Pergola vs Gazebo: The Difference Explained

Pergola Vs Gazebo

Are you considering adding a pergola or a gazebo to your outdoor space? Keep reading for the pros and cons of each, along with important considerations.

When homeowners think of elevating their outdoor space, they often turn to decorative and functional structures like pergolas and gazebos. However, many homeowners struggle to define the difference between a pergola and a gazebo.

So, what is the difference between a pergola vs. a gazebo?

If you’re looking for outdoor structures for your home, keep reading. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about gazebos and pergolas and how to select the best option for making your backyard a peaceful oasis.

What Is A Gazebo?

A gazebo is a freestanding structure for an outdoor space, and it has a solid roof to provide shade or cover from the rain. You will commonly see gazebos as a stand-alone structures in parks and gardens, and a gazebo can be a beautiful decorative feature in any garden space.

Often, a gazebo will feature a built-in seating area where people can enjoy socializing outdoors in a covered location.

The materials used to build gazebos vary, with stone, metal, and wooden gazebos. Many gazebos have intricate design features like pillars, latticework, and finials.

Gazebos have been around for centuries. However, they became increasingly popular in the Victorian era, with designs to match Victorian architecture.

Today, you can choose from many materials and styles to make a gazebo that matches your garden and home’s exterior architecture.

Pergola Vs Gazebo

What Is A Pergola?

Pergolas can be freestanding structures, but they are more commonly attached to a wall that supports the structure. Most pergolas consist of pillars supporting an overhead structure to provide shade and shelter from the sun. They normally have an open roof with crisscrossed wooden beams.

Pergolas vary in shape; you can install a round, rectangular, oval, or square. They can be built using wood, painted wood, PVC, stone, or metal. You have plenty of choices regarding the design of your pergola.

If you like a  garden with a variety of flowers and greenery, you can incorporate climbing plants like vines and roses into your pergola’s lattice. Vines growing up your pergola will also provide an added layer of privacy and more shade for you and your guests while using this outdoor space.

Pergola Vs Gazebo

What Are The Differences Between A Gazebo And A Pergola?

To help you determine whether a gazebo or pergola is best for your garden, let’s discuss some key differences between both structures, as each purpose is distinct.

Function Of Roof Structure

Here are some of the critical differences in roof function for a pergola vs a gazebo:

  • Sunlight exposure – a pergola will provide partial shelter, as the slatted roof has gaps that let sunlight and rainfall in. On the other hand, a gazebo pergola has a full-coverage roof that will provide shelter from both the sun and the rain.
  • Extending your home – a pergola can spread from your home’s exterior wall, adding an outdoor extension from your home. Since gazebos are freestanding, you can’t usually extend your home with outdoor space using a gazebo.
  • Size – gazebos are typically built to provide a large sheltered area where people can sit, relax, and enjoy the great outdoors. A pergola is more flexible regarding size, allowing you to create smaller shade for a window, french door, or pathway.
  • Local building codes – smaller structures might not require permission from your local building authority, so you’re more likely to need permission when building a gazebo, but if your pergola is quite large, you’ll still need a permit.


To help you understand more how the pergola and gazebo differ, let’s discuss how their structures are typically different.

Freestanding Vs. Attached

A gazebo is a freestanding structure, whereas a pergola can be both freestanding and attached, allowing for more flexibility when planning your new garden structure.

Commonly Rounded Vs. Rectangular

Gazebos are typically rounded, making them less space-economical for a garden, leaving unusable space at your garden’s edges. However, a pergola is generally rectangular, so you can make the most of your outdoor space without creating awkward areas.

Built With Raised Floor Vs. Structure Attached To Existing Surface

A pergola is normally built onto an existing deck or surface, so you don’t need to worry about creating a floor. However, since a gazebo is a standalone structure, you will need to build a sturdy raised floor for the gazebo to attach to.

Space Requirements

If you’re adding a gazebo to your garden, ensure you’ve got plenty of space. Gazebos come in many shapes and sizes but are best suited for larger yards or gardens. Placing a gazebo in a small space could overwhelm the area, making the yard seem cluttered. 

A pergola is highly adaptable, allowing you to create shade in your garden without making it appear cluttered.

