Renovating your backyard comes with tons of benefits and advantages to your home, and while there’s a huge variety of add-ons to consider for installation, the two most popular options are pergolas and gazebos.
So, what exactly is the difference between the two, and which one should you consider for your next backyard makeover project?
In today’s article, we’ll put pergola vs gazebo in a head to head comparison, so you can figure out which one is ideal for you. Let’s dive right in!
A pergola is very close to a gazebo in terms of structure and concept, as they’re both considered property add-on structures built in backyards to provide shade and a place to hang out and spend some quality outdoor time.
For that reason, a lot of people confuse them for one another and might even use the two terms interchangeably.
But despite all the similarities between the two, pergolas and gazebos are two different items, so keep on reading as we explain the distinctions between them.
A pergola is a relatively tall and large structure that is often built in backyards for the purpose of partial outdoor sheltering.
Pergolas are usually composed of tall pillars or columns that support a roof, which usually has an open crossbeam but can be also closed.
Although wood is the most popular building material when it comes to pergolas, you can also build pergolas using sturdy materials like fiberglass, aluminum, and vinyl.
The structure of a pergola is not necessarily rectangular or square but the use of columns makes it the most common layout.
In general, pergolas tend to take a modern approach when it comes to structuring or design, which explains the use of other materials while manufacturing as well as including movable mechanisms, such as retractable roofs.
Since pergolas are established for various purposes, there has been a wide range of pergolas types out there. Let’s have a quick look at them:
These are the standard pergolas that don’t require external support. They can stand anywhere on their own using their own supporting pillars, which are usually 4. These pergolas are relatively portable when compared to other options.
Anchored pergolas are a more permanent version of free standing pergolas in which the supporting columns are fixed to the ground using various methods. They’re usually more structurally durable than their free standing counterparts.
This type of pergola involves movable roof slats instead of fixed ones, which allow you to control the amount of light passing through the roof and adjust the brightness of the pergola.
Unlike freestanding and anchored pergolas, a wall mounted one would rely on nearby structures for support.
The most popular case of a wall mounted pergola is when it is connected directly to the house’s patio.
In that case, the roof of the pergola is directly connected to the house on one side and stands on top of two columns on the other.
The greatest advantage of this type is that it provides extra support for the gazebo and turns your patio into a lounging area that is excellent for parties and spending time outside.
Gazebos are among the oldest man made outdoor structures that are built for the sake of sheltering, lounging, and enjoying the view, which is why they’re often built near gardens.
In fact, the earliest forms of gazebos have been found in various ancient civilizations, with the Egyptians building the first ones nearly 5,000 years ago.
The gazebo will typically include a half or whole wall structure (except for the entryway) that is made of 6 to 8 sides, giving it a hexagonal or octagonal appearance along with a raised foundation.
The roof of a gazebo is more sophisticated than other outdoor structures, which is usually in the shape of a dome or a cupola.
Similar to pergolas, gazebos also come in a variety of designs and styles, depending on various factors, such as the purpose of use, building materials, etc. Here’s a quick look at some of the most popular variations that count as a gazebo:
The patio gazebo is one of the most popular types of gazebos out there. This one is also known as an “anchored gazebo” because it’s often placed on patios permanently to keep it secure.
This one features an open structure that is used for lounging. Unlike standard gazebos with walls, this one uses removable curtains instead along with a fixed canopy roof to provide shade and shelter from the rain.
Pop-up gazebos are portable versions of patio gazebos that can be deployed within a few minutes like a tent.
In fact, some types of these gazebos are made of fiberglass supporting rods along with water-resistant synthetic fabrics similar to the ones used in tarps and tents.
Now that you know more about pergolas and gazebos, it’s time to take a closer look at the fine details that separate them from one another, so you can decide which one is ideal for your house:
As previously established, a pergola is usually either rectangular or square because it relies on having non-restricted access.
In other words, the pillars are mainly there to support the roof. Pergolas are also slightly larger in terms of size when compared to gazebos.
They’re usually built within the confines of private property, so they’re mainly sheltering the owners from the elements of weather, particularly sunlight, which explains the lack of walls.
Gazebos, on the other hand, are usually smaller in size with a hexagonal, octagonal, or round design because most pillars are connected using a half wall.
This design allows them to be a little more private than pergolas, which is why gazebos are also built in some public gardens and national reserves.
Back in the day, both pergolas and gazebos were mainly built using wood. However, as building technology advanced, a wider variety of materials were used to build them.
For example, modern pergolas will often use a combination of wood, aluminum, and fiberglass. Additionally, tiles and concrete are also used to build permanent pergolas and keep the structure solid and more durable against the elements.
This also goes for gazebos, which include various materials like powder-coated steel, wrought iron, and even synthetic fabric like polyethylene and polyester, especially in non-permanent gazebos.
