How to Winterize Your Pergola

It is truly a sad day when we admit defeat and start writing our fall chore list. The list that tells us summer is officially over and winter is very close by. The list that tells us what to do so that we can prepare our patios, gardens, yards and homes for the winter season.

Even with structures that stand outside year round, there are steps you should take to ensure they maintain structural integrity. By taking these steps now, you are helping your future self by getting the pergola ready for use in the spring. The more work you do now, the less you have to do later.

The best time to execute this task is in the late fall, right before the snow starts. The goal, really, is to remove anything that may get caught under the snow. When snow falls it will contain everything beneath it, and potentially absorb into the floorboards. This can cause a big mess in the spring when everything melts, causing staining and irreversible damage.

Sweep the floorboards. Remove any built-up dust and debris. You will also want to wash it down with soapy water to remove any dirt or grease that may have set into the flooring. When the floor is clean, it allows for better airflow to reduce moisture and subsequent mildew build-up.

If you are looking to apply stain to your flooring, this is an ideal time for it. A stain will seal the wood and stop it absorbing moisture (though your building material should already be pressure-treated, staining adds further security). Perhaps you just like the colour of a stain. Stains need to be reapplied every few years, so now may be the time to do it.


If you are very concerned about mildew or rot, you can apply a water-resistant sealant to the floor as well.

Do you have any plants on the pergola? Now is the time to move them to their winter homes. Even if you move the plants inside, and change their planters, you should put the empty planters in the garage or shed. Leaving them on the pergola (whether empty or full) will leave rings that will be incredibly difficult (downright impossible) to remove in the spring. Removing the planters will also create more airflow, and thereby prevent the build up of moisture and subsequent mold and rot.

Along with planters, many people like to decorate pergolas with growing vines and ivy. You should trim any excess growth or old/dying limbs. This will ensure good plant health in the spring, while minimizing the weight strain on the pergola itself. Snow is very heavy and minimizing strain on the posts is ideal. Now is a good time to tighten all screws and repair any problem areas that you ignored all summer.

Many folks like to use their pergola throughout the winter, so it is understandable if you do not wish to fully lock down the structure. You can even hire a professional to install a heating system that enables you to host backyard winter parties. These can be especially beautiful around the holidays and New Year’s Eve. Winterizing could be as simple as adding a heat source (like a firepit or outdoor fireplace): however, you will still want to clean it thoroughly in the last days of autumn, and remove the planters.

By taking careful steps to prepare your pergola for winter, you are lessening the spring cleaning workload, and ensuring the longevity of the pergola, so that you may continue to enjoy it without the added costs of repairs.

If your area gets a lot of snow and cold in the winter, then your pergola is not usable.

If you have any mildew growing on the pergola, now is the time to remove it. You can do this by scrubbing it down with soapy water and a soft brush.

Take a broom and remove any cobwebs. The goal is to clean as thoroughly as possible.

Some choose to wrap their pergolas up in tarp or other weatherproof fabric for the winter. You can go ahead and do this if you like, but it isn’t necessary. Some folks prefer the rustic look of a snow-covered structure in the yard.

Speaking of snow-covered, the final step to caring for your pergola in the winter is to remove excess snow whenever it builds up. You want to minimize the weight on the wood. This is especially important if your pergola has a roof or latticework. Before it can accumulate too much, remove snow from the roof (and sides or wherever it has built up, according to your pergola’s design) with a broom. Stay on top of this and you will be well on your way to a lovely spring and summer spent in the pergola once again.

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