How To Choose A Pergola?

Choosing a pergola can seem overwhelming, given your many choices. Below are the considerations you need to make before reaching out to a pergola installer to begin your project.

Decide Which Features, Materials, And Design Elements Are Important To You

Which features do you need in a pergola? For instance, you might need the following:

  • Wall attachment – you might wish to create shade outside your windows or doors using a pergola.
  • Freestanding – to cover a seating area, pathway, or gate, you might wish to opt for a freestanding pergola.
  • Cost – pergolas can often be more cost-effective because they are less complicated to build and normally do not require a permit.

Some factors dictate which material might be best for your pergola, including:

  • Weather protection – you might need a durable pergola in extreme weather conditions like freezing temperatures and snow or extreme sun and heat. Metal can be prone to rust, and wood can be prone to rot and fading, so you might consider a stone or PVC pergola that provides more protection and durability in weather extremes.
  • Sun exposure – you’ll need a pergola with more wood beams or shade sails if you plan to use a pergola to shade an area with lots of sun exposure.

You’ll also need to consider which pergola design elements to include in your pergola – you can choose a minimalist or more intricate design for an elegant feel. You can also decide whether you’d like plants growing on your pergola.

Learn About The Installation Process And Permit Requirements For Your Neighborhood

You need to determine the optimal size of your pergola and whether you’ll need a building permit to construct a pergola on your property. There are also neighborhood covenants and rules that you should investigate. Many times a pergola requires no special permits or permissions, but it’s always best to check before you begin.

Pergola Vs Gazebo

How To Choose A Gazebo?

Before hiring someone to build your gazebo, here are some considerations you should make.

Decide Which Features, Materials, And Design Elements Are Important To You

As with pergolas, you’ll need to decide which material is best for your climate. If you live in a wet environment, you’d be better with a gazebo that’s resistant to rain – like a PVC gazebo. Or, if your area is prone to strong winds, you might prefer a sturdy metal gazebo.

You’ll also need to consider which features you’d like in your gazebo, such as a seating area, and how high you would like the gazebo floor to be. You can also choose optional screens, concrete footers, and pillars for your gazebo design. You can also opt for a  stained or painted floor to further customize your outdoor space.

Understand The Installation Process And Permit Requirements For Your Neighborhood

The permit requirements for a gazebo may be stricter than a pergola. So, check with your local government building authority to determine whether you need a permit for your gazebo. If you live in a neighborhood, also check with the Homeowner’s Association to see if you need any further approvals.

Make Sure You Have Sufficient Yard Space

You’ll need sufficient yard space for a gazebo. The optimal area for a gazebo in your backyard is more than 3×3 meters, as this is the general size of a gazebo. You’ll need a lot more space than this to ensure the gazebo doesn’t occupy your whole backyard.

Pergola Vs Gazebo

How To Know Which Is Best For You?

It can be challenging to decide between a pergola vs gazebo. A pergola makes an excellent alternative if you don’t have the optimal space for a gazebo. However, if you’re looking for a completely shaded area, a gazebo can protect you from the sun and the rain with a closed roof.

If you have an electrical line in your backyard, it’s better to double-check with your local utility company before deciding to install either backyard structure.

Ultimately, your budget and preferences will help you to decide between a pergola or a gazebo.

Should I Build It Myself Or Hire An Expert?

Even if you’ve seen every episode of Fixer Upper or other renovation shows, building this type of structure can be complicated and time-consuming. You need the proper permits, tools, and assistance to ensure the build quality is up to par. It will cost less money to build a gazebo or pergola yourself, so if you have confidence in your construction abilities you should definitely give one of the DIY kits a try. If, however, you’d like to have a professional take care of all the headaches, give HB ELEMENTS a call! We love making our customers happy and would be honored to answer any questions you have.


A gazebo or pergola is the perfect addition to your garden if you want to increase shade and create an outdoor lounging area. The main difference between a gazebo and a pergola is that gazebos provide more protection from the rain and require more space, whereas pergolas come in more flexible sizes. At HB ELEMENTS, we offer quality PVC pergolas and installation services – reach out today to create your dream garden!