Pergola vs. Gazebo: What’s the Difference?

Find out which one might be the better option for your home.

Pergolas and gazebos add shade and functionality to your home in distinctive ways. Here’s how they differ.

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What is a Pergola?

A pergola is a tall yard structure composed of columns or pillars supporting an open crossbeam roof. They can be standalone structures, like on patios, or extend from the side of a home. Like most outdoor structures, they come in varied shapes and sizes. All pergolas have the same general purpose — providing shade in what is usually a sitting area.

Pergolas can be made of wood, vinyl, fiberglass and other sturdy materials. Covers also come in a wide range of materials, and more expensive models can be retractable. Pergola kits are one option for pre-made plans that take away a lot of the guesswork. You can also go the DIY route.

GazeboFOTOGRAFIA INC./Getty Images

What is a Gazebo?

Gazebos are tall, covered, freestanding rounded structures. Typically built of stone, wood and iron, they’re popular on large properties, in a garden area or overlooking scenic views. See the best gazebo kits here or check out these DIY plans for inspiration.

What’s the Difference Between Pergola vs. Gazebo?

Gazebos, unlike pergolas, have a closed roof. Most gazebos are raised off the ground and rounded, while pergolas are rectangular and connected to a hard ground surface like a patio.

Other outdoor structures similar to pergolas and gazebos include arbors and trellises, which are generally smaller and used differently.

How to Know Which One is Best for You?

With outdoor living trends remaining popular home options, adding a pergola or gazebo could be a great addition for your family’s space and might increase your home’s value.

Before purchasing or building one of these outdoor structures, consider which best fits in your neighborhood. If you’ve seen more pergolas or more gazebos at your neighbors’ homes, that might be a good indication which option is more popular where you live.

With their closed roofs, gazebos are good for staying dry if you live in a rainy region. Pergolas let in more light, which might be more favorable in other parts of the country. Think about which option you and your family would enjoy more. If you are leaning toward a gazebo, consider the size of your lot. Be sure to built it far enough from the home so you don’t lose valuable yard space.

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Alex Shoemaker
Alex Shoemaker is the Digital Newsletter Editor of Family Handyman.