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Differences Between a Pergola and Gazebo

October 26, 2020

Differences Between a Pergola and Gazebo

Pergola vs. Gazebo

Spending time in your backyard allows you to breathe in the fresh air and take a break from the busyness around you. As you consider improving your outdoor living space, you may install a pergola or a gazebo to provide an additional entertainment area. These two exterior structures can provide shade against the warm summer sun and facilitate an open site for reading, eating and relaxing.

If you're building a new home and exploring interior floor plans, remember to consider the design of your outdoor property as well. Even with a small lot size, you can use a pergola or a gazebo to make the most out of your backyard. This guide can help you consider which exterior structure is better for your garden and backyard.

What Is a Pergola?

A pergola is a garden feature that includes a lattice framework to support vines and climbing plants and provide a breezy walkway from one part of the backyard to the other. The structure has vertical posts and crossbeams that usually allow air, rain and sun to travel through them.

You can create your pergola out of many materials, from wood, brick and aluminum to fiberglass, vinyl and stone, depending on your budget and aesthetic preferences. If you want it to provide more shade for your outdoor patio, you may wish to plant thicker greenery near the lattice design. Consider the various types of pergolas to find one that can accommodate your outdoor living space:

  • Open top: The most popular pergola configuration features an open roof that lets in a cool breeze and warm sunlight. You can set it up as a focal point in your garden. Even though it doesn't protect you from rain or block much sunlight, you can plant flowers and other vegetation that grow upward to provide a little extra shade.
  • Sail: Instead of a traditional lattice top, a modern sail pergola uses a stretched fabric to give your garden or patio a little extra protection from the weather. You can choose transparent panels to take in the sun on a pleasant day. 
  • Gable or pitch: If you'd prefer more structured protection from the elements, a gable or pitch pergola has a sturdy roof that guards against rain, sun, winds and snow. When it's raining outside, the covering allows the water to flow off of it to prevent moisture damage. You may want to use this type of pergola above your entertaining spaces, including decks, dining areas, patios and hot tubs.

As you consider where you want to put your pergola and how often you might relocate it, keep the following installation types in mind:

  • Anchored: You must secure your anchored pergola to the ground with cement or stakes. This installation type provides the highest protection against the elements, but it's the most difficult to move if you ever want to renovate your patio or garden.
  • Wall-mounted: With this configuration, one part of the pergola mounts onto your home's exterior wall and the slats reach over the patio, where the legs also sit. A wall-mounted structure saves space, but like an anchored one, it's challenging to move.
  • Free-standing: Instead of mounting them to a wall or anchoring them into the ground, you can install a free-standing pergola on any level surface. It might help put the structure in an area that isn't vulnerable to high winds, or else it could get knocked over.

Benefits of Adding a Pergola to Your House

Installing a pergola to your home can enhance your property's value because it:

  • Helps you beautify your garden: Since a pergola has columns on the side and lattices or beams along the top, hanging and climbing plants can thrive on it. You can make your garden more attractive by adding some colorful, mood-boosting flowers and vegetation that can effortlessly grow between the lattice materials.
  • Is easy to build: To build a free-standing or anchored pergola, you only have to stick four poles into the ground and connect them with crossbeams. Since this setup is so simple to do yourself, you may be able to save money on installation costs instead of hiring a professional.
  • Is inexpensive: Since a pergola features similar materials to a gazebo, it tends to cost about the same amount to purchase the building components. However, the latter structure is bigger and more complex, so even if you hire a professional, you'll probably spend less money on labor costs to set up a pergola.

  • Provides shade from the harsh sunlight: In the summer, you might want to avoid your backyard because of the blazing hot sunlight. With a covered pergola, you can still enjoy your backyard even when it's hot outside. Since it doesn't have a covered roof like a gazebo or other structure, it still has an outdoorsy feel, but you may plant climbing plants and dense greenery to provide shade and keep you safe from sunburns and heat exhaustion. 
  • Defines the space in your yard: One of the purposes of a pergola is to establish a designated area in the backyard, whether you put it over the patio or garden. Whether you enclose the top with vines or fabric or leave it open, since a pergola has gaps on the sides, it establishes a breezy flow in the backyard that you may enjoy.
  • Covers unpleasant scenery: Depending on where you live, you may have large, dull buildings or distracting landscaping in your nearby neighborhood. Instead of staring at your neighbor's dying tree or decaying shed all day, you can place your pergola in front of it to help you focus on the beautiful views of your outdoor living space.

What Is a Gazebo?

A gazebo is a free-standing outdoor structure that has a roof and a floor for additional weather protection. Even though you can attach it to a deck, you may also want to keep it away from your home if you have a big backyard.

Depending on your budget and design preferences, you can make yours out of the same materials as a pergola, including wood, vinyl, metal or plastic. Consider the following aesthetic types to find a gazebo that works for your property:

  • Pavilion: You may have seen a pavilion gazebo shaped like an octagon or rectangle if you've recently walked through a park. This type allows a cool breeze to flow through it so you can enjoy the outdoors without completely sheltering yourself from the elements.
  • Pergola: Like a pergola, this gazebo design features an open roof and can complement the aesthetic of a home with a large garden or abundant greenery. It may provide a little extra protection from harsh weather conditions than a pergola because of its sturdier structure.
  • Victorian: Consider this traditional, fairytale-like gazebo that features curvy, complex features with wall panels, columns and knee braces.
  • Pagoda: This style inspired by Asian cultures can add a gorgeous appeal to your serene outdoor living space.
  • Rotunda: The oval-shaped or circular rotunda gazebo features a ring of simple pillars under a domed roof. It initially became popular in Europe, and now it's an architectural style for both inside and outside the home.

