What Is The Difference Between A Gazebo And Pergola?

1st Nov 2023

Whether providing shelter for a garden gathering, enhancing the functionality of a public space, or creating a focal point for events, gazebos and pergolas are designed to adapt to a wide array of settings. But, what’s the difference between them?

Understanding the distinctions between a gazebo and a pergola will guide you in selecting the appropriate structure for your specific needs, whether for commercial, communal, or private use.

What Is A Gazebo?

A gazebo is a freestanding structure with a roof and partially open sides.

Typically constructed from materials like wood, metal, or vinyl, gazebos are designed to withstand the elements, from the summer sun to autumnal rains. Their aesthetic can range from the ornate Victorian styles, found in historic properties and parks, to the more contemporary designs suitable for modern outdoor living spaces.

In addition to residential gardens, gazebos are also prevalent in commercial settings such as outdoor seating for cafes, at wedding venues, or as merchandising booths in outdoor markets.

What Is A Pergola?

Pergolas, on the other hand, offer a different approach to outdoor living. With their open-beam roofs, they do not provide full protection from rain or sun but do offer a structure for climbing plants, which can create a living canopy over time. This integration with nature can create a serene and green oasis and offers a softer, more organic aesthetic.

Pergolas are often rectangular and can extend from a building, such as a house or garden wall, seamlessly blending indoor and outdoor spaces.

Comparing Gazebos and Pergolas

While both gazebos and pergolas enhance outdoor spaces, their structures, functions, and customisation options differ significantly.

Structural Differences

Design and Shape

Gazebos are known for their square or rectangular shape. This allows for a uniform look that stands out as a centrepiece in any space. They are self-contained units with a defined perimeter, usually featuring a slightly pointed roof and removable side panels.

Pergolas, in contrast, consist of a series of vertical posts supporting an open lattice of cross beams or rafters. This structure creates a grid-like roof that can support climbing plants and allows light to filter through, creating patterns of light and shadow that change with the position of the sun. The open structure of a pergola can make it appear as an extension of the indoor living space when attached to a building, blurring the lines between inside and outside.


Gazebos are usually equipped with roofs made from UV-resistant materials. These materials are designed to offer protection from the harmful effects of the sun's rays, as well as providing shelter from rain. The roofs are typically solid and pitched, sometimes featuring a tiered design for additional ventilation and architectural interest.

In contrast, the roofing structure of a pergola is an open lattice or cross-beams, which provides partial shade while still allowing natural light to permeate. The open nature of a pergola's roof can be adapted to the homeowner's preference for sunlight exposure. Climbing plants can be grown over the beams for more shade and a natural canopy, or fabric coverings and retractable shades can be installed for adjustable sun protection.

Materials Used

Gazebos are usually crafted from wood, vinyl, or metal, providing a sturdy and durable structure. Pergolas can also be made from these materials but are commonly built using wood or vinyl to support the growth of plants and integrate seamlessly with the garden.

Functional Differences

Shelter and Shade

A gazebo offers complete shelter from sun and rain, making it a year-round feature for your garden. A pergola provides partial shade and is ideal for warmer weather, as the open structure allows heat to escape and air to circulate.


Gazebos, with the option for enclosed sides, offer a private retreat. Pergolas are more open, offering less privacy, but can be enhanced with drapes, screens, or climbing plants.

Versatility of Use

Gazebos serve as an outdoor room, perfect for dining, entertaining, or simply relaxing. Pergolas are versatile in design, often used as an extension of the home’s living space, a garden feature, or a support for decorative or fruit-bearing plants.

Installation and Maintenance

Ease of Installation

Pop up gazebos have revolutionised the ease with which one can add a sheltered space to their outdoor area. These structures are designed for convenience and are far less permanent than traditional wooden or metal gazebos, which require significant assembly and often a foundation.

In comparison, pergolas are more permanent structures and typically take longer to install. They require a stable base and a solid construction of posts and beams. While there are also "pop up" or modular pergolas that can be assembled with relative ease, they generally do not offer the same immediacy and portability as a pop up gazebo.

