Pergola! So, we have…


So, we have to decide what to do with our new rear pergola. We couldn't afford the budget to do it in natural cedar, so it's treated wood right now. We can a) stain it (probably silvery-grey, like aged cedar), b) paint it (probably in one of our trim colors, like a pale purple, set against the dark blue of the house), c) do a combo of stain and paint.

Here's some pics of our pergola as is, newly-built. I feel like it dominates the rear view a bit more than I'd like, and I'd be happier if we managed to get it to blend in a bit more. What do you think? Is it out-of-scale? Or am I just being paranoid and over-thinking this?

We're planning to cover it in flowering vines, so perhaps paint doesn't make sense on the top trusses, since the paint will likely lift off, from the plant action? I'm not sure.

Here are some painted pergolas. (I had to hunt a bit to find these, since natural / stained is much more common, it seems.)





What do you think? Stain, paint, or a combination (which would probably be painted base, stained upper beams)?

7 thoughts on “Pergola! So, we have…”

  1. I think you should stain it. Once the bright new wood is covered up it won’t seem so dominant. You can touch it up with paint in the spring when you have more color in general in the outside world.

  2. Painted seems more in keeping with your whole Victorian color scheme. If it weren’t attached to the house, I’d say stain, but I think it could look odd stained attached to all that brilliant paint.

    As far as plants destroying paint: well, you don’t care if it is destroyed under the plants, because no one will see it except in the winter and if it really bugs you then, go out and touchup in the early spring.

  3. There are a lot of ways to use stain, including with a fairly opaque tint. You get almost the look of paint, but the stain soaks into the wood & the grain shows through a bit. I think it would be lovely in an opaque stain tinted to be close to the house color. Or, for a more unexpected pop of color, in the lavender. The lavender would look great peeping through green leaves.

    The most recent This Old House project used a stain on the house – I thought it was paint until they explained it! That same project house had a huge pergola on the front of the house – they used a composite vinyl material for the pergola & it was white, so no help there. However, one episode went through the whole process of choosing what kind of climbing vine to plant for the pergola. It was very interesting! They went with a hops vine (yes, like for beer!) that grows something like 12 feet a year. I had no idea there were vine options that grew so fast in more northern climates (the project house was outside of Boston) – might be worth looking into if you want plant coverage ASAP.

  4. Mary Anne,
    How is the carpenter planning on fixing the large check in the corner of the post in the second photo? Are they going to cover the post with a facing of good grade boards to create a thicker column? That check is going to look bad once painted.
    I’d opt for the opaque/semi-opaque stain to cover wood that has so many knots showing. Make sure they treat the knots with a sealer to prevent bleed through in the final coat.
    And don’t let them apply a finish coat when the temperature is less than 40 deg (or per mfrs recommendation.
    The pergola’s size is good as it offsets the large tall addition next to it.

  5. I was going to say paint until I read about the opague stain. Now thats my vote – a stain to match a house color but with the grain showing through. I like the lavender/green leaves contrast.

  6. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    I’m convinced by the opaque stain — we’re going to do that! In colors coordinated with the house. Fun! 🙂 Thanks, everyone.

    Dennis, I’ll ask about the check in the corner post, thanks.

  7. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Dennis, it turns out the plan is to trim the corners of those posts, so the check will be hidden. Only you and I will know it’s there. 🙂

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