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Pergola Vs Gazebo: What’s The Difference

The biggest difference between a pergola and a gazebo is in the roof. A pergola has an open roof made of rafters, while a gazebo has a fully closed roof. A gazebo offers full shade and protection from the weather. A pergola allows the sun and the rain inside.

Are you tired of indoor living? You may want to consider building a permanent outdoor structure in your backyard where you can spend your summer days relaxing and letting go of your worries. 

Pergolas and gazebos are becoming increasingly popular amongst homeowners and you too can jump on the trend!

But which structure is ultimately better for you? Pergola vs gazebo?

If you would like a shelter in the middle of your lawn that offers full shade and protection from the elements, opt for a gazebo. Conversely, if you would like to define a specific area in your backyard with an open structure, go for a pergola. 

There’s a lot more you need to know! You can find all pergola and gazebo differences below! 

Pergola Vs Gazebo: Introduction 

What Is A Pergola? 

A picture of a pergola with a mountain and a rainbow in the background
Image credit:

A pergola is an open-style outdoor structure easily recognized by its lattice roof and open sides. It has vertical posts with cross beams and rafters across the top. Its appearance may be simple, but it creates a huge difference in one’s backyard. 

Since pergolas have a unique look to them, they are great for defining a space within the yard. They add visual interest to a garden and can look very romantic if you train grapevine or flowering vines to grow over the lattice. 

A pergola has a simple and versatile design that is easy to build and integrate into any backyard or patio. Pergolas are pretty forgiving and won’t break your bank if you choose to install one on your property. 


A picture of a pergola by the fence in the backyard

A pergola has a simpler design than a gazebo. It has no sides, roof, or floor. It is practically a rectangular framework made from vertical posts that carry cross beams and rafters on top. Pergolas are open on all sides and don’t have that “room-like” appearance. 

Pergolas are rectangular and are rarely seen in other shapes. They are not as diverse-looking as gazebos and are usually plainer in style and not as decorative. 

Their minimalistic appearance is what makes them attractive to so many people. They are also cheaper than gazebos since they don’t require as much material to build. 

Roof And Flooring 

A shot of a pergola lattice roof
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A pergola has a partly open roof. The lattice roof doesn’t offer much protection from the sun but you can still install a ceiling fan on it

You can build roof rafters closer together than usual to get more protection from the heat. The roof of the pergola can be also covered with fabric, bamboo, or vines to get more shade. Take a look at these unique and clever pergola cover ideas.  

Once you cover the roof of a pergola, you’ve got yourself a pavilion. You can use metal, fiberglass, plastic, or tarp to cover the top. Here’s how you put a roof on a pergola.

Unlike a gazebo, a pergola doesn’t have a built-in floor. This is why you will see pergolas mostly built next to a house on a concrete or stone patio.

Having a solid base for your pergola to stand on is not a requirement. You can erect it in the middle of your lawn, but you will have to anchor the posts into the ground with cement. Smaller pergolas don’t need to be anchored. They can be left standing on any level ground. 

Pouring a concrete base for your pergola isn’t that difficult. Take a look: 


A shot of a portion of a wrought iron pergola

Pergolas can be made from wood, wrought iron, aluminum, vinyl, stone, brick, and resin plastic. Wood is the most traditional material choice and the most classic and rustic looking. 

Pergolas made from hardwood are more durable and last longer than those made from softwood. Despite that, cedar is the go-to material for most people since it is naturally resistant to weather and insects. 

A wooden pergola can last you for decades if you protect it from rot and insect damage


A shot of a pergola over a picnic table by the beach

Pergolas are used to highlight a specific area in the yard. They can be built over an outdoor kitchen or a sitting area to make it look like an extension of the house. 

A lot of people choose to erect a pergola over a patio instead of a pavilion to keep the area more open. A pergola will define your patio and give it a shape, without taking the outdoorsy feel away from it. 

Pergolas are also used to connect gardens and buildings together. A smaller pergola erected between two gardens can act as a pretty archway. You can build one between your house and summer house to create a breezy walkway. 


  • Simple design, easy to build
  • Inexpensive 
  • Defines a yard space
  • Can act as a walkway or archway 
  • Available in a variety of materials 
  • Adds value to the home
  • Fresh breeze can blow through them 
  • Can be decorated with plants 
  • Can be turned into a pavilion 


  • Don’t offer much shade
  • No weather protection
  • No insect protection
  • Doesn’t have a floor 
  • Doesn’t offer privacy 

What Is A Gazebo

A picture of an octagonal gazebo in grassy lawn

A gazebo is an outdoor structure that resembles a small house. It is a freestanding building often seen in parks and luxurious yards. You can easily recognize a gazebo by its hexagonal or octagonal shape.

Gazebos look very different from pergolas. They have a closed design rather than an open one. They have a fully closed roof and have a built-in floor.

Gazebos have a very elaborate appearance. They look very romantic and are available in many shapes, sizes, and styles


A shot of a white hexagonal gazebo with trees in the background

A gazebo has a more complicated architecture than a pergola. A gazebo looks like a small building and requires a lot more material to build, even more than a pavilion. Click here for more gazebo vs pavilion differences. 

Gazebos come available in many styles, but they all share the same design. They all have a closed roof, built-in flooring, and partly open or fully closed sides. 

Since gazebos have side railings, they offer more privacy than pergolas. Some people even put screens on the sides and install windows to get full protection from wind and insects. 

But, the most recognizable feature of a gazebo is its shape. They are traditionally hexagonal, octagonal, and oval unless they are pop-up gazebos, which are mostly square

Roof And Flooring

A shot of a walking deck and a hexagonal gazebo in the park

The biggest design difference between a pergola vs gazebo lies in the flooring and roofing.

