Gazebo vs. Pergola

December 7, 2015 by | 1 Comment

A unique outdoor space is a nice feature for any home, but deciding the best elements to include in that space can be difficult. Two common design choices that add to the form and function of any outdoor space are a gazebo and a pergola. There is a difference and deciding between the two isn’t an easy task as there are certain benefits to each. You’ll have to ask yourself what you want out of that outdoor space before you can get started.

What is a gazebo?

Gazebo vs. Pergola-Gazebo

A gazebo is an outdoor feature that exists as a free-standing structure with a complete roof. Gazebos come in many shapes and sizes and can be round, square, or rectangular, but the most common shapes have six or eight sides. The actual design of a gazebo can also vary. Some are constructed with a simple roof supported by posts while others incorporate a short wall, screens, doors, windows, and even benches or other permanent seating. Depending on the design, a gazebo can be a permanent or temporary structure.

People use gazebos for a variety of different purposes. In most backyard designs, gazebos are intended to provide individuals and family members a shaded space for rest and relaxation. However, gazebos are just as often used to provide additional living space outdoors, to host parties and social events, and even to house fitness equipment or other health and wellness elements.

What is a pergola?

Gazebo vs. Pergola-Pergola

A pergola is slightly different in design and function from a gazebo. A pergola is also a free-standing outdoor structure, but it is comprised of columns or posts that support an open roof or grid of beams and rafters. The open grid may be left uncovered or may be covered with greenery or other options like a flat roof to create shelter or shade.

Pergolas have long been used in garden and outdoor design to deliver aesthetic and function elements. In essence, the purpose of pergolas is two-fold: to create a frame around a view or opening and to provide an area of shade for relaxation and entertainment.

What is the difference?

Both gazebos and pergolas provide a lightly sheltered area outdoors to enjoy shade and entertainment, but they still differ in distinct ways. The three most significant differences in the outdoor structures are their shape, shade provision, and general appearance.


The characteristic shape of a gazebo is vastly different from a pergola. Gazebos are typically round, octagon, or hexagonal with a sloping or cone-shaped roof. Pergolas, however, are typically either square or rectangular and feature an open or only partially covered roof.

Shade Provision

As a gazebo typically features a fully-enclosed roof, it delivers superior shade protection. While it is still not covered on all sides, the characteristic conic roof provides ample shade and protection. A pergola, on the other hand, is only partially covered, so it does offer some level of shade protection but not nearly as much as a gazebo. And a pergola will typically not protect you from rain or other weather.


Gazebos typically appear more elaborate in design and construction with added elements, such as a half wall around, built-in seating, and other design elements. A pergola is just as attractive in appearance, but it typically highlights the natural beauty of the outdoors with simplistic style and often flowers or vines climbing over and through it.

The question here isn’t whether a gazebo or pergola is better. It is essentially what you prefer for form and function. A gazebo provides a slightly more detailed form and a bit more coverage and protection from the sun and other weather. However, a pergola is just as aesthetically pleasing in its overall simplicity and delivers a limited amount of shade coverage. Both structures are unique in and of themselves and are a unique element to add to any outdoor space.

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