How To Paint and Protect Your Outdoor Pergola

2 Days


Pergolas are a charming accent to any outdoor living space. They are aesthetically pleasing, romantic to dine under and serve as a great escape from the midday sun. After a few seasons exposed to the elements, it's likely that your pergola has gone from perfectly quaint to slightly shoddy. Not to fear because reviving your pergola is as easy as applying a little paint.


We did this project with our Jane-in-training, Amy.

Though repainting a pergola is easy, expect it to take at least one full weekend. You will need the extra time to sand down your pergola so that the new coat of paint sticks.

Project Steps

Step 1

Before you begin prepare your patio accordingly. This means removing all furniture from the area and covering plants, the ground and anything else you don't want painted, with disposable plastic tarps. If you have ivy or other plants growing up the columns, they will have to be removed prior to painting.

Step 2


After you thoroughly prepare the area, begin to sand down the pergola. Don't forget to wear a sanding mask and protective eyewear!

Jane Tip: We recommend using an orbital sander, which allows you to sand the area without having to follow the wood's natural grain.

Sanding the entire pergola may seem tedious, but it is necessary! Skipping this step may result in your paint peeling years before it should.

Step 3

If painting the columns a different color, tape off their tops where they meet the pergola.

Jane Tip: When choosing your paint, we recommend a light color for the columns. This will make the pergola more inviting. That said, you may want to consider painting the top of the structure and its columns different colors to give a bit of depth to the structure.

Using a power paint sprayer will cut the amount of time it takes to complete painting your pergola by more than half. We used a paint HVLP (High Volume, Low Pressure) sprayer that uses air to evenly dispense paint across a wide surface. This type of power sprayer works with an air compressor. The good news is that both the sprayer and compressor together can be rented for approximately $50 a day.

Sprayers come in all different speeds and sizes, but a salesperson should be able to direct you to the type of sprayer you need. The whole project, including the rental, should cost you approximately $150.

Step 4


Wearing disposable coveralls, hair and eye protection, load your power sprayer with paint. Start with the 'ceiling' of the pergola by moving the sprayer back and forth over the surface, covering it with a light coat of paint. Try and keep the paint tip perpendicular to the surface by using your entire arm, and not just your wrist. This will produce an even coat and allow the paint to atomize together on the surface.

Jane Tip: At this stage don't worry about missing spots here and there. You can always go back and retouch later. Too much paint at one time will result in drips and puddles!

Step 5

Allow the first coat of paint to dry (usually about four hours) and apply a second coat using the sprayer.

Step 6

Once the top of your pergola is complete, get up on the ladder and touch up any spots using the paint brush.

Step 7

Using a paint roller, paint the columns of the pergola. Because you are using a roller, the texture will be a little different from the portion of the pergola you painted with the sprayer. Wait for the paint to dry before applying a second coat.

Use the paint brush to carefully complete the detail work on the corners, at the base, or where the top and the columns meet. This is also the time to touch up any missed spots. Allow 24 hours for the paint to dry completely.

Once you are done using the sprayer, make sure you clean it completely! There will be a lot of removable parts that will need special attention, so take your time. The good news is that most water based latex paints wash away easily.

Jane Tip: Keep your excess paint for touching up down the road.

Bringing that ratty old pergola back to life isn't at all complicated. All you need are the right tools and a little spare time. But hey, your efforts will last for years, so enjoy!

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