Choosing the right outdoor structure for your home starts with understanding your options.

If you’re looking to add beauty and practicality to your outdoor spaces, you have many options. From patios, pools, and small shelters, there are endless ways to make your home feel special.

Many people are looking for a little extra shade and architectural pizzazz. You may find yourself thinking about a pergola or gazebo. Before deciding, you need to understand the difference between them.

Pergolas and gazebos have very different roofs.

Pergolas have flat, open tops, usually made with slats or beams. Gazebos have solid roofs that are pitched to allow runoff. Many are shaped like turrets or cones: round, with a central point.

The solid roof of a gazebo offers more protection from the sun. But if you prefer the look of a pergola, there are many ways to add a little shade. Retractable roofs, thick plant growth, and curtains are just a few options.

Pergolas are usually rectangular. Gazebos are round.

Most pergolas are square or rectangular—gazebos are often circular.

Choosing between the two is a matter of preference. But the shape of the space may be a factor. If you have an odd-shaped patch of lawn to fill, the round shape of a gazebo may appear more natural. If your space is angular, the straight edges of a pergola may be better.

Gazebos stand alone. Pergolas attach to other structures.

Where you want to place your outdoor structure can affect your decision. Because gazebos are round, attaching them to the straight exterior wall of a house can be a little tricky. And the two different shapes can look a little odd together. A pergola, on the other hand, offers a second straight surface for connection, which makes for an easier project.

If you want your outdoor structure directly attached to your house, a pergola might be the more practical choice. However, if your heart is set on a gazebo, you may have options. You could add a covered walkway between your back door and your gazebo.

Gazebos are often built with bench seating. Pergolas are not.

Benches are built directly into the structure of many gazebos, offering intimate seating. Some may even have a small table built into the center as well. However, it’s a rare pergola that’s made with built-in seating. Most pergola owners buy their own chairs for lounging and chatting.

Many people may prefer the coziness of gazebo seating. But this arrangement allows for less creative freedom and virtually no rearranging.

On a similar note, most gazebos have built-in flooring. Pergolas, on the other hand, share their surfaces with the surrounding area. 

Pergolas are usually less expensive than gazebos.

Both pergolas and gazebos are available for a range of budgets, depending on material choice, size, and affinity for DIY. However, in general, a pergola will be the more cost-effective choice. This is largely due to the fact that pergolas are simpler structures without complex roofs. The simplicity of the pergola makes them a more affordable option for many.Of course, pergolas and gazebos are not your only options when it comes to outdoor structures. Learn more about patio covers and screen rooms >