Pergola vs. Gazebo: Which Is Right for Your Outdoor Space?

Pergolas and gazebos can both define outdoor entertaining areas but have very different designs. A pergola goes over a deck or patio and provides some shade while still letting light filter through.  A gazebo is a fully roofed stand-alone structure.

Pergola vs Gazebo: Which Should I Pick?

Choosing between a pergola or a gazebo depends on your style, outdoor space, and needs.

What Is a Pergola?

A pergola is an outdoor structure with vertical posts supporting cross beams and an open lattice

Pergolas form a shaded walkway, sitting area, or passageway. You can build them with various materials, although wood is most common. Homeowners can choose between two pergola types–freestanding or attached. 

What Is a Gazebo?

A gazebo is a freestanding, open-sided structure with a roof. Gazebos suit spacious backyards, gardens, and parks. They use posts or pillars for support and have roofs made of stone, wood, metal, or shingles.

Wood is the most common gazebo material, and popular styles include round, square, octagonal, hexagonal, or custom.

What Do Pergolas and Gazebos Have in Common?

Pergolas and gazebos have similar functions and characteristics:

  1. Outdoor Living Spaces: Pergolas and gazebos enhance outdoor living spaces while providing shade from the sun. They offer a space for social gatherings, relaxation, and enjoyment of the outdoors.
  2. Easy to Build: Any DIYer can build a pergola or gazebo with the right tools.
  3. Both are Versatile: Pergolas and gazebos are ideal for entertaining, dining, or relaxing. Homeowners can grow plants or add extra privacy features like curtains and screens.
  4. Landscaping Integration: Homeowners can integrate both options into garden landscapes and outdoor environments. Pergolas and gazebos anchor vines, hanging baskets, and climbing plants.
  5. Open Design: While both vary in roof structures, they feature an open design. The open design allows for airflow, making the space fresh even on warm days.

Pergola vs. Gazebo: Key Differences

Roof Design

Gazebos have a solid roof, while pergolas feature an open latticework of beams. The roof of a gazebo is freestanding, while a pergola can be freestanding or attached to a wall. Gazebo roofs provide protection from outdoor elements, while pergolas offer partial shade, allowing some sunlight to filter through.

Installation Criteria

The installation criteria for both gazebos and pergolas vary in terms of size, complexity, and more:

  • Foundation Requirements: While you may need to anchor pergola posts in concrete, most pergolas don’t need a foundation. In contrast, a gazebo is a standalone structure that may require a slab foundation.
  • Placement and Portability: Pergolas offer greater flexibility in placement and are easier to disassemble. 
  • Materials: Gazebos are made of wood or metal, while pergolas comprise various materials.
  • Complexity of Installation: Since pergolas don’t need a foundation, they’re simpler to install.


The national average cost to build a gazebo is $5,763. The national average cost to build a pergola is $5,000. The total costs will depend on material, size, and labor. 

Value Addition

  • Aesthetics: Pergolas enhance the visual appeal and are easily customized using climbing plants. Gazebos create a focal point in an outdoor setting. They’re more enclosed, offering a sense of privacy. They’re also easy to customize using lighting, curtains, and other decorative elements.
  • Functionality: Installing a pergola provides a versatile outdoor space for relaxation, dining, or entertaining. Gazebos are more suitable for creating an enclosed space that protects from sun, rain, and wind.
  • Potential Resale Value: Both improve a property’s resale value.

Space Requirements

A pergola can go atop a deck or a patio, while a gazebo needs its own space. 


The longevity of a gazebo or pergola depends on the materials used, climate, maintenance, and construction techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What is the point of a pergola without a roof?

Pergolas that don’t have a roof are best for areas with mild weather conditions. They create an open, inviting atmosphere while allowing better air circulation.

What are some ways to decorate a pergola or gazebo?

The most common ways include hanging string lights, adding vines, flowers, or outdoor furniture. You could also place a picnic table and hanging baskets for color and interest.

Can a pergola provide enough shade without a roof?

Yes, a pergola can provide enough shade without a roof. The shade depends on the types of vines or plants you’re growing over it. Your pergola’s shape and size are also points to consider.