17 November 2023

Pergola vs Gazebo: What’s the Difference?


Outdoor living space with a beautiful view covered by a pergola.

When it comes to enhancing your outdoor space, two popular options that often come to mind are pergolas and gazebos.

These outdoor structures not only add aesthetic appeal but also serve various practical purposes. If you’re contemplating which one to choose, understanding the difference between pergolas and gazebos is crucial.

Let’s delve into the defining features of both structures and explore the factors that can help you decide between a pergola and a gazebo.

What is a Pergola?

Definition and Features

A pergola is an open-roof structure that adds charm and functionality to outdoor spaces. It can sometimes have a slatted roof, giving it great flexibility of use. Its defining features are as follows:

  • Beams and Rafters: Pergola roofs are constructed with horizontal beams and rafters that create a lattice-like structure on top. This design allows for partial shade and diffused sunlight.
  • Support for Climbing Plants: One of the unique features of a pergola is its ability to support climbing plants. Vines and creepers can be trained to grow on the structure, creating a natural canopy.

Common Materials Used for Pergolas

Pergolas can be built from a variety of materials, each offering a distinct look and durability.

Let’s start with wood. Wooden pergolas are a popular choice, offering a classic, natural look. Cedar, redwood and pressure-treated pine are commonly used for their resistance to rot and insects.

Otherwise, the other most common material for a pergola is metal. Aluminum pergolas are renowned for their longevity and low maintenance, as are steel ones. They can give a more modern look to your outdoor space.

Finally, the last most popular material for garden pergolas is vinyl. It’s virtually maintenance-free and offers excellent resistance to the elements. They are also available in many colors and styles.

What is a Gazebo?

Definition and Features

A gazebo is another type of outdoor freestanding structure, but it differs from a pergola in several ways:

Unlike a pergola, a gazebo has a closed, solid roof. It is also often covered with shingles or other roofing materials. This roof offers total protection from the elements.

Gazebos are also generally enclosed spaces, and can be fitted with walls or screens. These features make them ideal shelters against rain and insects.

Common Materials Used for Gazebos

Gazebos, like pergolas, can be built from a variety of materials, each bringing its own unique advantages in terms of technical features, aesthetics and ease of installation.

Starting with wood, gazebos made from this organic material lend a classic, timeless charm to outdoor settings. Woods such as cedar, redwood and pressure-treated pine are favored for their durability against rot and pests, just like their pergola counterparts.

Of the metal materials, aluminum gazebos stand out for their durable nature and minimal maintenance requirements, mirroring the advantages of aluminum pergolas. Steel gazebos also feature similar characteristics, bringing a contemporary touch to any garden or yard.

Finally, for those seeking the lowest possible maintenance, vinyl is a good solution. They withstand the elements with remarkable strength, echoing the low-maintenance appeal of vinyl pergolas. These structures are available in a wide range of shades and designs, ensuring that there’s a style to suit every taste and garden theme.

Outdoor living space by the pool covered placed under a gazebo.

Key Differences Between Pergolas and Gazebos

Now that we’ve defined both pergolas and gazebos, let’s delve into the key differences between these outdoor structures.

1. Design and Structure

Pergola: Pergolas have an open-roof design with horizontal lattice, slats or beams, providing partial shade and a combination of sunlight and shade. They often serve as architectural elements, defining outdoor spaces while maintaining an airy feel.

Gazebo: A gazebo roof is typically completely closed, offering full overhead protection from the elements. They have a distinct shape, such as octagonal, hexagonal, or circular, and are often used as central focal points.

2. Functionality and Usage

Pergola: Pergolas are versatile and can be used to create an inviting passageway or outdoor seating area in a garden space, patio, or any outdoor space. They are ideal for those who want a partial shelter. 

Gazebo: Gazebos are typically used for outdoor gatherings, dining, or relaxation. Their enclosed nature offer weather protection from rain and insects, making them suitable for various conditions.

3. Cost and Maintenance

Pergola: Pergolas tend to be more budget-friendly, especially if you opt for a simple design and materials like wood. Maintenance may be required to keep the wood in good condition, but it is generally less intensive.

Gazebo: Gazebos, with their complete roofs and more intricate designs, can be more expensive to build. The added protection and enclosed structure can also require more maintenance, especially if the roof needs upkeep.

Choosing Between a Pergola and a Gazebo

When deciding between a pergola and a gazebo for your optimal outdoor space, consider the following factors:

Factors to Consider

  • Function: Determine how you intend to use the outdoor structure. If you require full protection from the elements, a gazebo may be more suitable. For a balance of shade and sunlight, a pergola is an excellent option.
  • Aesthetics: Consider your preferred style and the overall look you want to achieve in your outdoor space. Pergolas often provide a more open and modern feel, while gazebos offer a traditional, enclosed roof structure.
  • Budget: Evaluate your budget for the project. Pergolas are generally more cost-effective, while gazebos can be pricier due to their roofing and design complexities.

Personal Preferences and Style

Your personal preferences play a significant role in choosing between a pergola and a gazebo. If you love the idea of an open, airy space with climbing plants and the play of light and shadow, a pergola might be the perfect fit. On the other hand, if you prefer a more enclosed and sheltered environment with complete protection, a gazebo could be the better choice.

It’s also worth knowing that bioclimatic pergolas are also available. These are aluminum structures with adjustable slats that regulate light, temperature and air circulation. They’re ideal for complete control over the sunlight and ventilation of your pergola.

Budget Considerations

Your budget will also influence your decision. Determine how much you are willing to invest in your outdoor structure. If cost-effectiveness is a priority, a pergola can provide an attractive and functional option without breaking the bank.

However, if you are willing to invest more for added protection and an elegant design, a gazebo may be the right choice.

Contact us today to embellish your outdoor living space

In the perennial pergola vs. gazebo debate, the choice ultimately boils down to your specific needs, style preferences, and budget constraints.

Pergolas offer a balance of sunlight and shade with their open-roof design, while gazebos provide complete sun protection with their enclosed structures and full sturdy roofs.

By understanding the biggest differences and considering your own requirements, you can make an informed decision to enhance your outdoor space in a way that best suits your lifestyle and aesthetics. Whether you opt for a pergola or a gazebo, both structures have their unique benefits and can transform your outdoor area into a charming and functional oasis. So, choose wisely, and start enjoying the beauty and utility of your new outdoor addition.

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