Looking to add an outdoor structure to your backyard or patio? Thinking of a pergola or a gazebo but, don’t really know the difference? Find out here.
Pergola – gazebo – do you get these 2 outdoor structures mixed up? Fear not, many people do.
You are pretty sure you want either a pergola or gazebo. With this explanation of the difference between a pergola and gazebo, you will not only be clear about what both are but, you will also be more clear about which one you want to purchase and install in your yard.
What is a Pergola?
Let’s first define pergola.
A pergola is an outdoor structure with top slats or rafters installed at set intervals across the top supports – as opposed to a solid roof. The slats provide some sun protection and shade but it is not complete. The slats can be positioned close to each other or farther apart. How far apart the slats are determines the amount of sun exposure you will get.
Pergolas are useful in space where you can tolerate some sun. If you want complete sun blockage, a pergola may not be appropriate.
The other very nice feature of pergolas is that they are very decorative, so they will always add a stylish look to your backyard. A classic pergola will tend to made from finished wood – red cedar or treated pine – with decorative end cut slats on the top. Newer versions of pergolas are now being manufactured from maintenance free vinyl, fiberglass and even aluminum.
Types of Pergolas
While you may think that a pergola is a pergola…think again. There are many types of pergolas available today. Pergolas are not just made from wood anymore. They can be made from various materials including vinyl and aluminum. There are also varying styles of pergolas for you to choose from.
With the wide variety of pergolas available today, you are sure to find one that is right for you…assuming you have decided on a pergola versus a gazebo.
The classic pergola style is like the one shown below. It consists of support posts and an open framework roof-like top made up of slats or rafters. Most classic pergola styles also incorporate decorative wood cuts on the ends of the slats, and may even include ornate corner supports.
As well, the classic pergola is constructed with wood, and most often durable and long lasting cedar.
Arched Top Pergola
A pergola with an arched top is much more specialized. Marking the arch shaped slat rafters takes much more effort and materials to produce. As such, the cost will generally be more but the design esthetic may be worth it for you. This is not your standard pergola – and everyone will notice it.
Shop Arched Pergolas here.
Wall Mounted Pergolas
A wall mounted pergola will have the same basic design as a standard pergola. The only difference will be the support system used. With the house wall used as a support for one side, you will only require 2 additional support posts. Of course, you will need a support beam which will be attached to your outdoor wall.
Besides requiring a little less materials, a wall mount pergola will give the added allure of having the look of your indoors directly linked to your outdoors. This often has the effect of making your indoors feel larger – as the indoor room appears to continue further even though it is outside.
Shop Wall Mount Pergolas here!
In Line Pergolas
In line pergolas are narrow versions of a standard pergola. They are mainly for decorative purposes, and much less about providing any sun protection. An in line pergola can act as a decorative entry gateway or finishing detail on the side of a yard or pool.
This in line pergola is on a grand scale. Not only does this pergola have characteristics of an in line pergola, it almost appears to have a curved design. However, look more closely and you will see that it is a play on the design. This pergola is not really curved but it is the placement of the support posts and the sun’s rays which make it appear curved. What a wonderful piece of architectural art in the form of a pergola.
Specialized Pergola Designs
While most pergolas have a flat or arched slatted roof, there are some which incorporate more traditionally styled roof designs while still maintaining the pergola slat open top framework.
Here are a few examples of these variations on the pergola top shape. You can choose a vaulted gable roof slat top or a hip or pyramid top pergola.
Another pergola design variation is a curved shape pergola.
To highlight a rounded or curved edge pool, a rounded pergola may be the perfect finishing detail to add to your patio area.
While this photo shows a city-scape with a very large curved pergola, a smaller version can look just as decorative and appealing in your own backyard.
Shop custom curved pergola designs for your backyard here!
While most pergolas have some type of scrolled or curved edge decorative elements, there are also modern pergolas available. With a modern pergola, you will find more linear lines, and less ornate detailing. The slats or rafters will be straight, even at the ends where a typical pergola has decoratively finished rafter ends.
A modern pergola may even have no slats such as the one shown below. In this case, the pergola utilizes retractable fabric canopies to provide some shade from the sun.
While many pergolas are meant to be enjoyed without any fabric shades, many – like the modern one shown above – come with a moveable fabric top which can be open or closed for more sun shade coverage.
Another option to get more sun coverage – without having to worry about any fabric shade – is to install a louvered top pergola, or louvered canopy pergola.
These essentially work the same as a horizontal blind for your windows, except that these ones are vertical louvers. Twist a handle and the louvers open or close.
You get all of the benefits of a pergola – decorative and some shade all the time – as well as the functionality of closing all of the top louvers and getting completely full sun coverage.
Not only can you get the amount of sun exposure that you want at any give time, at the flick of the wrist, you won’t have to worry about replacing the fabric sun cover – which, in time will eventually need to be replaced.
With most louvered slat top pergolas, you can also customize which slats or louvers you keep open or closed – blocking only the sun necessary – making sure you get the most of your outdoor space.
