Pergola vs. Arbor: Costs, Pros & Cons

While there are distinct differences between pergolas and arbors, people refer to them interchangeably. Both are outdoor hardscapes with many benefits but have some disadvantages.

Let’s find out in detail what they are, their costs, benefits, and drawbacks.

What is a pergola + uses?

A pergola is an open garden structure with four or two pillars that provides shades in walkways, pathways, passageways, and sitting areas. A pergola has a flat roof made of rafters or crossed beams spaciously placed to provide partial shade.

Pergolas can be vinyl, wood(cedar or redwood), steel, aluminum, fiberglass, and iron. Usually, it has a sitting area where one can relax or sit during leisure.

Pergola and Flagstone Patio Design
Pergola and Flagstone Patio Design

Pergolas can be free-standing structures or constructed as extensions from houses to add to the indoor living space.

Uses of a pergola

If you want to add a pergola to your outdoor space, you may want to know how the structure will help you. Below are the benefits of a pergola.

1. Provides shade and privacy

A pergola has crossed beams on their roofs which provide partial shade in the sitting area. Plants and vines growing on the lattice to the top block sunlight rays.

A pergola can have curtains on its sides to provide more shade and block views from neighbors, therefore more privacy.

2. Home for plants

Some pergolas have an open lattice framework from which climbing plants and vines grow. A pergola with plants and vines has a natural aesthetic that plant lovers may like. These plants transpire, providing a calmer atmosphere fit for relaxing in the pergola.

3. To add beauty to outdoor space

Adding a pergola to your outdoor space is one of the ways to improve the landscape of your yard or garden. With beautiful green plants climbing up the pillars and décor In the sitting area, a pergola creates an oasis that enhances the outlook of their site.

4. To add home value

Most structures built on the outdoor space increase the return on investment (ROI) during property sales. Pergolas are no exemption. When in the outdoor space, they enhance the outlook attracting home buyers.

Though ROI depends on location, material type, and size, a home with a pergola has an ROI of above 80%  when selling than one without.

What’s an arbor and its uses?

An arbor is a decorative free-standing outdoor structure with two or four pillars, a curved, arched, or rounded roof usually placed in entrances, walkways, passageways.

An arbor has flat side panels from which plants and vines grow, extend to the roof to provide shade.

You can make an arbor using different materials such as wood, stones, bricks, and vinyl.

Uses of an arbor

Below are reasons why you should consider putting up an arbor in your entrance or garden.

1. To make an area more appealing

An arbor in walkways, entrances to patios, or gardens makes the existing space look elegant and attractive. They have plants with flowers, fruits, or vegetables climbing on the side panels and roof, which enhances the place’s aesthetic.

An arbor at the entrance makes a walkway, driveway, or passageway more welcoming, and you anticipate seeing or knowing what’s in the space, especially if you are a visitor.

2. To provide shade and shelter

Arbors have plants and vines growing on their roofs and side panels which provide shade in the space below to protect one from the scorching sun. An arbor placed at the entrance of a patio offers shade.

When a long arbor or several are arranged in a line to form a tunnel in a walkway, they provide shade, making it more comfortable for one to walk in from one garden space to the other.

Some arbors have three posts; two on the sides, one in the middle back, and a sitting area below. You can sit in for some shade while exploring your garden.

3. To host  plants

Grow climbing plants and vines like tomatoes, roses, sweet pea, wisteria, and grapes on the arbor’s side panels and roofs. This trick is more suitable if you install the arbor at the entrance of the garden. Use plants such as jasmine, roses, and honeysuckle to produce sweet fragrances all over the garden.

4. For more privacy

An arbor also provides privacy in your garden or yard when you install them in rows to form a tunnel. This is perfect for blocking views from neighbors or can create a private hideout area in the garden.

5. To increase home value

An arbor at the entrance or garden space makes the space look more attractive. Use beautiful sceneries in your home like arbors to entertain guests and make a home look more expensive. With the other benefits like shades, privacy, and host plants, a home with an arbor attracts high prices in the real estate than one without.

What’s the difference between a pergola and an arbor?

Both pergola and arbor are great outdoor hardscapes that add elegance and ambiance to a home. Though they make look similar on some occasions, these hardscapes are distinct from each other. The table below shows simplified significant differences between a pergola and an arbor.

Pergola Arbor
Has a horizontal roof.Has arched, rounded, flat, or pitched roof.
Covers a larger space.Covers a smaller space.
Can have open sides or closed sides.Has open side panels.
More costly to install.Less costly to install.

Here are the significant differences between a pergola and an arbor.

1. Roof design

A pergola has a flat roof with spaciously placed crossbeams, while an arbor has many roof designs.

Pergolas have horizontal roofs made of planks called rafters. They also have cross beams on their roofs to partially allow sunlight penetrate the space. Some pergolas have climbing plants and vines on the tops for full coverage.

On the other hand, arbors have different roof designs; arched, rounded, flat, or pitched roofs. Arbors can also have plants and vines growing on their side panels and tops for more shade in the walkway or entrance.

2. Size

 A pergola is larger, while an arbor covers a small space.

Pergolas are big enough to host many people, depending on their size. Conversely, arbors are generally narrow. An arbor has a minimum height of 6 feet, a width of 3 feet, and can extend to 9feet or more.

Though arbors are small, they have enough space to allow people to walk through without squatting.

3. Sides coverage

A pergola often has open sides, while an arbor has sides covered in vines and plants.

Pergolas have four or two pillars on their sides which makes them an open structure. But, other pergolas have lattices on the sides for climbing plants extending to the top.

On the other hand, plants and vines grow on the sides of arbors, giving them a natural aesthetic.

4. Costs

A pergola is more expensive than an arbor.

Though costs depend on the material used for construction, size of the structure, and labor costs, a pergola is more costly than an arbor.

Pergolas are available in ready-made kits, which are more expensive than when you buy the materials and install them yourself. A kit costs between $1400- 2500, while labor costs are $500 to $1000.

To cut overall costs, buy pergola materials costing $800 and turn the project into DIY if handy with tools.

Meanwhile, arbors are less expensive and affordable. Premade arbor kits cost between $150-250, and you can then install them yourself or hire a professional, which costs between $200-$300 only.

Pros and cons

Both pergolas and arbors make an outdoor space look attractive and have many other benefits a homeowner can enjoy. While they are beneficial, they also have some drawbacks that you may want to know before having them in your space. Let’s find out these benefits and disadvantages.

1. Pergolas

Pros

  • They make the outdoor space more attractive.
  • Increases home value.
  • They provide partial shade and shelter.
  • They can be DIYed to cut labor costs.

Cons

  • They need a larger space to install.
  • Wood pergolas often need maintenance.
  • Termites can attack wood pergolas.

Arbors

Pros

  • Easy to install.
  • Doesn’t require a larger space to construct.
  • Cheaper to construct than pergolas
  • They make paths and entrances look more beautiful and welcoming.

Cons

  • Doesn’t support all types of climbing plants and vines.

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