A pergola is a wooden structure that is used to provide shade. In Israel, it is very common to see a pergola on a mirpeset (porch) which offers shade and which can also be used as a frame for a succah. If you maintain a pergola, it will last a lifetime. Without properly treating the wood, the rain and the sun will damage the pergola and cause it to rot. In this article, I would like to guide the Do It Yourself people on how to best take on this project. In many ways, this is one of the simpler do-it-yourself projects and in some ways one of the most stress-free projects to work on. You do not have the same pressure that you would have with starting a project in the home where you would need to finish it within the day. With outdoor work, you can stretch out the project over a few days or weekends without disrupting your home.
Like all projects, it is crucial to have the tools and equipment necessary to do the job properly. You need a ladder to be able to safely reach above to the top of the pergola. It is the top that you cannot even see from below that receives the most damage from the rain and sun and that needs the most attention. An electric rotary sander (with 80 grid sanding pads) will be the most expensive tool needed here. It is necessary to sand the wood in order to open up the wood pores that allow the stain to penetrate the wood. As with all painting projects, it will also be necessary to have a means to cover the floors, railings, outdoor furniture and anything else — especially your neighbor’s mirpeset that may be below. Paint brushes are needed. Although a compressor and sprayer are often used, it is not necessary for the Do-It-Yourselfer.
It is important to inspect your pergola. If you have any boards that are severely cracked, warped or rotted, they must be replaced. If you have any nails or screws that are coming out, it is best to remove them and replace them with new screws that are a bit longer.With the pergola inspected and the tools purchased, you are ready to sand the wood with the rotary sander. It is very difficult and impractical to do this manually with sandpaper. Often we see mold on the wood. In these cases, bleach is needed to clean the wood. If there is no mold present, it is best to avoid cleaners that contain bleach. Even the wood cleaners available on the market are not needed if you sand properly. That way you can avoid the need to wait for the wood to dry prior to the staining.
What type of stain do you buy? I recommend only the Flood Stains that are imported from America. These stains will last up to 15 years versus the local brands that barely withstand three years. The stains are available in multiple colors from the traditional wood look like mahogany to the more modern light bleached look. There are basically two choices of stains. If you want to maintain the look of the wood grain, you need to use the Flood Semi-Transparent stain. These stains will last only five years as they do not completely provide UV protection as they are semi-transparent to allow you to see the wood grain. The more practical stain to use is the Flood Solid stain. This will look more like paint as you will no longer see the wood grain but you will get maximum UV protection that will provide 15 years of protection.
With the preparation work behind you and the stain purchased, the fun begins. Here you will see satisfaction with each brush stroke. How many coats are needed? That will greatly depend on the condition of the wood. The wood will absorb as much as it needs and will take no more. The upper areas that get the most abuse will always require two or more coats, sometimes as many as five coats. The lower areas that are often shaded may only require one application. As soon as the wood does not absorb any more stain, you are done, ready to clean up and enjoy your pergola.