Of note, most louvered top pergolas will be made only with vinyl, aluminum or fiberglass. As with a window blind, it is much easier to get the integrity and stability required for a louvered top with these lightweight, yet sturdy materials. As well, these man-made materials are much less likely to warp over time as is the case with wood.
Shop some Modern Louvered Canopy Pergolas:
- 10 x 12 ft. Grey Novara Pergola with Louvered Canopy
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- Price: $2399.95
- Manufacturer:Paragon Outdoor
- 12 x 20 ft. Grey Novara Pergola with Louvered Canopy
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- Price: $4564.95
- Manufacturer:Paragon Outdoor
- 10 x 12 ft. White Novara Pergola with Louvered Canopy
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- Price: $2184.95
- Manufacturer:Paragon Outdoor
- 12 x 20 ft. White Novara Pergola with Louvered Canopy
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- Price: $3254.95
- Manufacturer:Paragon Outdoor
Shop more Classic Louvered Canopy Pergolas:
Shop more vinyl Pergolas here!
A classic pergola will be made from long lasting finished wood. This can be various types of wood including red cedar, white cedar or treated pine. Newer versions of pergolas are now being manufactured from completely maintenance free materials such as vinyl, fiberglass and aluminum.
Decide on the type of pergola material based on your desired look, how long you want it to last and your budget. For a rustic look, you will want to pick a pergola made from red cedar. For an even more rustic pergola, opt for a white cedar log pergola.
While cedar is a long lasting material, you will still need to maintain the finish. For a long lasting and completely maintenance free structure, you can install a rust-free aluminum, vinyl or fiberglass pergola.
Pergola sizes are only limited to your imagination, your outdoor space and of course, your budget. You can easily find ready to order, build it yourself diy pergola kits in most square and rectangle sizes up to 16 x 32. All of the square and rectangular pergola sizes can be purchased in all of the various materials available – including cedar, treated pine, vinyl, fiberglass and aluminum.
There is one notable exception to the sizes of pergolas available. Due to it’s natural material limitations, white cedar log pergolas are limited to sizes of up to 12 x 12 feet. Because they are made with natural logs, unless our white cedar trees get bigger, we cannot have a larger white cedar pergola.
Unless you have some extra white cedar trees on your own property which are very tall, you will have to settle for a 12 x 12 foot pergola. There is always the option of installing multiples together though, right?
With a tiered pergola design, you allow yourself to get a much larger pergola. And this is the reason that I have included a tiered pergola into the size category. The more tiers you have, the larger your pergola can be – without any real limitations or restrictions.
As you can see, a tiered pergola will be large but, is also very decorative.
Note though that although you can get several tiers to make a very large pergola, each tier is visually a separate room. Even though it is one large structure, it appears that each level or tier is somewhat separate. This is a partly a result of the number of additional posts required in a tiered pergola. The posts and the roof levels delimit the space – even though it is still wide open.
Note that while this pergola is very custom, it is really just built with 3 separate pergolas together – with a few less posts, of course. So, essentially, you can shop for each pergola and install them together to make one very large pergola.
Shop pergolas now!
Now that we have talked a lot about pergolas and their characteristics, let’s take a look at gazebos and make clear the differences between the two outdoor structures.
What is a Gazebo?
Like a pergola, a gazebo is a permanent outdoor structure. The main difference is that a gazebo will have a solid roof – no slats or rafters. With the addition of a solid roof, a gazebo becomes more like a building versus an open structure.
Gazebos are more closed in and provide solid and full sun protection. They can also have sides making them, again, more like a closed room. Some varieties include permanently installed screening which provides protection from pesky bugs and insects. Some gazebos may also include a door.
Like pergolas, gazebos tend to be decorative. As well, both yard structures come in various durable materials such as cedar, treated pine, vinyl and white cedar.
Shop Gazebos here!
Gazebo Sizes and Shapes
Gazebos come in various shapes and sizes. Shapes include classic round and the sister shape, an octagonal shape. Square and rectangular gazebo shapes are also readily available. Take the rectangle shape and round out the edges slightly and you get an oval gazebo.
For the geometrically inclined, how about a hexagon, elongated hexagon, octagon, or even a dodecagon gazebo. Like many of you, I am aware of the geometric shapes hexagons and octagons. However, maybe like you, I have never heard of a dodecagon.
What is a dodecagon? Simply put, a dodecagon gazebo is a large gazebo with 12 sides. By nature of the large number of sides – 12 – a dodecagon gazebo will be a large one. The smallest size of a dodecagon gazebo is 20 feet across.
Large Sized Dodecagon and Octagon Gazebos
One can only imagine a 12 sided gazebo which is only 6 feet across. There would not be much of a gazebo at all. The angles of the sides would make the inside space extremely small.
If you are looking for a large gazebo, a dodecagon – with angled sides which has the look of a circle – an octagon or a rectangle gazebo will be the options you should consider.
Shop Large Dodecagon Gazebos here!
