Get This Look: Magical Backyard Pergola

by | Jun 17, 2022

Revive a pergola by lighting it up!

In mid-May, our pergola was a sad sight. So faded and needing cleaning, we didn’t enjoy our backyard nearly as much as we should. We saved money by restoring our tired pergola and outdoor furniture with power washing and staining.

Installing string and curtain lights made what was once mildly unwelcoming into a magical space.

Pergola with curtain lights
Get This Look: Magical Backyard Pergola 11

Buying a new pergola would have been the easy way out of this problem. But we have teen boys. We wanted to show them that just a handful of hours and a gallon of stain could solve our problem without burdening our household budget.

I hope they remember this gentle lesson when they have homes.

Sorry, we don’t have many before photos. We didn’t realize when we started this project how much we would like it and how pleased we’d be with the results.


The Pergola

David power washed the pergola and the Sunbrella fabric covering. I had convinced myself we’d have to buy a new canvas awning, but Dave was hopeful. After taking down the watery-leaf-covered canvas and power washing it, he put it in the washing machine.

I was skeptical.

After a wash and drying outside, the awning looked fantastic and shrank a little. The process restored its original snap.

We waited overnight for the wood to thoroughly dry. Then Dave and the boys applied stain.

Refreshing the pergola
Get This Look: Magical Backyard Pergola 12

The Furniture

We power washed the Sunbrella cushions and the metal furniture bases. They went from dull to clean and bright-as-new.

While the cushions were draining and drying out, I ordered a fresh set of outdoor furniture covers to keep them looking great. (Amazon basics. Unexpectedly good quality for under $100 total.)

Tips and things we might have done differently

Lift the pergola and get that tarp under the corner column. Especially when teens are helping, enough said.

Stain a small section to test the stain if you don’t care for stain surprises.

Here is a photo of the stain and awning. (The cushions covers arrived by 8 am.)

New pergola furniture
Get This Look: Magical Backyard Pergola 13

The glass mini lights we used to light the ceiling are shown in the photo below. We used ten strings of 100 clear bulbs on green wire in 2 circuits/runs.

Notice that we gently looped the light strings around the ends of the cross boards instead of driving nails into the wood.

How to light a pergola
Get This Look: Magical Backyard Pergola 14
How to light a pergola
Get This Look: Magical Backyard Pergola 15

We draped the curtain lights as well. So far, they’ve stayed in place. If we expect a wind storm in the future, we’ll consider uninstalling and storing.

How to light a pergola
Get This Look: Magical Backyard Pergola 16

Curtain Light Unpacking Tips

These lights in the image below are pure white LED curtain lights. These photos show what to expect when unpacking curtain lights. Super-tightly wrapped at the factory; we like to hang then unroll them while slightly pulling on the “icicles” to straighten them. For parties, plan to install the curtain lights a couple of days in advance to allow for natural straightening of the wire.

How to light a pergola
Get This Look: Magical Backyard Pergola 17
How to light a pergola
Get This Look: Magical Backyard Pergola 18

Warm white LED Curtains are shown below.

How to light a pergola
Get This Look: Magical Backyard Pergola 19

This images shows the incandescent curtains and strings we installed for our final installation.

Lighted backyard pergola
Get This Look: Magical Backyard Pergola 20

A few days later, we added a fern to that big empty clay pot. We added a drip line to keep it watered.

We also installed a misting system under the outer edge of the pergola. Our next project is control the amount of water running into the system. It currently works as an outdoor shower.

The deluge is a little awkward when trying to eat hummus and pretzel crisps with a glass of Prosecco.

I hope this project has been an inspiration to look at outdoor spaces with new eyes to see what power washing and stain might refresh. A Christmas stash might already contain lights that can be repurposed for summer parties. If the project requires light purchases, measure carefully. Add 10% to estimates to account for swag and irregularities.

More Tips

We used glass (incandescent) light strings and curtain lights (8-feet long) in our final install. Remember that a maximum of 500 bulbs of glass mini lights can be run in series. That’s five sets of 100 bulbs or ten sets of 50-light strings. Connecting more than these limits pose a fire hazard and will blow most fuses. If the lights and any other appliances plugged in add up to more than 1000 watts, use additional extension cords to divide the project between separate standard breakers.

Questions about your electrical setup? Please consult with a master electrician.

Recent Posts

Sharing Tables and Meeting Neighbors

Sharing Tables and Meeting Neighbors

We to -  - As the weather warms up or will warm up in the Northern states soon, our minds turn to clearing out the clutter that seems to build up no matter how hard we try to stay simplified. As an alternative to a traditional yard sale or carting everything to a...

read more


Related Blog Posts

Get this Look: Traditional Glass C9 Bulbs

Get this Look: Traditional Glass C9 Bulbs

This project used 625 LED bulbs installed into SPT-2 cord purchased in a bulk spool. To create this look, start with this supply list. Materials C9 Spool 1000-feet 9 inch spacing green wire SPT-2 C9 White Glass Light Bulbs C9 Rubber O-Ring Green Male Gilbert Plugs...

read more
Get This Look: Colorful Patio Lights

Get This Look: Colorful Patio Lights

This look is easy to create with a standard E26 cord and colorful patio lights. The cords can be purchased separately or a cord from a big box store can be transformed into a unique creation suited to your taste and installation from this selection of bulbs with E26...

read more
Carrot Cake Cookie Recipe

Carrot Cake Cookie Recipe

Busy times require quick and easy cookie recipes! Cookies made from a boxed cake mix could not be more straightforward. We love this combination for Christmas. They were a massive hit at a cookie exchange yesterday. We love making these easy cookies with kids. We hope...

read more
Get this Look: A Gingerbread House She-Shed

Get this Look: A Gingerbread House She-Shed

After decorating the house and lawn for Christmas, why stop? Don't let she-sheds, workshops and storage buildings sit sad and dark for the holidays. Simple projects like this one might only require what is left over! For a project like this, you'll need about 50 feet...

read more