Pergolas and gazebos are both garden structures that greatly enhance any outdoor space, providing shelter and shade as well as decorative flair. Both structures will allow for dedicated space in your outside area that offers weather protection so you can enjoy the garden even if the elements are against you. 

If you’re looking to install an outdoor structure in your garden but aren’t sure which route to go down, we’ve got you covered. Here, we explain the key differences between pergolas and gazebos so you can make an informed decision about which is right for your home.

What is the Difference Between a Pergola and a Gazebo?

Oak frame pergola
Gazebo or white bandstand at Singapore Botanic Gardens. The octagonal gazebo known as the Bandstand was erected in 1930 and has retained its original shape

The main difference between a pergola and a gazebo is the roofing structure. Generally, a gazebo will have a solid roof with no gaps to provide a fully covered area of shade. Pergolas, on the other hand, are built to provide only partial shade with a roof structure made of beams or slats spaced out. 

Here is a full explanation of both pergolas and gazebos:

What is a Pergola?

A pergola is an outdoor structure that usually consists of four vertical posts that support a roofing structure of cross-beams. Lean to or wall mounted pergolas follow the same principle but are built with one side attached to the wall, with fewer vertical pillars needed. They are supported by the structure of a house and provide an instant transition from indoor to outdoor living.

Pergolas are made to be light and airy, with an open roof and open sides allowing for sunshine and breezes to come through. The open roof is the most distinctive feature of a pergola and what distinguishes it from other garden structures. Often the beams or slats can be decoratively enhanced with intricate trellis work or beautiful climbing plants.

Though pergolas usually have intermittent beams laid across the top, you can actually add a roof to a pergola. There are many types of roofs like retractable awnings and moveable louvres that can add more shade to a pergola. Learn more about pergola roof options.

Pergolas are usually either made from a wood frame or a steel frame and provide a more modern garden feature than the more traditional gazebo.

wooden pergola

What is a Gazebo?

A gazebo is an outdoor structure that is often turret-shaped and has a roof over it. You’ll often find gazebos in parks and other public outdoor areas. A gazebo will be open on all sides with a closed roof structure that is not made up of open beams.

This roofing is typically tiled and slanted, compared to the often flat style of the pergola. Sometimes a gazebo can have a built-in floor, making it a more complete structure than a pergola. When you see gazebos in parks, you may find the interior sides lined with a bench. 

While gazebos are more popular in public settings, they can make a great addition to a private garden. Many people with hot tubs like to build gazebos over them for better shelter and privacy.

Octagon-shaped gazebo

Pergolas or Gazebos: Which is Better?

This question is dependent on what you want out of your garden structure, your budget, and your personal taste. Here, we’ll go through the unique benefits of both pergolas and gazebos and what functionality they best suit:

The Benefits of a Pergola

A pergola can make a wonderful addition to your garden, providing dappled shade and cool breezes on an open structure on which you can also bloom attractive flowers. Some of the many benefits of a pergola include:

  • Can provide a dedicated outdoor entertaining area distinct from the rest of your garden
  • Easily customisable with plants and lights to create a beautiful little nook in your outdoor space as well as being able to accommodate a number of different room designs
  • Gives you a shady area that also allows for some sunshine as well as full exposure to cooling breezes
  • Generally, more budget-friendly
  • Simple to install yourself: you can easily build a pergola onto an existing deck or patio

The Benefits of a Gazebo

A gazebo can also be a transformative element in your outdoor area:

  • A solid roof means enhanced protection from the elements, allowing you to use your garden or outdoor area whatever the weather
  • Provides a covered seating area
  • Can look very attractive and professional as a garden feature

So Which is Better? Pergola or Gazebo?

If you want a garden structure that has a traditional charm and offers full coverage from rain, a gazebo may be your best option. But if you want a gorgeous garden structure that you can customise, a pergola may be better. Pergolas are versatile structures and you can easily add a roof if you want more protection from the weather.

Side view of a multi-generation Caucasian family sitting in the garden outside their house at a dinner table in the evening for a celebration meal together, talking and eating

Build a Bespoke Wooden Pergola With The Porch Specialist

If you’re thinking about building a pergola in your garden, we offer stunning wooden pergola kits that are primed for easy assembly. Our kits are made from high-quality oak to create beautiful pergolas to transform your outside area. Not only this, but you can also customise every element, so you can get a garden structure that’s right for you. 

Contact our friendly team today to discuss your needs or for a custom quote for a quality garden pergola. Or, read a more detailed explanation of pergolas and how they can enhance your garden.