Hardtop Gazebo vs. Pergola: What’s the Difference? 

  • By: Ian Dale
  • Date: November 16, 2021
  • Time to read: 8 min.

Many people love to spend time outdoors. However, when it’s too hot, too cold, or rainy, this isn’t always possible. A gazebo or pergola can help protect you and your loved ones from the harmful UV rays (and the heat) of the sun and, depending on how it’s designed, may even offer some protection against the autumn chill for a few weeks.

The choice between the two can be a difficult one if you’re not sure about the characteristics of each one. In this article, we’ll explain what each of these structures are, along with the pros and cons of each. Then, we’ll take a look at the differences and the similarities between the two. This should help you decide which one is best for your outdoor space.

What is a Gazebo?

A gazebo is a freestanding outdoor structure that can add lots of interest to your outdoor space without having to spend a lot of money and time. Of course, you can have your gazebo attached to a wall, but this takes away from some of their charm.

Typically, they are round, shaped like a hexagon or octagon and have a domed roof that is held up by pillars. A gazebo in your backyard will typically be smaller, holding around 8 to 12 people. On the other hand, gazebos in commercial areas are usually large enough to hold large events.

If you want a decorative structure in your backyard that provides some protection against weather conditions, a gazebo might be a great choice. While you can choose a plain gazebo, they are typically more elaborate than a pergola. Due to the fact that they provide protection against weather with their solid roof and optional walls, these structures are ideal for spending time outdoors with loved ones, including outdoor meals.

Advantages of Gazebos

There are several advantages to a gazebo, including the following:

These structures can be made out of a variety of materials, which have their own advantages and disadvantages. From aluminum to hardwood to wrought iron, or vinyl, the materials you decide you want your gazebo made from will be dependent upon your budget and what you expect the structure to look like.
A quality gazebo adds value to your home right away, making it more appealing to buyers.
Since they provide you with an outdoor structure that you can sit and be protected by the elements, you can enjoy your backyard in comfort and style with a gazebo.
A gazebo has a floor, which means you don’t have to be concerned with it getting muddy when it rains. You can use a doormat by the entryway to your gazebo to keep the floor clean.  A gazebo also has a roof, which means you can be sure the sun won’t get too hot.
Since they are protected from the elements, electricity can be run in a gazebo. This means that you can listen to music when in this space and you don’t have to be concerned with rain damaging your equipment or outlets.
You can easily install bug screens to keep out insects so that you can enjoy your space without being pestered by pests.
A jacuzzi fits well into a gazebo, meaning you can enjoy soaking and relaxing even in not-so-great weather.
A gazebo provides a gorgeous backdrop for photos.
You can add roll-up screens to your gazebo, which means you get the privacy hat is not offered by other outdoor structures.
Since gazebos are sturdy, there’s little risk of inclement weather causing damage to them.
Disadvantages of Gazebos

There are also some disadvantages that come with gazebos, including the following:

Gazebos are often more expensive than other options, including pergolas. Plus, most homeowners don’t have the skills/knowledge for doing the work themselves, which means they have the additional cost of hiring a professional to do the installation.
Gazebos take up more space in your yard and don’t feel nearly as open as a pergola. Therefore, you must give careful consideration to where you build a gazebo to keep from making your yard feel chopped up and disconnected.
You can’t enjoy a cool breeze in a gazebo because any walls will keep the wind from getting inside.
Over time, just like your home, you may notice that the roof of your gazebo leaks, resulting in expensive repairs to stop the leaking and ensure that you don’t have rot and/or mold in the walls of your gazebo.
If your gazebo is too large, it will appear to be out of place and will not add value to your property.
A pre-fab gazebo will be much easier to install and won’t cost as much- but they are typically not built to last and don’t have the same beauty that a custom-built gazebo does.
A steel gazebo will get hot during the summer and a wooden one will require maintenance to avoid damage to the wood.
What is a Pergola?

A pergola is a structure that can be either freestanding or attached to your home. It can installed in your outdoor area to create a breezy walkway from one portion of your home/garden to another. They are open at the top, so they don’t provide much protection from the elements.

