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Gazebo or Pergola - How They Differ and Which is Better?

Gazebo or Pergola - Which is Better?
Although both gazebo and pergola enhance the aesthetics of an outdoor area and offer some privacy and leisure, the two structures do not provide the same level of protection against the elements of the weather.
Rohini Mohan
Last Updated: Jul 28, 2017
Our Verdict
A gazebo is better, because it not only utilizes open space in a landscape, it is also more long-lasting, provides shade, and a place for hosting guests.
If you're lucky to have a property with plenty of space, why not extend the living space of your home outdoors? You can utilize the open space in your backyard or garden by getting a pavilion structure such as a gazebo or pergola built. You could also consider building it on your own; however, bear in mind that off-the-shelf DIY pre-built kits for such structures, are not very durable and only last a few seasons.

Secondly, you may want to check with your local homeowners association (HOA) about whether you'll need a permit for building the intended structure. No construction permit is required for structures under 120 square feet. This Gardenerdy guide endeavors to help you decide on whether to build a gazebo or pergola.
Comparing Pergola vs. Gazebo
Structural Differences
Wooden gazebo
Consider having benches constructed along the inside walls of the gazebo, to avoid using chairs. The deck and table can also be built within the structure.
Chairs in gazebo
A freestanding gazebo such as this, has open walls and requires the use of chairs and a deck.
Pergola with vines
Notice, how the open latticed roof of the pergola has been used for growing creepers.
Wooden pergola
You can weatherproof your pergola by adding a fiberglass sheet on the roof.
Weather Protection
➤ A gazebo has a turret-shaped roof that provides ample protection to its inhabitants from the various weather elements.

➤ The open-latticed roof of a pergola does not offer much protection against rain or snow, nor does it offer adequate shade on extremely sunny days. In order to lend some level of weather protection, you can consider adding a detachable protective cover over the roof.
Difference in Roof and Posts
➤ Usually, a gazebo has a solid roof and posts, and may be equipped with arbored divisions/fencing that can be used for growing vines. It is also open from all sides, thus allowing air and light in. In the olden days, these structures were also made using stone, and they utilized broad pillars to lend more support to the building.

➤ A pergola with its distinct flat and open-latticed roof and crossbeams, can be quadrangular, hexagonal, or octagonal, with equal number of posts. The latticework on the roof of the pergola is suitable for growing flowering climbers; however, unlike an arbor, the main posts of the pergola are solid and do not have any latticework. Secondly, the posts of a pergola can be made using cement, to look like pillars, or with metal, wood, or vinyl.
➤ A gazebos is meant to have solid flooring which may or may not be carpeted. This structure may also require a few steps leading to it, in case you wish to keep the sitting area above ground level and away from mud.

➤ On the contrary, a pergola does not mandate a flooring of its own. Often, the posts can be fixed beneath the ground to secure the structure. However, if you wish to have a stand-alone structure that can be sifted from one spot to another, or transported with ease, you can consider going in for a one-piece pergola that has its posts fixed to the flooring of the structure. This feature can be incorporated with the help of a landscape designer, or you could get such a pergola custom-made.
Suitable Places for Construction
➤ A gazebo, is a free-standing ornamental structure and requires ample space to be constructed. Therefore, a gazebo can be built where the patio was originally intended to be constructed. However, unlike a pergola, the gazebo being more constricted, will offer lesser airiness and light.

➤ Being airy and roomy, a pergola can be incorporated along with your patio deck, or used as a free-standing structure in your garden.
Size and Capacity
➤ You will need to consider the number of people you wish to accommodate at any given time in the gazebo, as it will determine its size as well as the area required for its construction.

➤ Depending on the size of the property, you can consider building a square or rectangular pergola. Being long and wide, plenty of tables, chairs, and even hammocks can be placed under the pergola for people to unwind.
Material Used
➤ A gazebo being almost like a house, minus the side walls, requires a lot of material for construction. Additionally, those who wish to build a roof and seats with a different material will need to consider the added expense.

➤ On the other hand, the open-air construction of the pergola utilizes lesser wood/other materials, and is extremely easy and fast to construct.
Maintenance Involved
➤ A gazebo requires a lot of maintenance and should be swept and cleaned every week or so, to keep the seats and floor dust and mold free. Secondly, even more care needs to be taken in case the structure has been furnished with electricity or plumbing facilities. Ensure that cobwebs and termites are not allowed to fester in the structure.

➤ The effort required to take care of a pergola is so minimal that it is almost negligible. All you need to do is check the crossbeams and joints of the structure every once in a while, to check that none of the beams are loose, rotting, or showing any other sings of damage or wear and tear. That being said, any electrical wiring along the structure must be weather-protected and checked often to avoid power failure and short circuits.
Estimated Expenditure
➤ The cost for building a permanent wooden or vinyl gazebo can range anywhere between USD 2,000-12,000 or more, depending on whether you plan on building the structure on your own or through a contractor. Bear in mind, it costs an average of USD 77-100 per square foot for installing a wooden gazebo by a licensed contractor.

➤ On the other hand, constructing a pergola is much cheaper, whether you do it yourself or get it built by a professional. A permanent pergola can cost you anywhere between USD 3,000-9,000. Licensed contractors are currently charging USD 45-72 per square foot.

Disclaimer: Prices mentioned are subject to change according to offer and location.