Pergola vs. Gazebo: Pros and Cons Listed – What’s Best for Your Yard?

Detailed analysis comparing pergolas and gazebos for your backyard. They're similar in some ways but very different in other ways. Find out which is the best backyard structure for your property.

Pergola vs. Gazebo image comparing the two outdoor structures

Pergolas are more popular than gazebos primarily because they’re commonly built above as partial coverings over decks.

They’re much less expensive than gazebos and the open design makes the more accessible, cheaper and just an all around better fit for most backyards.  However, many people do opt to build a gazebo or buy a gazebo kit for their backyard.

Below we compare pergolas and gazebos listing out the pros and cons of each.

Pergola

Wooden pergola in the backyard with lattice half-wall
Pergolas are features in the garden that are generally framework with lattice that will support vines and other climbing plants while adding visual interest to the garden and the grounds of a home. They typically have vertical posts as well as cross beams and allow air, rain, and sun through the structure to the ground below. While they can offer some protection from the elements, they are not as protected as other garden structures. It is normal for most of the shade and the protection to come from the plants that have been trained to grow up the pergola instead of from a solid roof. They can be created out of wood, aluminum, fiberglass, vinyl, stone, and brick and the materials used as well as the size of the finished pergola will play a huge role in the overall cost and maintenance of the structure.

It’s ideal to install a pergola at your home if you want a nice breezy walkway from one area of your garden or home to another or even if you want to build a freestanding structure that will protect you and guests from some of the elements when you are sitting outside enjoying the day. They are a great choice for homeowners who have green thumbs and are willing to work to train plants and flowing vines to climb the pergola as this is part of their inherent charm.

Pros

  • Pergolas are relatively easy to build and once the posts have been set, then the final construction goes very quickly. This means that most homeowners can complete the work by themselves if they are handy and comfortable with power tools.
  • They are a great way to define space that is in your yard and set aside seating space without drawing definitive boundaries. Because they are open on the sides, people and pets can easily enter and exit the pergola without trouble, creating a flow in the yard that appeals to many people.
  • No matter your budget or your personal style, you can easily find the right materials for a pergola that you will love. While wood is very traditional and popular, it does require maintenance, causing many people to opt for other materials that won’t require additional work in the future.
  • Pergolas don’t just improve the appearance of your yard; they will actually add value to your home and your property, making them a great project to complete if you know that you are going to be selling your home in the future.
  • Depending on the materials that you choose, pergolas are relatively inexpensive, making them ideal for homeowners on budgets who still want to wow their guests.
  • The fresh breeze can blow freely through the pergola without being broken up by walls.
  • Pergolas look great as a way to anchor an outdoor kitchen or other living space and make it feel as if it is part of the home.
  • Because they can be freestanding or attached to the home, you can update your yard without having to take up too much space.
  • Used to define space in your yard, you can choose from smaller or larger pergolas. While larger pergolas will be more expensive, they are still a relatively budget-friendly option for backyard structures.

Cons

  • Until plants and vines are growing on the pergola, the whole project will look unfinished. This is frustrating for homeowners who complete their pergolas in the fall or winter and are unable to begin the growing process until the spring.
  • They don’t offer very much shade when they don’t have plants growing on them and in the heat of the middle of the summer, this can mean that you won’t want to sit in your pergola.
  • There isn’t a raised floor on the pergola, which can leave many homeowners feeling as if the project is unfinished. In addition, this means that heavy rains will cause water to run directly through the pergola and will allow dirt and debris to be more easily tracked in.
  • Because there are no walls on a pergola, there is no way to protect yourself and your guests from insects.
  • Heavy winds and even light rain can make it unenjoyable to sit inside a pergola and will send many people into the house instead.
  • While wood pergolas look amazing and are what many people picture when they think about a pergola, they require regular maintenance to ensure that the wood doesn’t deteriorate and to keep the wood looking its best.
  • Pergolas are either round or rectangular and don’t give you a lot of options when coming up with a personal design.

Gazebo

White wooden hexagon gazebo in the backyard
Gazebos are usually freestanding outdoor structures that add a lot of interest to your space without a huge investment in money or in time to have one completed. If you want to attach your gazebo to a wall, that is possible, but then they tend to lose a lot of the charm that they have when they are out in the middle of the grass by themselves. They are round and usually in the shape of an octagon or hexagon and have a domed roof that is held up by strong pillars. Gazebos in your backyard will generally be smaller and only hold around eight to 12 people while some gazebos in commercial areas will be large enough to host huge events.

Opt for a gazebo if you want a structure in your yard that is more decorative than a pergola or if you know that you tend to get worse weather and still want to be able to spend time outside. While you can choose to build a plain gazebo, they are generally much more elaborate than pergolas are. Since they offer protection from the sun, wind, and rain due to their solid roof and optional walls, gazebos are ideal for spending time outside and for outdoor dining.

Pros

  • Gazebos can be built out of a number of different materials, all of which have their own pros and cons. From hardwood to vinyl, aluminum, and even wrought iron, the materials that you choose for your gazebo will depend upon your budget and how you want the final project to look.
  • A quality gazebo will instantly add value to your home and will make it more appealing to potential buyers.
  • Because they give you outdoor space where you can sit and be protected from the elements, gazebos let users enjoy more of your yard in comfort and in style.
  • Gazebos have both floors and roofs and these work to keep out the hot sun and rain and to ensure that the floor isn’t muddy because of the weather. Using a mat to wipe your feet will help to keep the floor of the gazebo even cleaner.
  • Because they are protected from the weather, you can run electricity to a gazebo. This makes it easy to listen to music when you are enjoying this space and you won’t have to worry about rain damaging your equipment or electrical outlets.
  • It’s easy to install bug screens to keep out flies, mosquitos, and other pests, which allows homeowners to eat outdoors without worrying about being bothered during their meals.
  • They are a great way to protect a jacuzzi, allowing you to use it even during questionable weather.
  • Gazebos offer a beautiful location to take photographs.
  • Roll-up screens offer a lot more privacy in a gazebo than other structures offer. This allows homeowners to use them for romantic dinners or when they simply want to be away from the prying eyes of family members or neighbors.
  • Because they are so sturdy, there is very little risk of gazebos being damaged in bad weather.

Cons

  • Unfortunately, gazebos tend to be more expensive to build than pergolas are and most homeowners don’t have the skill set necessary to do the work themselves. This means that it’s important to hire an expert to complete the work for you.
  • They use up more yard space and don’t feel as open as a pergola does. This makes it imperative to carefully plan where you are going to build your gazebo so you don’t make your yard feel disconnected or chopped up.
  • It’s difficult to enjoy the breeze in a gazebo as any sort of wall that you have on the structure will stop the wind from coming inside.
  • Over time, just as in a home, the roof of your gazebo will begin to leak. This will result in expensive repairs to stop the problem and to make sure that there is not any rot or mold in the walls of the gazebo.
  • If the gazebo you build in your yard looks too big, then it will appear out of place and not improve the overall appearance of your property.
  • While prefab gazebos are easier to install and a lot less expensive, they aren’t always built to last and won’t have the same beauty and appearance as a custom-built gazebo will.
  • Steel gazebos will become very hot during the summer while wood ones will require regular maintenance to keep the wood from being damaged.

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