However, these are a great option for homeowners who have a green thumb and are willing to work to train plants to climb the pergola, as this is part of their charm.

Advantages of Pergolas

There are a few advantages that come with pergolas, including the following:

Pergolas are easy to build, and once posts are set, they can be constructed fairly quickly. Most homeowners that are handy and comfortable with power tools can complete this project on their own.
Pergolas give you a way to define space in your yard and provide seating space without creating definitive boundaries. Since they are open on the sides, pets and people can come and go as they please without any issues, which creates flow in your yard and is appealing to many people.
Regardless of your budget or personal style, you can find materials for a pergola that you will love. Wood is the traditional choice and is often the most popular- but requires additional maintenance. This causes many people to choose other options that don’t require as much maintenance in the future.
Pergolas look great and add value to your home. Therefore, this is a great project to take on if you plan to be selling your home in the future.
Depending upon the materials you choose, a pergola can be quite inexpensive, which means it’s ideal for homeowners on a budget that want to make some improvements to their property.
Since a pergola does not have walls, the breeze is allowed to flow freely through the area.
Pergolas are a great way to anchor an outdoor living space or kitchen, making it feel like an extension of your home.
Since a pergola can be freestanding or attached to your home, you can improve your yard without taking up a lot of space.
Pergolas are used to define space in your yard, which means you can choose the size that suits your needs. A larger structure will obviously be more expensive- but is still a budget-friendly option for a backyard structure.
Since a pergola can be freestanding or attached to your home, you can improve your yard without taking up a lot of space.
Pergolas are used to define space in your yard, which means you can choose the size that suits your needs. A larger structure will obviously be more expensive- but is still a budget-friendly option for a backyard structure.
Disadvantages of Pergolas

There are also some disadvantages of pergolas, which are listed below:

Until you get some plants/vines established and growing on your pergola, it’s going to appear to be unfinished. This is frustrating for those who install a pergola in the fall/winter and can’t start growing until the spring.
If a pergola doesn’t have plants growing on it, this structure doesn’t provide much shade. Therefore, you won’t likely want to use this area during the summer.
Since there’s not a raised floor on a pergola, many homeowners feel that the structure is unfinished. Additionally, it means that heavy rains cause water to run through the pergola, allowing dirt/debris to be tracked in easily.
Since there are no walls on a pergola, there’s no protection from insects and other unwanted pests.
Heavy winds and light rain can send people inside since the pergola isn’t very enjoyable.
When most people think of a pergola, they think of a wooden one. While this looks great, it requires a lot of maintenance to make sure the wood maintains is appearance and doesn’t deteriorate.
Typically, pergolas are square or rectangular. You don’t get a lot of options when considering the design of your pergola.
How are Gazebos & Pergolas Similar?

There are a few similarities between gazebos and pergolas, including the following:

Both provide shade
Both provide privacy
Both add value to your home
Both provide space for relaxation and entertainment
Both can be freestanding
Both add beauty to your yard
How are Gazebos & Pergolas Different?

Though they’re both outdoor structures, there are some differences between gazebos and pergolas. These are as follows:

Pergolas are either square or rectangular. Gazebos can be square, rectangular, hexagonal, or octagonal.
Pergolas have an open roof and open walls. Gazebos usually have a roof and some sort of walls.
Pergolas are usually larger than a gazebo and can hold more people.
Pergolas are ideal for creating a green screen to enhance your outdoor space- a gazebo is not good for this purpose.
Pergolas do not allow installation of outdoor appliances. If you have a gazebo, you can install anything: bug zappers, outdoor speakers, and so much more!
How to Know Which One is Better

The best option for you comes down to your personal choice. There’s no right or wrong answer. You must decide what type of aesthetic you want to give your home.

As you can see, a gazebo provides more privacy and comfort than a pergola- but they do not have a modern design. If you want to add a modern feel/design to your outdoor space, a pergola is a great option. Either way, you can be sure that you’re adding beauty and value to your property.

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