How to Waterproof a Gazebo Canopy

Tips and Instructions for How to Waterproof a Gazebo Canopy

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The Egyptians created them. Romans and Greeks enjoyed them. In China and Japan they were also erected. Over 5,000 years since their inception, gazebos remain one of the most convenient structures for enjoying our outdoor spaces comfortably, shielded from the worst of the sun. Some gazebos will, additionally, preserve you from mosquitoes, depending on the model. Increase the lifespan of your investment with our tips for how to waterproof a gazebo canopy!

Tips and Instructions for How to Waterproof a Gazebo Canopy

There is, however, one potential inconvenience: unlike those of ancient times, many of the gazebos of today rely on a canopy to provide shade to you and yours, and the textiles they are made of are usually incapable of keeping water—such as from rain—from seeping through.

Nobody wants to cut their leisure time short simply due to a weather change. In this article, we will outline a few ways to prepare your gazebo so you won’t have to run for cover next time it rains.

And, furthermore, a gazebo is not a trellis either. A trellis is simply a latticed wall, for aesthetic appeal and for plants of your choosing to climb through as they grow; it has no roof whatsoever.

A pergola is fairly similar to a gazebo, the key difference being the roof, which is constituted by slats of wood with spaces between them (although some pergolas come with canvas pieces at the top, to provide better shade)

A gazebo, for its part, is more of an enclosed space. Its roof is completely closed (except from a vent or two at the top, in some cases) and, whereas the pergola is usually square or rectangular, a gazebo can also be hexagonal, octagonal or even round. Walls are also far more common in gazebos; they can be half height, full height, or be mere curtains or mesh which can reduce the light that goes into the interior, and keep flying bugs at bay.

Now that we know what exactly a gazebo is and how to identify it, it’s time to go over the available choices to make your gazebo better at preserving you from the rain.

Pergola style canopy with a waterproof covering

Waterproofing Method 1: An Appropriate Gazebo

This may seem self evident, but it is worth mentioning in case you are buying your first gazebo, or replacing an old one. Although a great many models use canvas (polyester, frequently) to provide shade, some are made in wood or vinyl, which makes them inherently better against the rain. Wood, it should be noted, will require more frequent and complex maintenance. Vinyl gazebos, overall, tend to be cheaper and easier to maintain, and they can last longer, too. Their main drawback is that vinyl gazebos are not as easy on the eye as many of their counterparts made in other materials.

Some models, for their part, come with a roof made in metal, such as galvanized steel. They may be a bit more expensive, but they will endure the elements much better, and their looks help them become the centerpiece of any backyard they are brought into.

As mentioned before, this alternative is only valid if you happen to be in the market for a new gazebo. If you already have one, and its only problem is a watery canvas, then the next section is for you.

Canvas canopy over an eating area

Waterproofing Method 2: Servicing the Canopy

First, an important distinction: it is quite likely that, when you bought your gazebo, its canopy was described as ‘water-resistant’; and yet, here we are, staring at the rainwater passing through like nobody’s business. It’s not a case of misleading publicity, nor did your provider make you look like a fool—it simply means that the canopy of your gazebo will not deteriorate when exposed to water.

Waterproof, on the other hand, means preventing the water from passing through, and that’s a whole different matter.

Textiles, as we all know, are made of interwoven threads; as the threads are brought together, small gaps are formed, which is how water goes through, even if the textile in question is left undamaged. Certain fabrics do come in different thread thickness, or denier; outdoor products such as backpacks or furniture covers may be rated 600D—the highest there is—, which makes them pretty good at preventing the water from passing through. Such products are more expensive, though, and the more common solution (which we are about to learn) is a proper waterproof coating, which may require reapplying once in a while, even if your textile comes treated from the factory.

The procedure we are about to cover will yield better results on polyester canopies—canvas is not so easy to waterproof, though it is possible. The process is also somewhat lengthy, but perfectly accessible for any determined DIYer. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Ladder.
  • Tarp, preferably waterproof.
  • Broom.
  • Garden hose with an appropriate sprayer, or a power washer.
  • Waterproof spray. This one comes with decently high marks, just remember to shake the can frequently while you’re using it.
  • Optional but recommended: a protective mask.
  • If you’d like to treat rust while you’re at it—which is highly recommended: sandpaper (220 grit should suffice for our current purposes) and rust inhibitor.
  • An appropriate sealer for the seams, and a hard bristle paint brush for application.

The Step-By-Step

Once you have your implements, wait for a sunny day, without wind; you’ll need it. Once the weather is favorable, you can begin by laying down your tarp.

  1. Climb on your ladder and detach the canopy from the frame by undoing the straps that keep it affixed; don’t forget to pull out any hooks that might be secured on the sides. When your canopy is free, spread it on top of the tarp.
  2. Fetch your hose or power washer, and give the canopy a good cleaning; the broom will help you get rid of any stubborn blemishes. Flip it over, and wash the other side as thoroughly as you did the first one.
  3. Next step is letting the canopy dry off completely—this is why you need a sunny day. Remember to flip the canopy at some point so both sides will be properly dry.
  4. There’s no need to be idle while you wait for the canopy to dry off: if you procured your sandpaper and rust inhibitor, you can inspect the frame for any signs of rust. Sand down any spots you find, and treat either the spots or the whole frame with the inhibitor; this will make the entire thing more durable.
  5. Time to prepare for the treatment. First, remember—this must be done when there’s no wind; a strong enough gust might move the canopy out of position, or blow the spray into places you don’t want it to, such as your clothes or skin. Cordon off the area (keep away children and pets), put on your mask—you don’t have to, but you might want to—, and shake the can vigorously. Apply the spray on a more inconspicuous area and give it 15 to 20 minutes. If there is discoloration or damage, you might want to shop for a different spray. If you’re satisfied with the results, proceed to the next step.
  6. Position the can at an angle of roughly 45°, about 8 inches away from the surface. Begin at a corner, and apply the waterproof spray in a slow sweeping motion all over the canopy. If the canopy is so large you fear you might not reach it comfortably, you can roll it up until there is only a foot or two’s width exposed. Treat that area, roll down to expose another foot or two, treat away, and repeat until the entire canopy has been rolled out and sprayed. Allow it to completely dry (this might take several hours), then flip it over and spray the other side.
  7. Use the paint brush to apply the sealant to the seams. It is feasible to simply look for potentially weak spots, or areas where older treatment is flaking off, and touch those up; there’s no reason, however, not to apply to the entire seam while you’re at it. Give it two or three hours to dry off.
  8. At this point, the treatment is done; you can reattach the canopy to the frame at your earliest convenience.

In Closing

The best way to waterproof your gazebo might just be to purchase one made of metal. That said, there’s no reason to toss away your current one if you can rehabilitate and bolster it with the procedure we just outlined. Whatever the choice you go for, we wish you a merry summer, and many happy memories!

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