How To Paint A Pergola?


Having a pergola in your backyard is not enough to create blissful moments and joyful memories. Most pergolas are usually made of wood. As we know, it doesn’t matter how hard these woods are; leaving them in fluctuating weather can damage them in different ways. So what can you do to prevent a pergola from getting weather-damaged and ensure better durability at the same time? Of course, you paint it down from top to bottom. Here comes the question of how to paint a pergola.

The principles of painting a pergola are similar to those of painting any other structure. You have to start with cleaning the surface of dust and rust, filling any type of hole, etc. Then you have to put the primer, paint, and sealant in an organized and disciplined sequence. In this article, we have briefly covered all of these steps for your easy understanding. Some relevant topics, such as selecting the best paint, common mistakes to avoid while painting a pergola, etc., have also been added. So read till the end and paint your pergola like a pro!

Materials Needed To Paint A Pergola

Materials Needed To Paint A Pergola

Painting a pergola is almost similar to painting any other wooden structure. This means you will need similar materials, such as:

  • Color: Well, you can’t paint a pergola without colors, can you? One thing to add here is that these colors aren’t ordinary colors; rather, they should be classified especially for painting outdoor wooden installations.
  • Spray Machine/Brush: You will need a spray machine or brush to apply the paint. Spray machines can make your painting duration shorter, whereas using a brush entirely will take longer. But still keep both of these, because even after using the spray machine, you might need the brush for some touchups.
  • Sand Paper: Sand paper is mandatory to remove any old color layers or loosen up the dust layers.
  • Covering Materials: In the process of painting a pergola, the color can spread around and make the surroundings dirty. Covering materials such as fabric, carton boxes, sheets, and tapes perform well in covering up areas where you don’t want to add colors.
  • Protective Gear: When you are playing with colors, wearing protective gear is a must. Use gloves, a mask, and eye goggles to keep your vital organs away from chemicals.
  • Ladder: You will need to climb on the pergola to paint the upper layer.

6 Steps To Paint A Pergola

Steps To Paint A Pergola

Now, assuming you have sourced all the required materials to paint your pergola, let’s go straight into the painting process. Note that, based on your pergola type, the material used, and location, these individual steps within the process can slightly differ.

1. Preparing The Pergola

First, you have to start with preparing the pergola. For that, spray high-pressure water on every corner of the pergola. You can use your hose to do the task. You can brush down any visible dust or residue to clean off the pergola thoroughly. After cleaning, keep the pergola completely dried up.

The next preparation step is to sand down the whole pergola structure to clean any rough or flaky areas. Along with that, this sand downing will help the removal of any rust in the metallic areas. Upon completion of sanding, clean the outer surface using a fabric as the final preparation task.

2. Add Protective Covers

Before starting the main painting process, cover up the surrounding areas, such as furniture, grass, sidewalls, and flooring. As mentioned earlier, painting gets attached to surfaces that you don’t want to. Removing these can test your patience, which can be irritating.

It is better to use the same color all over the pergola. But there is no such strict rule regarding that. This means you can use different colors in different portions of the pergola. That’s when protective covers come in handy. You can also put tape on the small surrounding areas when you spray different colors in a short space.

3. Add Primer

Now it is time to bring on the primer. It adds beauty to the painting by offering a smooth, uniform, and polished look to your structure. It also helps you use less paint in the process. Use a brush to apply the primer to the wood after properly thinning it. Alternatively, you can choose to spray the primer for an easier application. However, spraying may require several coats to achieve good coverage.

Allow the primer to dry for at least 6 to 8 hours before applying the finishing coat. One important thing to note here is that primer is very essential for an enduring color. That’s why you should apply it evenly for better results.

4. Apply The Paint

After you have completed all the steps mentioned above, start painting the pergola. But before that, you would want to clean the pergola surface again to remove any dust that may have built-in between. Then, just like applying primer, you can use either a brush or spray to put color on the pergola.

Starting from the roof, every individual pergola timber should be painted thoroughly, especially the corners. Using a spray machine to apply paint will save you time for a moment. But at the same time, spraying may not be as effective as brushing to set the paint on a wooden surface. So you might have to spray more than one coat to get the desired result. For applying different colors, always apply one color at a time. After painting, let it dry overnight.

5. Add Sealant

It’s not all done yet with painting a pergola. Nowadays, painting colors come with sealant mixed, but using additional sealant after painting boosts wood’s anti-damage capability. Sealing wood with a durable topcoat sealer will protect the painted surface against damage from water and heat. The sealant also protects the wood from scratches, food stains, and fading due to human traffic or use.