A gazebo is also available in the following configurations:

  • Patio: The most popular format for a gazebo includes a permanent attachment to your yard or patio. You would need to install a secured structure on a flat surface to help it withstand extreme weather. It also helps to find an area with proper drainage to prevent standing water around the gazebo from rotting any wooden components.
  • Pop-up: Since a portable gazebo doesn't have flooring, it can go anywhere, including a sports game, tailgate party or summer barbecue. You can also move it to various parts of your yard as you need it.
  • Grill: This small gazebo covers your grill to protect it and the person cooking from snow and rain. It might be most helpful to mount it on your home's exterior wall to create a bug-free or shady place for your grill.

Advantages of Having a Gazebo

Consider some of the perks of adding a gazebo to your home:

  • It protects you from the elements: When you're outside, rain could put a damper on your gathering. Instead, you can install a sturdy gazebo that covers you from the weather to help you enjoy more of your outdoor living space. Since a gazebo has both a roof and a floor, you can keep out the moist rain to protect your indoor floors from the mud. With the covering above your head, you may also enjoy your party without having the sun shining in your eyes.
  • You can run electricity through it: Since gazebos are typically resistant to rain and sunlight, you can connect yours to electricity. This capability allows you to listen to music or install a fan to enjoy your outdoor entertainment space even more. You can even set up a hot tub underneath it without worrying about rain dripping on you.
  • It protects you from pests: In the summer, mosquitoes and flies can get in the way of your outdoor picnic. By installing a bug screen on your gazebo, you can keep away these annoying pests that might bite you or land on your food.
  • It's a sentimental spot for photos: A gazebo offers a timeless location for taking romantic or family pictures. Instead of going to a park or a fancy venue, you can enjoy some time with your loved ones and make memories that you may treasure for years to come.
  • It offers a private place in your backyard: The tall pillars of your gazebo give you plenty of privacy to enjoy your family gathering without your nosy neighbors. Installing an opaque roll-up screen provides an even cozier setting for romantic dinners or late nights with friends.

How to Install and Design Your Backyard Accessories

Installing and designing your pergola or gazebo are two options for enhancing your backyard's aesthetic and functionality. Before you choose an outdoor structure for your yard, consider which materials would work best on your property:

  • Wood: A wooden pergola is often the most popular because of its timeless appearance. Since wood is easy to use and readily available, you can conveniently install your structure yourself. Even though most wood materials are vulnerable to moisture and sunlight, you can invest in pressure-treated lumber for a similar appearance with higher endurance.
  • Steel: This material can endure harsh weather conditions and usually lasts a long time. However, they do have an industrial appearance, so you might not like the look for your cozy home design.
  • Fiberglass: An outdoor fiberglass structure is lightweight and easy to install yourself. It comes in various colors, and it can withstand harsh weather conditions. However, the material can be expensive and hard to find.
  • Vinyl: This material gives your outdoor patio a clean, elegant appearance. It's becoming more popular because of its strength, cost and versatility. Plus, it's also low-maintenance, so you might not have to take care of it as much as other types.
  • Stone or brick: You may use stone or brick as accent pieces around your pergola or gazebo's legs to give your structure more durability. Keep in mind that natural stone and brick pieces tend to be expensive.

How to Install a Pergola

Before you set up your pergola, measure the area to make sure it fits. It needs to be on a level foundation where rain is less likely to pool and away from your gutter downspouts. Consult your local town authorities to make sure you won't hit any sewer or utility lines when you dig.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions when installing a pergola to your home. You may also want to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Anchor your pergola to your deck with 90-degree strap brackets.
  • Screw into the deck's beams, not the floorboards.
  • If you can't set it up over a beam, install a two-by-six piece of lumber under the boards and screw the brackets into it.
  • Secure the pergola into the ground after digging 6-inch-deep post holes, filling them with concrete and using hammer set fasteners to secure the pergola to the concrete.

How to Decorate a Pergola

Since they take up a lot of room, you'll most likely see a pergola in a large backyard. However, even if you have a small land size, you can use it to provide shade over your deck or sitting area. Here are some ways you can get the most out of adding a pergola to your outdoor space:

  • Create a vertical garden by planting grapevines or hanging plants.
  • Add curtains for privacy and sunlight protection.
  • Set up paper lanterns at parties to make your space more festive.
  • Consider placing it next to the pool to give yourself a place to rest after swimming.

How to Install a Gazebo

Before setting up your gazebo, make sure it's the right size for your backyard and complies with local building codes. You may have to put some distance between the structure and nearby utility poles or road so you don't dig too close to utility or sewer lines under your property. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installing this component in your backyard.

When attaching your gazebo to the ground, you also need to install the following components:

  • A level foundation with the proper water drainage to prevent moisture damage
  • Concrete footers to anchor it to your lawn, patio or deck
  • Metal strapping to attach the legs to the deck's beams

How to Decorate a Gazebo

A gazebo is available in many colors and materials and can accommodate any aesthetic. Consider these design tips to help you create your dream gazebo:

  • Add brick accents to your wooden gazebo for support and visual appeal.
  • Plant grass on the roof to show off your gardening skills.
  • Add lights so you can enjoy your pergola at night.
  • Install an outdoor fan to provide relief from the summer heat.
  • Consider investing in a portable gazebo to assemble at any location.

Contact SK Builder to Help You Design Your Home

Whether you decide that a gazebo or pergola is right for your backyard, you can trust SK Builder to create your ideal living space. As you plan to design your new construction property, we'll walk with you through every step of the home-building process.

We specialize in helping you create your dream house, from setting up a home office to making space for your patio. For more information about how we can help you design your new property in upstate South Carolina, you can contact us online or call 864-292-0400.


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