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Pergola vs Gazebo: Which is the Right Addition for Your Outdoor Living Space?

Pergolas and gazebos are popular outdoor structures that enhance the aesthetics and functionality of a backyard or garden space. Both provide shelter, shade, and a designated area for relaxation or entertainment. However, they differ in design, materials, and purpose, making it essential to understand their unique characteristics to choose the one that best fits your needs.

So which one is the right choice for your outdoor living space? In this guide, we’ll walk you through the similarities and differences between the two and what you should consider before adding one to your backyard.

Pergola vs Gazebo

Pergola vs Gazebo

A pergola is a rectangular structure, typically attached to a hard ground surface like a patio. It has an open, partially covered roof made of horizontal beams supported by vertical posts. The open roof design allows for sunlight and air to move through easily while still providing shade. Pergolas are often chosen for their modern, minimalist appearance and their ability to blend in with various architectural styles.

A gazebo is a freestanding, classic structure that is usually raised off the ground. It has a fully enclosed roof system, offering protection from sun, rain, and other weather elements. Gazebos are often hexagonal or octagonal in shape, making them a more traditional choice for homeowners who prefer a classic design.

Design and Structure

Backyard Pergola

Roof Structure

Pergolas typically have an open roof composed of a lattice or trellis structure. This design creates partial shade and provides support for climbing plants while still allowing air and light to flow through freely. The roof of a pergola may have a slight pitch or lie flat, and it is frequently rectangular or square in shape.

Gazebos possess a solid and water-resistant roof, typically in an octagonal or round shape. The solid roof protects users from rain and direct sunlight, offering more shelter than a pergola. Gazebo roofs can be made from materials like wood, metal, or even fabric, depending on the desired look and durability requirements.

Walls and Enclosed Sides

Pergolas are designed with an open and airy feel, featuring minimal walls and a focus on pillars or posts for support. These pillars sustain the roof structure and give a sense of openness to a yard, patio, or outdoor space. A pergola’s rectangular or square configuration often relies on non-restricted access.

Unlike pergolas, gazebos usually have more enclosed and defined sides. This can include partial or full-height walls, built-in seating, or railings. The enclosed sides provide a sense of privacy, security, and shelter from the elements. Gazebos are commonly built in a variety of styles, ranging from rustic to ornate, and serve as inviting focal points in the yard.

Materials and Durability

Gazebo Kits

In Pergolas and Gazebos, different materials are used for construction, which greatly affects their durability. This section discusses various materials used in constructing these structures, including wooden structures, aluminum and metal structures, vinyl, fiberglass, and other materials.

Wooden Structures

Wooden gazebos and pergolas have a classic, natural look and are often made from sturdy materials like cedar, redwood, or pressure-treated pine. These types of wood have a natural resistance to decay, rot, and insects, which helps increase their durability. However, wooden structures require regular maintenance, such as sealing, staining, or painting to prolong their lifespan. Among the different types of wood, cedar is considered more durable and resistant to insects, while redwood has a natural resistance to decay and warping.

Aluminum and Metal Structures

Aluminum and other metal structures like wrought iron and steel are popular choices for pergolas and gazebos due to their durability and low maintenance requirements. Aluminum is lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and doesn’t rust, making it a suitable option for outdoor structures. On the other hand, wrought iron and steel structures are heavier and offer more strength. These materials may be prone to rust, so applying a protective coating is essential to preserve their appearance and longevity.


Vinyl pergolas and gazebos are becoming increasingly popular due to their low maintenance requirements and resistance to various elements. They do not rot or warp and are resistant to insects and UV rays. Vinyl structures are typically easy to clean with soap and water and do not require regular painting or staining. While they may not have the same natural look as wooden structures, they do provide a more consistent appearance over time.

Fiberglass and Other Materials

Fiberglass pergolas and gazebos are lightweight, strong, and resistant to weather conditions and insects. They require very little maintenance and can be easily painted if a color change is desired. In addition to fiberglass, other materials like stone and concrete can be used to construct pergolas and gazebos. These materials offer an attractive and durable option, though they might be significantly heavier than other alternatives.

To choose a suitable material for your pergola or gazebo, consider factors such as the desired appearance, location, budget, and maintenance requirements. Each material has its unique advantages and drawbacks, which can influence your final decision based on your specific needs and preferences.

Functionality and Features

Modern patio furniture include a pergola shade structure, an awning, a patio roof, a dining table, seats, and a metal grill.

Shade and Weather Protection

Pergolas and gazebos provide shade and protection from the elements in different ways. A pergola typically has an open crossbeam roof, allowing for partial shade and some protection from rain. Climbing plants and vines can be grown on pergolas for added shade and aesthetic appeal.