Unlike primer or the main paint, you don’t have to put layers of sealant on the pergola. Prepare the sealant as per instruction. You have already perfected the surface smoothness while putting primer and color on; now just gently put the sealant over using a brush.

6. Cleaning The Excess Paint

Upon painting your pergola successfully, there might be some unwanted paint stains here and there. To remove those, you can try pressure water, a thinner, or sandpaper. If the paint is yet to dry, then water pressure will be enough. If it had gotten hard, then sand them off individually or put them thinner, rub moderately using metal tools, and then swipe with fabric. For thinner reference, mineral spirits dilute oil-based wood stains, and lacquer thinner dilutes lacquer-based stains.

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Choosing The Best Paint For A Pergola

Choosing The Best Paint For A Pergola

Selecting the best paint type is very important when painting a pergola. This paint is different from ordinary paints used for coloring your house. It should be well resistant to weather elements such as the sun, UV rays, rainwater, etc. There are different types of paint for a pergola. Such as:

  • Acrylic Paint: Acrylic paints are well known for their durability and excellent weather-resistant capacity. They feature a quick-drying capability on wooden surfaces like a pergola. Upon application, they form a hard protective shell layer over the surface, which provides long-lasting color and element protection.
  • Oil-Based Paint: Oil-based paint has a tough, glossy finish that can effectively protect the wood from moisture, UV rays, and temperature fluctuations. They have the ability to withstand harsh weather and protect the applied surface for a long time. But beware of the bad odor and long drying period while using these paints.
  • Latex Paint: The least effective paint type on the list is latex paint. They are water-based, and thus they are suitable for cleaning with soap and water. Although pure latex paints might not be as durable as acrylic and oil-based paints, their acrylic-latex type is rated as one of the best paints for pergolas.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Painting a Pergola

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Painting a Pergola

If you’re DIY painting your pergola, mistakes are common, and they are totally normal. But not all the mistakes are easily sorted, like how you would wipe the excess color from the pergola roof. Here are some mistakes you should try to avoid:

  1. Monitoring the Weather: Depending on the size, design complexity, and your work efficiency, painting a pergola can take as long as 2–3 days. To avoid any weather disturbances in this timeframe, you should monitor the weather forecast before starting work.
  2. Miscalculating the Supplies: You wouldn’t want to stop painting a pergola midway due to a lack of supplies. As a DIY painter, you might miscalculate regarding the volume of raw materials such as color, primer, sealant, protective covers, etc. So, calculate again and again to ensure you have arranged all the materials in the required quantity.
  3. Lack of Pergola Preparation: Preparing the pergola is half of the painting work. Many lack the skill of removing dust, rust and filling holes in the pergola. These can lead to unsatisfactory results after painting the pergola. You should have prior knowledge of how to prepare your pergola properly for painting.

Paint Or Stain A Pergola?

Paint Or Stain A Pergola?

Not everybody would want to paint their pergola in solid colors. Some may want to keep the natural wooden texture of the pergola. It is only possible by staining the pergola instead of painting it. There are a lot of differences between them, where painting has several edges over staining.

  • Paint coats the surface and covers it, whereas stain penetrates the surface and preserves its natural beauty.
  • Paint requires fewer coats than stain due to its thicker consistency and being easier to maintain.
  • Paint comes in matte, satin, and gloss finishes, whereas stain only comes in a matte variety and will need varnishing for a glossy look.
  • Paint will not soak into the surface like a stain, so you may only need to apply one coat over an absorbent surface since it will sit on top of that surface.

Final Thoughts

Painting a pergola can reward you with an ultra-long, durable pergola for the coming days to cherish. At the same time, it can also gift you with some fun painting moments. Painting a pergola requires precision planning, decision-making, monitoring, and efficient skill. The painting steps involve preparing the site, putting primer on, applying paint, adding sealant, etc. Although it may look like a lengthy, time-consuming project, by following the steps and suggestions mentioned above, you can actually paint a pergola by yourself without much hassle. So what are you waiting for? Gear up to give your pergola a brand new matching look and make it durable enough to last for decades to come.

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I am Donald M. Beyer and I am backyard enthusiasts. I am a homeowner who has been doing DIY projects in and out of my house for many years. From simple backyard lunches to making an old-school pizza oven in my own backyard, I have a lot of experience in turning my backyard into my and my family’s personal playground.

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