Required Maintenance and Durability

Both structures need regular maintenance, with the durability depending on the materials used and exposure to elements. Wood structures require staining or sealing, whereas vinyl offers ease with minimal upkeep.


The cost varies widely depending on size, materials, and design. Pergolas can be less expensive due to their open design and less material. However, custom designs can increase their cost.

Customisation Options

Customising a Gazebo

Gazebos can be customised with a variety of roofing materials, guttering, and finishes. You can also add screens, windows, or doors for added protection and style. Check out all of our gazebo accessories for more information.

Customising a Pergola

Pergolas offer flexibility in customisation, from the choice of materials to the addition of canopies, curtains, or lighting. The structure can be designed to harmonise with the surrounding landscape and architecture.

Choosing Between a Gazebo and a Pergola

When deciding whether a gazebo or pergola is the right choice for your outdoor space, it's important to consider several factors that will influence your decision. Your final choice should align with your lifestyle needs, the climate you live in, the size and layout of your garden or outdoor area, your personal style preferences, and how you intend to use the structure.

Factors to Consider

  • Purpose: Define what you want to achieve with the structure. Is it for dining, relaxation, gardening, or entertaining? Gazebos are typically more suitable for dining and relaxation as they provide full coverage from the elements, while pergolas are great for gardening enthusiasts who want to grow vines or create a feature area with plants.

⛺ You might like this guide: 5 Uses For Your Pop Up Gazebo.

  • Climate: In the UK, where rain can be frequent and the climate variable, gazebos offer a more weatherproof option. However, for those seeking a more open and airy space to enjoy sunny days, a pergola might be preferable.
  • Space: Evaluate the area where you plan to install the structure. Gazebos come in various sizes to suit the space you need. Pergolas are often designed to fit into narrower or longer spaces, such as along a garden path or attached to a house as an extension of the living area.
  • Privacy: If privacy is a priority, gazebos with the option for enclosed sides or drapes can be a better choice. Pergolas are more open by nature but can offer privacy with the strategic use of climbing plants, lattice work, or adding fabric elements.
  • Usage throughout the year: If you're looking for a structure to use year-round, a gazebo with the possibility of heating and side panels might be more practical. A pergola offers a seasonal space that can be particularly enjoyable in the warmer months.

Gazebos and pergolas each offer unique advantages and can be tailored to suit your specific needs and tastes. By considering the structural and functional differences, you can select the right addition to enhance your outdoor living experience.

Frequently asked questions

Can a pergola provide as much shade as a gazebo?

A pergola, by design, has an open roof which allows for partial sun exposure. While it does not provide as much shade as the solid roof of a gazebo, you can increase the shade of a pergola by adding climbing plants, fabric covers, or retractable canopies. However, if you require consistent and complete shade, a gazebo is more likely to meet your needs, especially during the unpredictable UK summers.

Which is more durable, a gazebo or a pergola?

Durability largely depends on the materials used and the quality of construction rather than the type of structure. Both gazebos and pergolas can be extremely durable if built with high-quality materials and properly maintained. In the UK, where weather can be harsh, materials like pressure-treated wood, vinyl, or powder-coated metal are preferred for longevity.

Can I customise a gazebo or pergola to match my house’s architecture?

Absolutely. Both gazebos and pergolas can be custom-designed to complement the architectural style of your house. Details such as trim, colour, roofing material, and overall design can be tailored to create a cohesive look. Manufacturers and builders can work with you to ensure that your gazebo or pergola matches the aesthetic of your home, whether it's a Victorian manor, a modern minimalist house, or something in between.

Which is easier to install, a gazebo or a pergola?

Between a pop-up gazebo and a pergola, the pop-up gazebo is typically easier and quicker to install. Pop-up gazebos are designed for their portability and ease of use. They can be set up swiftly by extending the collapsible frame and then covering it with the provided canopy. This process can often be completed in just a few minutes and without the need for any tools.

On the other hand, pergolas require a more involved installation process. Whether it's a traditional pergola or a modular kit, they generally demand several steps for assembly. The installation includes securing the posts, assembling the overhead structure, and ensuring everything is level and properly anchored. This can take several hours or even days, depending on the complexity and size of the pergola.