A gazebo offers more substantial weather protection, as it has a solid, pitched roof that covers the entire structure. Gazebos can also have enclosed sides, providing additional protection from wind, rain, and insects.

Seating, Electricity, and Furniture Options

Gazebos generally have built-in seating options like benches, while pergolas usually require separate furniture. Both structures can be equipped with electricity to power lights or fans, enhancing their functionality and comfort. The choice of furniture for pergolas and gazebos may vary, but they can accommodate tables, chairs, loungers, and other outdoor pieces depending on the desired setup.

Integration with Outdoor Spaces

Both pergolas and gazebos can seamlessly integrate with other outdoor spaces such as gardens, patios, decks, and outdoor fire pits. Pergolas are often attached to a house or another structure like arbors and can serve as natural extensions of the living space. Gazebos, however, are usually freestanding structures and can be placed in various locations within the backyard. Their enclosed nature allows them to be focal points for entertaining or relaxation, while the open design of pergolas encourages a more fluid connection to the surrounding areas.

When considering a pergola or gazebo, it’s essential to keep in mind local building permits, as some locations might require one for the construction of such outdoor structures. Furthermore, regular maintenance is needed to avoid issues like mold and ensure the longevity of the structure.

Styles and Aesthetic Options

Classic, Minimalist, and Modern Designs

When it comes to style and aesthetic options for pergolas and gazebos, you have various choices depending on your preferences. In terms of classic designs, gazebos traditionally lean towards a more ornate appearance, often featuring intricate columns, railings, and pitched, covered roofs. Pergolas, on the other hand, may adopt a more simplistic approach with clean, vertical lines, and open, crossbeam roofs.

Minimalist designs for both structures emphasize simplicity and focus on blending seamlessly with the garden surroundings. Pergolas in this category typically use slim columns and clean, horizontal lines, while gazebos may feature more streamlined columns and less ornamentation than their classic counterparts.

As for modern designs, pergolas and gazebos adopt contemporary elements such as steel or aluminum frames, sleek edges, and innovative roofing materials. Modern pergolas may even feature retractable canopies, while gazebos may incorporate glass panels or unique shapes in their design.

Customizability and Decorative Features

Pergolas and gazebos offer various customizability options, allowing homeowners to tailor the structure to their specific needs and tastes. For example, pergolas provide flexibility in terms of roof structure, which can range from an open lattice design to partially or fully covered options. This enables homeowners to control the degree of weather protection and shading desired. Gazebos, while fixed in their covered roof design, can vary in terms of shape, materials, and roofing style.

Decorative features can enhance the aesthetic appeal and functionality of both pergolas and gazebos. Climbing plants, suspended planters, or ornamental trellis designs can be added to pergolas for added visual interest and privacy. Gazebos may benefit from removable or roll-up side walls, integrated seating, and intricate detailing on columns or railings. These customizable features can significantly impact the structure’s overall appearance and contribute to the garden’s curb appeal.

Cost Considerations and Value

Budget and Material Costs

When comparing pergolas and gazebos, it is essential to consider the budget and material costs. Pergolas are generally more affordable, with costs ranging from $3,000 to $6,000 for a 9-foot wooden pergola. Gazebos have a higher price range, typically costing between $5,000 and $10,000 for a 9-foot wooden structure. Material costs can vary depending on the choice of wood, metal, or vinyl.

Labor and Installation Costs

In addition to material costs, labor and installation costs should be considered when comparing pergolas and gazebos. Pergolas are generally easier to build and more DIY-friendly, reducing labor costs. Gazebos, on the other hand, have a more complex design and may require professional installation, resulting in higher labor costs. Building codes and permits may also affect the installation expenses, so make sure to check local requirements before starting the project.

StructureDIY-friendlyProfessional Installation Cost
PergolaYes$3,000 – $6,000
GazeboNo$5,000 – $10,000

Value and Property Impact

Both pergolas and gazebos can add value to a property, enhancing the outdoor space with functional and aesthetically-pleasing structures. Pergolas offer a minimalist and modern addition while providing shade and defining spaces in a yard. Gazebos provide a freestanding, enclosed space that can be used for various purposes, like outdoor dining or relaxation. In terms of property value, a well-built and maintained pergola or gazebo can positively impact the property’s resale, as it increases the overall appeal and functionality of outdoor spaces. However, it is important to consider the eventual maintenance costs and long-term durability of the materials used when making a decision between a pergola or a gazebo.