Compared to pergolas, gazebos have their own decking and don’t need to be built on a solid base. They can be erected on any level ground in the middle of nowhere if you choose. This is a huge advantage since you won’t have to spend any additional money on a deck. 

Unlike pergolas, gazebos have a fully closed roof, often protected with asphalt shingles. The roof is domed and supported by strong pillars and offers full protection from the sun, rain, and snow

Fancier gazebos are often decorated with a two-tiered roof, whereas portable gazebos have a canopy roof made of water-resistant fabric


A Victorian gazebo on a high altitude location with a sea clouds on the background

Gazebos are made of the same materials as pergolas. They can be made from wood, vinyl, wrought iron, aluminum, brick, and stone. Traditionally, they are made from treated hardwood or softwood

Hardwoods are known to be more durable and last longer than softwoods. They are also cheaper. For instance, a teak gazebo will outperform one made from cedar, pine or redwood. 

Vinyl is another material that is worth looking into. It can last twice as long as wood. It can also be made in different colors and patterns to match the siding of your house


A picture of a square gazebo surrounded by palm trees in a resort

A gazebo is an inviting outdoor structure designed for gathering, dining, and relaxation

Its main purpose is to give people a safe shelter where they can socialize. A gazebo will protect you and your guests from the unbearable heat, sudden rain, and annoying mosquitoes if you install netting on the sides.

A gazebo is a small house that can take on some of the roles of your real home. You can use it as a dining room or as an office with the most attractive view of your backyard.


  • Adds value to your home
  • Available in variety of sizes and styles
  • Offers full protection from weather
  • Creates shade
  • Has floor and roof
  • Can be installed on any level ground 
  • Allows for installation of screens against insects
  • Gives privacy 


  • Expensive
  • More difficult to build 
  • Holds fewer people than a pergola 

Pergola Vs Gazebo: Features Face To Face 


A burly man drilling a screw to a gazebo beam
Image credit:

Building a pergola is way simpler than building a gazebo. A gazebo has a deck, closed roof, and side railings. A pergola is only a framework consisting of four vertical posts and rafters on top. Even the simplest gazebo will take more time, skill, and material to build. 

Anybody with basic carpentry knowledge can build a pergola in their backyard. To build a gazebo, you will most likely need to hire a professional. A professional carpenter will charge you between $35 and $100 per hour.

A pergola is easier to install and is, therefore, a clear winner of this round

Interested in building a pergola on your own? This tutorial shows you how to do it:

Winner: Pergola


A picture of a checklist beside mallet and a tape measure upon a small table

Gazebos have a more complicated design than pergolas. They require more time and materials to build. You can expect to spend twice as much on a gazebo than a pergola. 

The price of a gazebo will drastically increase if you order a two-tiered roof, a built-in bench, install windows and steps, and run electricity to it.

If you hire a carpenter for $70 per hour, you will spend anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 in total for a 9-foot pergola. A gazebo of the same size will cost you from $5,000 to $10,000 at the same hourly rate. 

The clear winner of this round is a pergola. It is cheaper and takes less time to build. 

Winner: Pergola

Protection From The Elements  

A shot of a pergolas roof with raindrops streaking through it

Pergolas are completely open structures, from the top, bottom, and sides. They offer little to no protection from the elements. People sitting under a pergola will definitely feel the impact of the sun, rain, wind, and insects

Gazebos offer full protection from the weather. They have a closed roof which creates a dense shade for people to enjoy. The asphalt shingles make the gazebo waterproof and impervious to rain and snow. 

The semi-open sides of the gazebo allow the breeze to come in. If you get high winds in your area, you can always close the sides with screens or windows. Those will also keep the insects and critters out

The gazebo wins this battle. It offers better protection from elements and insects. 

Winner: Gazebo


Which is better pergola or gazebo?

Which is better, pergola or gazebo, depends on what you want from an outdoor structure. A gazebo is better for people who want a room-like place with full shade. A pergola is better if you would like to sit under an open structure with plenty of sunlight.

What do you call a pergola with a roof?

A pergola with a roof is called a pavilion. A pergola has an open lattice roof, while a pavilion has a closed roof. A pavilion offers full shade and protection from the weather, whereas a pergola allows the sun and the rain inside.

Is a pergola a permanent structure?

A pergola is a permanent structure if you anchor it into the ground, solid base, or attach it to the side of your house. Smaller pergolas don’t need to be anchored. They can be placed on any level ground and moved when needed. 

Give Your Backyard A Makeover 

No matter which outdoor structure you choose, you are guaranteed to give your backyard a makeover. A gazebo or a pergola will instantly add value and style to your home. 

These last tips will help you decide which to buy – pergola vs gazebo?

Pick pergola if:

  • You would like to soak in some sun while socializing.
  • You need a walkway in your backyard.
  • You would like to define an area.
  • You are on a budget.
  • You live in a dry climate with little rain. 

Pick a gazebo if:

  • You would like a full shade and protection from elements.
  • You would like more privacy.
  • You live in a diverse climate.
  • You have enough space in your yard.
  • Have a budget for it. 
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About The Author

Nadya Jones

Nadya is a writer, entrepreneur, and designer based in Raleigh. She writes in her blog, the one you are visiting right now, where she shares her love for landscaping, gardening, and outdoor design. Her husband Brett provides her with a lot of inspiration and behind-the-scenes content. Together, they work on creating beautiful outdoor spaces that serve as an extension of their home and inspire others to do the same. If you are interested in landscaping, gardening, or outdoor design, be sure to check out the blog! Also, follow Nadya on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr!

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