Although both pergolas and gazebos can use a foundation to make the structure more stable, having a solid foundation is more common within gazebos.
Since gazebos are usually protected from rain by a solid roof, it makes sense to also build a raised foundation to prevent the rainwater from getting inside the gazebo.
In other words, having a foundation in gazebos is an integral part of its sheltering advantages and not just for the durability of the structure.
On the flip side, you can simply build a pergola just about anywhere as long as you’re capable of keeping the supporting columns stable, either by digging holes into the ground, screwing them down with bolts, or using materials like cement to hold them in place.
As you now know, foundations are almost mandatory for a gazebo, but you can always build a pergola without a base.
For that reason, a pergola will usually rely on other solid structures, such as the main property, for support, especially if you want to save more space and materials by using only two posts to keep the pergola up.
In conclusion, both pergolas and gazebos will usually require their own support in the form of columns, especially free standing ones.
However, pergolas have the extra advantage of using the house as optional support while the idea is rarely applied to gazebos because it’s simply impractical.
Aside from structural differences, access to sunlight is among the biggest points of comparison between the pergolas and gazebos, so it’s very important to keep that one in mind while choosing between them.
When it comes to roof design, pergolas usually have a more pronounced open-concept approach to design, so it is usually made of rafters or crosslinking beams of wood.
Additionally, pergolas usually don’t have any side walls, so sunlight usually reaches inside the pergola in the form of bright filtered light.
This makes pergolas ideal for areas with a relatively mild summer, as the design also allows wind breeze to cool down the pergola without being too dark inside.
As for gazebos, they usually have half walls as well as dome shaped roofs to keep the structure partially enclosed and well shaded from sunlight, which is why gazebos are excellent for regions with harsh summers.
This also goes for other elements of weather. Gazebos are usually equipped with protective half walls that can break the wind and even muffle the noise, especially when combined with climbing plants and vines
Investing in the outdoor space of a house can incredibly increase the property value, which makes projects like pergolas and gazebos an attractive investment for homeowners.
This is because both gazebos and pergolas make use of the outdoor space, increase the curb appeal, and make it worthwhile to enjoy your time outside.
With that being said, the exact figure or percentage of added value is highly dependent on the original location of your property and the usefulness of the backyard add-ons.
For example, if you live in the south where you’re more likely to go outside, you should expect a higher return on investment if you decide to build a gazebo or a pergola in your backyard, which is usually in the ballpark of 50% to 75% or even higher.
Another major point that all homeowners consider before building an outdoor garden structure is how much it’s going to cost them.
Since pergolas are usually much easier to build than gazebos, it’s no surprise that a pergola is going to cost you less to build, whether you’re building it on your own or using the help of a professional.
Why? Simply because pergolas will typically use fewer materials to build than gazebos, and since they’re easier to build, labor costs are usually also lower.
In fact, there are some easy pergola kits out there that you can assemble on your own if you have the necessary DIY skills and tools.
Keep in mind that the cost of building will vary depending on the building materials used as well as the size of the project and the labor rates in your region.
The durability of both pergolas and gazebos is highly dependent on the base materials used while construction, which also has a major impact on the ease of maintenance.
Ideally, if both pergolas and gazebos are made from the same materials, you should expect the gazebo to require more frequent maintenance checks because of its more complex structure.
After all, gazebos are built to keep the rain away and have additional walls that may require repainting and water insulation more often.
The best type of wood when it comes to pergolas and gazebos is teakwood because it’s naturally more resistant to moisture and sunlight than other materials.
However, when it comes to low maintenance, aluminum and vinyl strike an excellent balance between durability and resistance to elements.
Lastly, both gazebos and pergolas allow you to custom-design, although gazebos are typically the superior option if you want to do that.
For example, with a pergola, you can simply add mesh curtains to keep insects and other critters out.
However, with a gazebo, you can add a variety of items, including curtains, mesh windows, and even doors, which don’t work well with the open-concept approach of pergolas.
Choosing between a pergola and a gazebo highly depends on what you’re looking for as well as other factors, as each one of them has its own pros and cons.
On one hand, pergolas are usually easier to build and not as complex as gazebos, so they’re also cheaper to build and maintain.
Pergolas are excellent if you want a relatively secluded platform to hold your outdoor barbeque parties and spend quality time without restricted access.
On the other hand, while gazebos are usually smaller in size, they can be more practical when it comes to protection from harsh sunlight and staying private.
For many people, the unique aesthetic of a gazebo is more attractive, so they’re usually a better option if you have a nearby backyard garden and you don’t mind splurging a little more money for an outdoor structure that will stand out!
There you have it! A brief comparison that shows you all the differences between the two most popular backyard add-ons out there.
Whether you opt for a pergola or a gazebo, always remember to put your character in it, as you can get as creative as you want while building one!
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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