Factors to Consider when Choosing

When deciding between a pergola and a gazebo for your backyard or garden, there are several factors to consider.

Available Space

First, think about the space you have available. Gazebos are generally round or octagonal, while pergolas are rectangular and can be easily attached to an existing patio or deck. Assess your yard to decide which shape best suits your needs, and consider how the structure will fit into your existing landscape.


Material is another important factor. Both gazebos and pergolas can be made from various materials. Consider your budget, aesthetic preferences, and maintenance requirements when selecting the material for your structure.


The location of your outdoor structure plays a crucial role in its functionality. Determine the purpose of your pergola or gazebo.

If you want a space to set up a seating area to entertain family and friends, a gazebo might be a better choice due to its enclosed roof structure offering more shade and shelter from the elements.

If your primary goal is to support climbing plants and provide partial shade, a pergola with its slatted roof design could be a better option.


Anchoring the outdoor structure is essential to ensure it remains stable and secure. Consider the type of ground you need to anchor your pergola or gazebo. Pergolas are often connected to a hard ground surface, like a patio, while gazebos may require a more solid foundation.

Property Value

Understand what potential buyers may appreciate if you plan on selling your home in the future. A well-designed and functional outdoor space can add value to your property. Consider the structure that will be more appealing to potential buyers, taking into account factors such as its design, materials, and integration with the overall landscape of your home.


Consider the plants you intend to incorporate into your outdoor space. While a gazebo can house potted plants, a pergola offers the advantage of accommodating climbing plants, such as vines, which can create a natural canopy, further enhancing the aesthetic appeal of your garden or yard.

Frequently Asked Questions

Best Gazebo for Deck

What are the main differences between a pergola and a gazebo?

A pergola is a tall outdoor structure with columns or pillars supporting an open crossbeam roof, while a gazebo is a freestanding structure with a solid, fully covered roof. Pergolas typically have slatted roofs that allow sunlight and air to pass through, providing partial shade and ventilation. Gazebos, on the other hand, offer complete shade and shelter from the elements due to their enclosed roof design.

How do the costs of building a pergola compare to a gazebo?

The costs of building a pergola and a gazebo can vary depending on factors such as size, materials, and complexity of the design. Generally, pergolas tend to be less expensive than gazebos due to their simpler structure and open roof design. However, adding features like a retractable canopy or curtains to a pergola can increase the cost.

What materials are commonly used for pergolas and gazebos?

Common materials used for constructing pergolas and gazebos include wood, vinyl, aluminum, and steel. Wood is a popular choice for both structures due to its natural look and aesthetic appeal. Vinyl and aluminum are low-maintenance options that are resistant to rot and insects, while steel offers strength and durability.

Which is better suited for outdoor entertaining, a pergola or a gazebo?

Both pergolas and gazebos can provide great spaces for outdoor entertaining. The choice between the two depends on personal preference and the intended purpose of the space. A pergola may be better suited for casual gatherings with its open, airy design, while a gazebo offers a more enclosed, intimate space for events like outdoor dinners or small parties.

How do I choose the right structure for my outdoor space?

To choose between a pergola and a gazebo for your outdoor space, consider factors such as the available space, the intended use of the structure, the desired level of shade and shelter, and your overall design preferences. It’s essential to evaluate how the structure will fit into your existing landscape, as well as how it will complement your home’s architectural style.

What are the maintenance requirements for a pergola versus a gazebo?

Maintenance requirements for pergolas and gazebos depend on the materials used for construction. Wood structures typically require more maintenance, such as staining or sealing, to protect against rot, moisture, and insects. Vinyl, aluminum, and steel structures generally require less maintenance. However, it’s important to periodically check for signs of rust, chipping paint, or loose connections in any outdoor structure.

Pergolas are typically rectangular and connect to a hard ground surface like a patio. They have a slatted roof design allowing partial sunlight and plenty of ventilation. In contrast, gazebos are usually raised off the ground, have a rounded shape, and feature a completely enclosed roof system, providing excellent protection from sun and rain.

Add a Pergola or Gazebo to Your Backyard Today

When it comes to making an addition to your backyard space, both pergolas and gazebos offer a ton of benefits! Pergolas offer more sunlight and airflow, while gazebos provide superior protection from the elements. Both structures can be tailored to individual preferences in design, materials, and style.

So when it comes to choosing one, consider your needs, budget, outdoor space, and of course, your personal preferences. You really can’t go wrong with either one of these great options! Whatever you choose, you will love the new addition to your outdoor living space!

For more ideas on how to spruce up your backyard, check out this post on 15 Cool Backyard Ideas for a Unique Space!