webbing that clips through the clips is strong but does have a fairly thin crimp on the end which allows the strap to easy slip through the clips if you loosen it up too much, which is easy to do. Thicker webbing and better clips would have been appreciated. The screws and included caps were mediocre at best and bad at worst. Prone to stripping with even a perfectly matched driver bit and pre-drilled pilot holes, I was very disappointed with the screws in particular. I also ended up having to tack the screw caps on with a tiny spot of glue to keep them in place as they kept randomly popping off for no apparent reason. Given the price of the kit, there could and probably should have been some improvements to the hardware included. I would even recommend replacing it with something better.
Building with the kit was not as smooth as it should have been. As mentioned above, the welds on the interior were sloppy and caused me some real grief during assembly. After letting my wood completely dry, (wet wood will not fit as it will be swollen) I did a test fit using the base brackets on each of the boards. All of my boards slipped on fine on each end. Great! However, the corner brackets were not constructed to the same standards. Due to this, their sloppy internal welds which stuck out considerably on the inside of the bracket, did not fit the exact same boards at all. These brackets should, theoretically, be built to identical dimensions as they’re all built for 4×4 boards, but they did not reach the mark. I only discovered this rather large issue after test fitting, sanding, and staining my wood to a lovely finish. Thankfully the issue only occurred on my corner brackets, but, the interior welds protruded so far that at some points more than 1/8th of an inch (about 3.2mm) stood out inside each seam. This meant a perfectly fitting 4×4 wouldn’t fit by about and accumulative 1/4th of an inch (6.4 mm) or more. I contacted Toja Grid about this and they stated this was within expectation and wouldn’t replace them (confirmed by the manager so they said). This was irritating, but more disappointing than anything. A quick internet search revealed I was not the only one with the issue. I was already this far, so I decided to push on. They wouldn’t fix their issue, so I would have to do it for them. Power tools it is. I ended up sanding the edges of my beautifully stained wood off with a vibrating sander considerably to create the clearance needed for the wood to clear the interior welds, which was a lot of extra work. Even after removing that much material, it was a really tight fit that required some convincing words, some real effort, and a heavy rubber mallet to get them in place. If you own a router, you can make quick work of this by just cutting off every corner of the board. I don’t own one and didn’t want to buy one for this one project, so the sander was used instead. Once I did a test fit, I re-stained my edges and began assembly again, a few hours later.
Actually assembling the unit, once the issues above were worked out, wasn’t too bad. The boards, in theory, just slip into to place. When they did, it was beautiful. When it didn’t, I had to beat the brackets with a 16 oz. rubber mallet to get them together. It basically came down to assembling the upper frame, attaching the 12 sail mounting brackets (2 screws each), lifting one side of the frame, sliding in the legs (put the base brackets on first), then lifting the other side up and doing the same. I recommend at least 3 strong people for this, and you will absolutely need a strong, sturdy ladder. I very much recommend having 4 or more people to make it more manageable as once you lift the frame up you will need to slide a ladder under, climb up it a few steps, and lift the frame up a little higher to get even 8 foot legs underneath. At this point the frame gets really heavy, so be ready for it. I can only imagine a 6×6 build (another option they have) would have been a real challenge and likely require 6 people. Getting the legs into the brackets, again, due to these sloppy welds, also required some rubber mallet work from above on a ladder, but we did eventually get it together. It happened rather fast (aside from prepping the wood). The whole assembly process took about 2 hours including putting on the sun sail. Anchoring the pergola will vary dramatically per install, but I used concrete anchors which took about 30 minutes.
Once the pergola is up, the result is quite nice. It looks great, provides an appreciable amount of shade, and feels sturdy and secure in the wind. It does move just a bit if you push on it, but that’s just the metal and wood flexing. The sail, once properly adjusted, stays in place without flopping about. It seems to block about 90 percent of the sun and will stop a light misting of water, but will allow rain to come through (which is a good thing). In high winds and especially snow it should be removed for safety and to prevent damage, but otherwise it is fairly maintenance free aside from perhaps the occasional fabric washing. The brackets have a 5 year warranty and the sun sail has a 2 year warranty, so hopefully they will last a long time. I suppose time will tell, but even if something does fail the individual components are replaceable, which is nice.
Value wise, the Toja Grid system is a little bit of a miss. It is very expensive for what really amounts to a few good metal brackets, an above average sun sail, and insultingly cheap hardware. This wouldn’t be an issue except that the main draw here is convenience, and the convenience doesn’t really justify the cost in this situation given the fit/weld issues which added hours to my build time in the end. If they improve their welding system (or their standards of what is considered within specification) it would make the value prospect a lot clearer. As stands, it isn’t a horrible value, but there are better priced options out there that are far more convenient.
The Toja Grid system isn’t perfect. They either need to work on their welds or they need to document the issue so that customers are aware up front so it is easier to mitigate the issue before diving in. Still, the kit allows those who aren’t great with wood working (myself included) to build a relatively impressive and highly functional pergola system at a decent price. I do feel like the kit is a bit overpriced, considering the cheap hardware and sloppy welds. In the end it can be worth it for those who are looking for a large, airy sun shade without too much fuss. It can be accessorized and customized over time, and can even be built onto, which I appreciated. The reparability is also very high. Having one board rot or one bracket rust doesn’t mean throwing out the whole system. Parts are currently easy to obtain and repair work should be relatively simple as well. I don’t regret buying the Toja Grid kit, but it certainly wasn’t the elegant construction that was promised in the marketing either. If you don’t mind paying a bit of a convenience fee and working through a few potential hiccups, I would still say this is a good option.
I never heard back from customer service about the issues with my first kit, but I did happen upon a second identical kit that I had the opportunity to compare. For science and thoroughness, I picked it up and set it up right next to the original one. The second kit was essentially perfect and went up much smoother without the welding and quality assurance issues. So, these are hit and miss in their quality. I posted images of the second one (with the privacy shade installed as well) for comparison. The inconsistencies are concerning but there are good quality welds out there. I just can’t guarantee they’ll all be good quality or they will work with you if they are not.
Recommended with caveats
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I purchased this kit for my personal use and had no obligation or negotiation to review it. All of my views, opinions and experiences are my own.
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