March 3, 2021

What Is the Difference Between a Pergola and a Gazebo?

A great way to beat the winter blues, short of traveling to a warm, sunny island in the Caribbean, is to plan your landscape design to enhance your experience when warmer weather arrives.

By adding structures to your landscape, such as pergolas and gazebos, you can extend your outdoor living space and in doing so maximize the amount of time you’re able to spend outside.

While on the topic of pergolas and gazebos, it’s important to note what sets these two types of structures apart. As you learn more about their unique characteristics, you’ll have a better idea of which one is the best option for your Northeast Ohio backyard.

How Do Pergolas and Gazebos Differ From One Another?

While pergolas and gazebos both offer a shady spot to unwind and added privacy while allowing the benefit of being outdoors, there are key differences in structure, degree of shelter and uses.


Pergolas may cover a portion or all of a patio and are usually rectangular in shape with four posts that support the roof. The latticed or slatted roof of pergolas provides partial shade while still letting some direct sunlight reach individuals relaxing underneath it.


Source: Green Impressions

You can take a practical approach by installing a retractable shade cover that offers the flexibility to have more sunlight on moderate days or more shelter on hotter or rainy days.

Another option is to grow a living canopy of wisteria instead for a feel reminiscent of an Italian villa. This vine grows rapidly — up to 10 feet in a growing season — and produces sprays of pale lilac flowers with a lovely scent. You can also hang potted plants from the beams instead.

Pergolas are perfect for garden parties or simply relaxing at sunset with some cheese and wine. If you want an outdoor structure that blends in naturally with your backyard environment while creating an oasis that offers the same comforts as your living room, consider a pergola.


In contrast to a pergola, a gazebo has a full roof, providing complete protection from sun and rain. It also tends to be the more ornate of the two outdoor structures. Gazebos can be added to existing floors, but they often have their own raised floor that affords a better view of the surroundings.



Source: Getty Images

While both pergolas and gazebos have open sides to which you can add screens to provide further shelter, the gazebo’s octagon shape makes it easy to spot. You can even add glass.

Remember the gazebo in the Sound of Music? This more elaborate style gazebo with a door and walls of windows offered shelter from the rain for 16-year-old Liesl Von Trapp and her suitor. More often, though, the sides are open.

Gazebos are great for weddings and more intimate gatherings. They are often similar in style to the estate’s house or main building.

Whether seeking shelter from the summer rain or having tea with a few friends, this 5,000-year-old structure will bring a sense of historical grandeur to your garden.

Practical Matters: The Logistics of Your Pergola or Gazebo

Deciding on the decorative, intimate gazebo or the elegant, unintrusive pergola is not only a matter of taste but also practicality.

Material and Cost

Because they are more elaborate and provide more structure than a pergola, gazebos tend to be more expensive.

The material also affects the overall cost. Both structures can be made of a variety of materials, from metal to wood to vinyl. It’s important to use durable materials that are suited to the weather in your area, so if you decide on a wooden structure, cedar is best suited to Cleveland’s climate.


If you want a pergola with a climbing vine or hanging pots of flowers, what kind of sunlight do these plants need?

Consider the view from the structure as well as how its placement affects the garden aesthetics. You may want to place your pergola near your pool or flower garden so it blends naturally with the landscape. Your gazebo, on the other hand, should be situated so that the eye is drawn to it.

A pergola can also be an extension of a home as well as connect two buildings or walkways versus a gazebo, which is more of a standalone structure.

Now, Onto the Planning Phase!

Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between a pergola and a gazebo, it’s time to start planning. The team of landscape design experts at Green Impressions can help you decide which structure best suits your landscape, lifestyle  and budget — and weave these decisions into the overall design and installation of your backyard.

To get the conversation started around your project, request your free consultation today.




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