When we first moved into our house a year ago, the backyard was such a mess, it was hard to envision it ever being a place we’d want to hang out! But over the past few months we’ve made small updates that led to big updates like our concrete pad being poured. After that, the pergola went up.
The only problem? The pergola needed a top coat. At first I was going to paint it white, but I came to realize that the space needs some warmth so I wanted to keep the wood. Want to hear the products I used and the process? Here’s how to seal a wood pergola.
how to seal a wood pergola
First of all, I have to say thank you to my friends on Instagram. I wasn’t sure what product to use and they were kind enough to suggest doing a stain and sealer in one (so I can apply one coat and have it sealed) and specifically suggested Thompson’s Water Seal. After doing a bunch of research, this product seemed like the best fit for our pergola.
I ended up not liking the colors of the stain and sealer, so I went with the clear sealer. Thompson’s Water Seal says that it maintains the wood’s natural color. Just as a heads up, I have read reviews that say that the wood still will grey with time in the sun. I’m hoping it’ll maintain the warm color. I’ll keep you posted!
Start by doing a splash test on the wood. What this means is that you splash water onto the wood. If the water beads up and rolls off, you don’t need a sealer. If it absorbs, you’re ready for a sealer. You also might want to quickly sand the wood to prep for staining.
You’re going to want to pick the right day to seal on too- if the wood is wet from rain or sprinklers, wait for it to dry so it’ll absorb the sealer. Also, you’ll want the temperature to be between 60-85 degrees for the sealer to properly work.
To prep, I added painter’s tape to the bottom of the columns where they sit on the concrete to protect it. I also laid drop cloths down where I was working.
Next, continue by mixing the the sealer really well. Pour some of the sealer in a container (I used a handy paint cup). If your pergola isn’t put together, seal it first! This’ll save you SO much time and lots of trips up and down a ladder! If, like me, your pergola is already up, start by sealing from the top to the bottom or from the left to the right.
When you’re sealing, you’ll want to keep a wet edge so that you get a nice smooth finish. One thing to consider when sealing wood is that you only need one coat. It will get absorbed into the wood. A second coat might just sit on top of the stain and leave a sticky surface- no thanks! Less is definitely more with this project!
Since I was sealing an already assembled pergola, I used a step stool to reach the roof of the pergola to apply the sealer. This sealer should be dry within 2 hours of applying. Here’s how it looks before sealing (the top beams) vs. how the clear stain deepens the natural color of the wood (the bottom beams). The color is much richer.
Since it’s a bit of a subtle difference, make sure to keep track of where you’ve gone.
To seal the whole pergola, it took me around 3 hours. I also used about 1/2 of the 1 gallon container of sealer.
the pergola progression
I thought it would be fun to share how we got to this point. See, here’s where we started a few months ago-
The yard was full of weeds and construction debris. The shed was mis matched.
My husband dug out the dirt to prep for the patio and found a cistern. After talking to the neighbor, we used to have a well that fed into this cistern. It dried up and was no longer in use- just an empty concrete box.
My husband used a jack hammer to break up the cistern and it turned into a giant hole in our backyard that needed to be filled with rocks so it’d be a steady foundation for our patio. Finally, we paid to have concrete laid and are SO grateful to have a great spot for gathering.
pergola / dining table / pink dining chairs no longer available / white dining chairs / rug / lanterns / umbrella / stock tank pool / swing / round mirror / bird house is vintage / swan float / garden stool / pineapple cups
Our dining room is so small, so having this space outside has been really nice! the house shades this area in the afternoon and evening, so it’s the perfect place to eat dinner (and you better believe we’ve been out here every night)!
I’m so, so grateful to have this pergola and entertaining area after a year of living with a junky yard. It took a TON of work, but this section is feeling really happy!
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