Pergola vs. Gazebo: Which One Should You Pick?

Megan DeMatteo
Written by Megan DeMatteo
Updated January 11, 2022
Pergola attached to house
Ziga Plahutar / E+ via Getty Images

Both pergolas and gazebos offer shade and weather protection for your backyard, but one boasts a more modern aesthetic

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Pergolas and gazebos are popular shade structures for homeowners planning to renovate their backyard, patio, or pool area. Homeowners who want a more modern feel often opt for pergolas, while six-sided or eight-sided gazebos suit those who want a classic design choice.

What is the Difference Between a Gazebo vs. a Pergola?

Gazebos and pergolas are both backyard shade structures that provide a touch of ambiance to your lawn—making you the ideal backyard barbeque host.

While both structures have similarities, the terms “pergola” and “gazebo” are not interchangeable. Here is what you need to know about each outdoor shade structure.

What is a Gazebo?

Gazebos provide an instantaneous Victorian garden effect. Structurally, they often come in the shape of a polygon with six or eight open-air sides and two small sets of steps leading up to the center platform. They tend to have pointed, shingled roofs and ornate, lattice-type wooden accents. Gazebo costs range from $1,500 to $20,000 at the extreme upper end.

What is a Pergola?

Pergolas are, by design, more minimalistic and therefore more elegant and modern than gazebos. Their primary purpose is shade, but the custom pergolas have cozy touches like outdoor fire pits, smart-technology shade beams, and retractable shades.

While gazebos often have an elevated floor, pergolas have four posts that sit directly on any surface, such as concrete, grass, or outdoor tile. Pergolas range from $3,000 to $6,000 in cost. They often come manufactured with different materials, including vinyl, wood, and aluminum.

Cedar wood gazebo
laughingmango/ E+ via Getty Images

The Pros and Cons of Gazebos

Gazebos can add value to your home when built by a trusted local builder and high-quality enough to last. Homeowners can add optional screens to the open-air walls, which will help keep out insects and provide a relaxing retreat for reading, hobbies, or sitting and chatting with friends. And thanks to a gazebo’s solid structure, you can likely run electrical wiring to it to have a well-lit space to relax.

However, the classic Victorian design of gazebos can appear outdated to some. Of course, you and your contractor can always work together to create a custom-designed gazebo with modern concrete flooring and decorative shingles that complement your home’s architecture perfectly. Keep in mind gazebos tend to be a little more expensive due to higher lumber costs. Shop around for a reputable gazebo contractor near you before you begin.

The Pros and Cons of Pergolas

Pergolas tend to be easier and less expensive to build, thanks to their simple, four-post design. They are also more versatile as far as materials go, with some designs using aluminum or vinyl in place of wood. Pergolas no doubt add value to your home, plus they are more easily customizable compared to gazebos. The open-air feel of pergolas means homeowners can install a fire pit or place a large outdoor sectional next to an outdoor bar.

Unfortunately, however, pergolas don’t have a floor like gazebos. If you want to walk on solid ground, you’ll have to install ceramic or composite outdoor tiles on your patio first before putting in your pergola. And while smart pergolas can offer weather protection with just the tap of a button, most pergolas provide minimal shade or weather protection. And they don’t hold up in extreme conditions as well as gazebos, which have a roof very much like a standard home.

The biggest benefit of pergolas is their stunning visual design and ability to section off areas of your backyard for entertaining. They are elegant, modern, and chic compared to the somewhat outdated look of backyard gazebos. Play up the look and feel of your pergola by adding plants or vines from the overhead beams, or hang sheer curtains along the sides for an outdoor “glamping” vibe.

Pergolas vs. Gazebos

So, which is better for your backyard: a pergola or gazebo?

Ultimately, the choice between pergola and gazebo depends on personal preferences. However,  you should consider your budget, design preferences, climate, and how you plan to use the space before deciding.

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