Pergola vs. Gazebo: Which Is Better?

Adding outdoor structures to compliment your home’s aesthetic can be a confusing task. There are many options to choose from: patios, arbors, trellis, pergolas, gazebos, etc. When choosing between a pergola or gazebo, if you don’t know their distinct features and functionalities, you may mistakenly choose one for the other!

Let’s look at these two outdoor structures, so you can know better which one will fit your home.

What is a pergola?

A pergola is an open garden structure with a retractable roof that provides partial shades in walkways, driveways, passageways, or sitting areas. A pergola has four or two pillars or posts erected for support. They can be modern, or some have a natural aesthetic with plants and vines growing on the pillars or roofs to provide more shade and a cooler atmosphere. Pergolas also have a sitting area to relax, read from, or enjoy viewing the beautiful surroundings.

Sometimes, a pergola’s roof can be fixed and solid. In that case, we call it a pavilion.

A pergola can be made of vinyl, aluminum, wood, or fiberglass.

What is a gazebo?

A gazebo is a free-standing garden structure, usually hexagonal, rounded, or octagonal, with a solid pitched roof to protect from the elements. A gazebo might have no walls, half walls, or fully built walls but a window for viewing the garden space and more privacy. Screens are used for making their walls.

Gazebos can be made of wood, iron, or stones.

What is the difference between a gazebo and a pergola?

Though a pergola and a gazebo may look similar, and people interchange them often, various features and functionalities distinguish the two from each other. Therefore, it’s important to know these differences before settling for either of them.

Here are some significant differences between a gazebo and a pergola:

Has a fixed, pitched roof with a raised floor. It can be rounded, octagonal, or hexagonal.Has a horizontal retractable roof with a flat floor. Are rectangular.
Provides full protection from the elements.Provides partial protection from the elements.
Are costly to construct.Are less costly to construct. 

Let’s compare them.

1. Design and structure

A gazebo has a solid, fixed, and pitched roof, while a pergola has a horizontal and sometimes a retractable roof. Mostly, the roof design is used to distinguish a pergola from a gazebo.

 Gazebos have various designs of pitched roofs: dome-shaped, pyramidal, or curvilinear. These roofs are solid and fixed to the structure; hence they are permanent.

On the other hand, pergolas have horizontal planks called rafters for roofs made of aluminum, vinyl, wood, or steel. Often, these roofs are retractable and can be positioned according to the occupant’s desires.

Also, gazebos have floors raised above the ground, while pergolas have floors leveled to the ground or existing structure.

Gazebos are free-standing structures built in the garden. Their floors are raised above the ground to protect them during rains. Because the floor is raised, dirt and debris from outside don’t enter when it rains.

On the other hand, pergolas have their floors on the same level as the ground. This is because pergolas are mostly extensions of existing structures like decks or patios or can be extended from the main house to add to indoor living space. Free-standing pergolas have their floors built on the same level as the ground surface.

Gazebos can have halfway screened walls or walls extended to the roof but with windows to view the outdoor or garden space. This protects against elements like sun, rain, or bugs. Conversely, pergolas are open structures with lattices and don’t provide maximum protection against the elements.

2. Coverage

A gazebo provides full protection from the sun, while a pergola provides partial protection from the sun.

A gazebo has solidly fixed roofs that don’t allow sunlight penetration, offering full sun protection. Also, a gazebo can have screened walls to keep bugs away, making it more convenient to relax in the evenings and during bad weather.

Conversely, a pergola has intermittent cross beams laid spaciously and an open lattice to provide partial protection from the sun.

3. Costs

Installing a gazebo is expensive, while installing a pergola may cost half the gazebo’s cost.

The material used for construction and the structure’s size influences its overall cost.

 When these are compared, a pergola costs less, approximately $800-$1000. Meanwhile, installing a gazebo will cost you double this amount.

Is a pergola cheaper than a gazebo?

A pergola is less expensive than a gazebo. The upfront cost of a pergola is cheap and depends on the material used. Because a pergola can extend from an existing structure like a deck, and one can DIY the installation process, a pergola costs less than a gazebo. Inexpensive materials such as vinyl and natural wood reduce its overall cost.

Which is better, gazebo or pergola?

Both gazebo and pergola are great structures that complement the outdoor space as they add more ambiance and elegance to your home. They all add to home value though the Return on Investment (ROI) depends on factors like location etc.

When choosing between a gazebo and pergola, various factors come into play. Such factors include upfront costs, the presence of existing extensions, the space available, and functionality.

Check below how these factors will influence choosing a gazebo or a pergola for your outdoor area.

1. Upfront cost

Before starting any project, the first thing that rings into your mind is how much the project will cost.

Generally, gazebos tend to be more expensive to construct than pergolas. A gazebo may cost twice the amount you require to put up a pergola.

If your budget is tight, go for a pergola. You only need to get the materials and turn the project into a DIY cut on labor cost.

Where money is flexible and the only determiner, then a gazebo would do.

2. Presence of an existing extension

Do you have an existing deck, patio,  or veranda and would love to add something to make it more of a cozy oasis? Then a pergola must be your choice.

Pergolas are mostly built on existing structures like decks, patios, and verandas. All you got to do is add an awning, ground two pillars on both sides to form a sitting area. Add decor like plants, seats, or a fireplace, depending on what you want to achieve. Adding a pergola will enhance the existing structure.

Gazebos are free-standing structures, best built in the backyard or garden, forming a place’s focal point.

3. Outdoor space  available

If you have a small space in your backyard and still want to add either a pergola or a gazebo,  adding a pergola would be a great choice.

Pergolas are less scuttered and open. They need a smaller space to construct. Because they are open, they have more visual space, making it more interesting to spend your leisure at.  If you install a gazebo, the place would look stuffed, cluttered; making it less appealing.

4. Functionality

Finally, what would you most love to use the structure for?

Do you stay in an area that receives rain for most of the year? Do you want a structure to protect you from the scorching sun during summer, or do you want a place to spend most parts of the seasons at?

If you live in an area that receives rains mostly and would want to enjoy your outdoor space even when it’s raining, then going for a gazebo would be a great choice. This is because gazebos have solid, fixed roofs that will protect you from the elements regardless of the weather. The raised floor will also prevent dirt and water from getting into the place, making it more comfortable to spend time on.

If you want a partial shade while outdoors, then a pergola would do.

Regarding aesthetics, choosing a pergola would be a better choice for a minimalist and a simple person

Sources and References

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