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What’s the Difference Between a Pergola and a Gazebo?

Pergolas and gazebos are superb additions to any outdoor living space. These structures can create intimate spaces that connect a home and garden. Pergolas and gazebos may be freestanding or attached to a building, but regardless of their construction, these shelters bring the feeling of indoor living outside. But what’s the difference between a pergola and a gazebo? Discover how you can use them in your landscape design and how to choose the right option for your outdoor living space.

What Is a Pergola?

One of the most ancient types of garden architecture, a pergola, more traditionally called a bower, was initially designed as a shelter for farmers and shepherds. This structure has evolved into a decorative garden element that can still offer some protection from the elements and a place to rest.

Pergolas are typically constructed from wood and covered in lattice. A significant characteristic of a pergola is its open-air design. A pergola features a partially or fully open ceiling supported by pillars or posts that act as walls framing the pergola.

Pergolas can be freestanding or attached to another object, such as a house or building, for additional support. Many homeowners who construct pergolas on their properties build them over an existing surface, such as a wooden deck, patio, or paved surface.

What Is a Gazebo?

Gazebos are garden structures that function as a room within a garden. A gazebo’s construction features vertical posts that serve as support pillars for a ceiling or roof over the top of the structure.

Gazebos can be attached to a home or a building like pergolas, but they’re generally freestanding. Gazebos typically feature a constructed wood floor surface or another flooring material raised above ground level.

A gazebo’s sides may be partially or entirely enclosed, with at least one of its sides open as a doorway to permit access into and out of the structure. Depending on how one wants to use this piece in an outdoor living space, a gazebo can feature decorative and functional elements, such as built-in seating or ambient lighting, to create an attractive setting for intimate leisure activities and outdoor gatherings.

How Are Pergolas and Gazebos Different?

Although pergolas and gazebos collectively comprise what landscape designers call garden architecture, these structures differ in several key areas.

Attached vs. Freestanding

Since a gazebo has sides and an enclosed roof, homeowners most commonly integrate it within a garden space as a freestanding structure. A pergola has a more open-air design, giving you flexibility with its installation. For example, you can use part of an existing building, such as a potting shed or a wall of a house, as part of the supports for a pergola, allowing you to customize the dimensions of the structure to fit the space you’d like to cover.

Ceiling or Roof Construction

The most visible difference in construction between a gazebo and a pergola lies in its ceiling or roof design. A gazebo has a fully enclosed ceiling or roof, but a pergola has an open ceiling or roof design. A pergola’s roof may be partially constructed, with only ceiling-like beams adding definition to the top of the structure, or it may feature a partial covering, such as latticework or trellising.

Interior Enhancements

Since a gazebo has a covered roof on top of the structure, its design creates a room-like feeling that lends itself well to including enhancements such as railings, seating, and other decorative adornments. A pergola lacks a complete protective roof, limiting your furnishings or decorating choices. Depending on the dimensions of your pergola, you may be able to place freestanding seating within the structure, but keep in mind that you won’t be fully protected from the sun’s rays or rain if you’re seated within a pergola.

Should I Get a Pergola or Gazebo for My Outdoor Space?

Pergolas and gazebos serve many roles in the design of a garden and outdoor living space. For some, these structures provide a sense of protection and shelter. For others, the interplay of light and shadows creates visual appeal and interest for the eye.

Whether rustic or refined, pergolas and gazebos add a subtly romantic quality to an outdoor living space or garden room. You can cover the sides and top of a pergola with a range of plant materials depending on the style and construction of the structure. Clematis, jasmine, morning glories, trumpet vines, or other plants native to Southern California offer an added dimension of color and fragrance. Similarly, hydrangeas or shrub roses look stunning when planted around the support walls of a gazebo.

While you don’t always need to cover a pergola with plants or surround a gazebo with shrubs, plant foliage can help to soften the overall presentation of the structures and enhance the transition for guests from garden to structure. Although plants such as clematis and wisteria are among the fastest-growing vines for covering a pergola, climbing roses are also popular with gardeners and landscapers. A rose clambering up the support posts and over the top of a pergola can bring living materials from the garden and architecture together.

Adding a gazebo or pergola to your backyard can also enhance your property’s value, provided you maintain the structures to keep them looking their best.

Incorporate Architecture Into Your Landscape With a Gazebo or Pergola

As you’ve learned, a pergola and a gazebo differ in roofing composition, structure type (attached versus freestanding), and uses. Regardless of whether you prefer the functionality and look of a gazebo or pergola, both elements will add architecture and visual interest to your landscape. If you have an existing pergola or gazebo on your property that needs some attention, contact our experts at Teak Master. We provide pergola restoration and gazebo restoration services that can help you refurbish and maintain the beauty of these structures in your garden. Contact us online or call us at 888-448-8325.

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