Similar to pergolas, gazebos are available in various materials. The most common outdoor materials used in the manufacture of gazebos are red cedar, treated pine and vinyl. The difference between the materials is the obvious look, durability and price. Expect to pay more for both cedar and vinyl gazebos – versus the least expensive, treated pine. Vinyl gazebos are even more costly than cedar gazebos but will last a very long time with little maintenance required.
A durable and long lasting moisture resistant wood is cedar. As such, cedar is used in many outdoor buildings and outdoor structures. Gazebos made from cedar are no exception. Not only is cedar durable, it has a natural look and feel without any additional finishes required.
Shop Cedar Gazebos here!
Treated Pine Gazebos
For a less expensive option, you can build yourself a gazebo from treated pine. With treated pine, you can add whatever finish you like – either stain or paint. Finish it with a cedar finish stain to get a cedar look. Or, finish it with white paint to match your house with white siding.
Shop Treated Pine Gazebos here!
A gazebo made from vinyl will be the longest lasting of all the materials and will require the least amount of maintenance over the years. As such, vinyl gazebos will cost more and will require a higher budget for the same size and shape.
Shop Vinyl Gazebos here!
Gazebo Roof Designs
One of the main differences between a pergola and a gazebo is the roof structure – or the fact that there is a solid roof – or not in the case of a pergola. While a pergola has a slatted roof, a gazebo has a solid roof. There are numerous styles of roofs available for gazebos. As you will see, a roof is not just a roof when it comes to gazebos.
You will find standard single roof structures, double tiered roofs and even decorative curved and rounded roofs. All of the roof styles will provide the shelter you want. It is up to you to choose your gazebo roof style based on the decorative look you desire.
Single Roof Gazebo
A single roof will look similar to your house roof. There will be a single layer of shingles. This is the standard for many gazebos. The difference with this and a tiered roof is that there is no added airflow with a single roof. Look to a tiered roof if airflow is important to you.
Single roofed gazebos can have either a pyramid / hip roof style or a gable roof design. The choice of either roof type will depend solely on your desired design style and budget.
Gable Roof Gazebo
A classic and simple roof structure, the gable roof is basically a 2 sided roof with one peak in the center. A gable roof design is a classic most likely due to its simplicity.
Pyramid or Hip Roof Gazebo
Another very popular roof design for a gazebo – or house roof – is the pyramid or hip roof design. This roof design is slightly more complicated yet still very common. If you like a little more visual interest, you may want to opt for a pyramid or hip roofed gazebo.
Double Tiered Roof Gazebo
With a double tiered gazebo roof, you will get the benefit of more air flow. As with many portable outdoor shelters, airflow can be very important. Not only will you get more air flow, you will also get an added decorative look – something that differentiates gazebos from pergolas, in general.
Some may argue that this gazebo has a triple roof. However, when buying a new gazebo, the gazebo shown here is actually considered a double roof. The small decorative cupola is simply a decorative addition to the roof and is not considered a tier on its own.
Shop Double Roof Gazebos here!
Rounded or Curved Gazebo Roof
If you would like another decorative element on your gazebo, you can opt for a rounded or curved roof.
This gazebo roof is styled in a traditional hip or pyramid design with the addition of curved seams or joints.
Shop Curved Roof Gazebos here!
One of the benefits of a gazebo versus a pergola are the additional options available. Some of the options include adding bug screens and a door. This makes the gazebo much more like an outdoor room allowing for more time spent in your backyard.
If you like the shelter and shade provided by a solid roofed gazebo but would also like to avoid the annoyance of bugs and pests, then you may want to add some screening to your gazebo walls.
Depending on the size of your backyard and its proximity to any wooded areas, you will find that adding gazebo screens will give you much more leisure time in your gazebo. Screens added to a gazebo can be especially useful and desirable if you like to spend evenings outdoors – the times when mosquitoes and insects can be at their worst.
If you want a closed-in outdoor room, you can build a gazebo with both screened sides and a screen door. This way, you can spend many hours inside without getting sunburned as well as getting full protection for those pesky backyard insects such as mosquitoes, tics and black flies.
While most may think that a cupola on the top of a gazebo is simply for decoration, it can provide a very important function as well. A functioning – not just decorative – cupola will provide important ventilation and air flow. If you have ever spent many hours in a gazebo without a roof vent or cupola, you may have noticed that it can become very hot inside.
As well, if you have someone who is smoking a cigar or cigarette, the ventilation will allow the smoke to exit the gazebo much more quickly and efficiently, rather than just seeping out through the open walls and sides.
Choose a Pergola or Gazebo
If you were slightly confused I hope that you now are clear about the differences between a pergola and a gazebo. You should also be much more aware of the various types and styles of both pergolas and gazebos.
Based on this information, choose the backyard structure – pergola or gazebo in the design style and material you love – which will be right for you and your lifestyle.
And then there are these other outdoor structures for your backyard called Ramadas. Coming soon…find out the difference between a Ramada and a Gazebo here.
Now that you have chosen your backyard structure – a pergola or a gazebo,