Pavilion vs. Gazebo vs. Pergola: Pros, Cons, And Price Comparisons

Kenneth Wilson

Are you planning on installing an outdoor shade structure in your outdoor area? There are many types of backyard embellishments you can get that offer sun protection as well as increase privacy! 

Most people are familiar with the gazebo, but other options for a landscaping feature that doubles as a comfortable living space are a pavilion and pergola. Some people get confused with these structures since they look the same from a distance, but each type has its own unique style and features. 

If you don’t know which one to get, here is a guide on the pros, cons, and cost of these different outdoor shade structures.

Gazebo

Some people get confused with the gazebo and pavilion. To differentiate them, you should look at the shape. A gazebo usually has a hexagonal or octagonal shape, but there are some with a round, oval, square, or rectangular structure. Since it has a circular structure, it’s great for homes with a beautiful 360-degree view. This type of structure is often freestanding and has a built-in floor. It can be placed in a garden or on a concrete area, but it can also be attached to walls, patios, or decks. 

If you notice that some gazebos have a small second roof on top, this small dome is called a cupola. It has a fully-closed solid roof, so some homeowners who want to be able to lounge in their outdoor area, rain or shine, may want to get a gazebo. It provides more shade compared to the other types and can shelter you from the rain. That’s why for homeowners who want to set up an entertainment area inside the gazebo, it can also run electricity, have outlets, and other upgrades. You may also want to install an outdoor kitchen or a bar.

Most gazebos have sides that are semi-open with railings and designed with curtains, lattices, or trellises. But for areas that usually have bugs swarming around, you can get a gazebo with screened-in walls to keep them from getting inside. There is also an option to get one with a surrounding deck or a pathway.

The gazebo is usually found in public spaces, such as a park or an event place. It is quite popular at weddings, school dances, and other events. But they aren’t just for public areas or events as it can also be found in many private residences. 

It is actually hard to come by a house that has a gazebo pre-installed, so having one can increase the value of a home. On the downside, this structure takes up a lot of yard space, so it would be better if the residence has a big outdoor area.

There are many ways you can get a gazebo. If you are fine with any design, you can get a pre-assembled or a kit. A pre-assembled out would cost around $2,000 to $7,000 while the kit ranges from $1,500 to $4,000. This doesn’t include the $80 to $250 shipping cost and $200 to $800 installation cost. Overall, this would still be less expensive than a custom-built one. Not only is it cheaper, but with enough manpower, it can be installed in a day or two. 

But if you want to choose the style, you will need to hire a contractor or build one. Custom-built gazebos costs around $8,000 to $20,000. You would spend around $4,000 to $9,000 for the installation cost and $2,000 to $8,500 for the materials, depending on which one you prefer. Gazebos can be made out of wood, metal, vinyl, or a combination of these. To be specific, the popular wood choices are cedar, redwood, or bamboo since these are more durable against water. For metal, steel is heavier but a more durable choice while aluminum is lightweight and more affordable. Vinyl is a synthetic material that lasts long and makes the gazebo easier to maintain. It can also be made to look like wood or metal, producing a variety of designs.

Pavilion

To differentiate a pavilion, this structure usually has a fully-covered pitched or gabled roof with open sides. It is supported by four posts, or sometimes six, if it is bigger. Since it has a fully-solid roof, it also provides more shade and can shelter from the rain. It is often square or rectangular-shaped, so it can cover a bigger area than gazebos. 

Pavilions are typically used to cover a deck or seating area. The sides are more open but there is an option to install a wall or two to provide more sun, rain, and wind protection. With a wall,  you can hang a television or speakers for your outdoor entertainment area. You also won’t have to worry about getting the electric wiring and outlets wet. This will help keep the furniture dry, as well as appliances if one chooses to add an outdoor kitchen or bar. You can even get a ceiling fan, which will be perfect during a hot sunny afternoon.

Source: Net Luxury

A pavilion can be freestanding in the garden or on a concrete area, or it can be an outdoor extension of the house, attached to a patio, deck, or exterior wall. It is also difficult to find a home with a pre-installed pavilion, so it is also a feature that can add value to a home. But since it is a large structure, it is a better fit for homes with a bigger yard.

The cost of building a pavilion is around $3,000 and $12,000, depending on whether it was built from a kit and with or without professional help. If you prefer building one, the materials will range from $1,000 to $5,000. With professional help, the installation cost ranges from $2,000 to $7,000.

For the kit prices, it depends on the material. Wood pavilions can start around $4,700 while vinyl kits cost around $6,000. For a more rustic look, you should go with wood, but it will require more maintenance. Vinyl pavilions give a more modern and sleek look and will be easier to maintain.

Pergola

Among the fixed overhead structures growing popular among homeowners, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), 30% of these structures are pergolas. What makes them so popular? Let’s find out more about this structure.

Similar to the pavilion, pergolas have open sides and are usually supported by four beams. But among the three, it provides the least shade and rain protection because it doesn’t have a fully-covered or solid roof. It traditionally has a flat trellis or lattice roof, which only offers partial shade.

Nowadays, if homeowners want the pergola design but with more coverage from the sun and rain, they have the option to install screens, louvered shutters, or retractable shade panels. This type of pergola is called a flat roof or skillion pergola. They can also add vines or sheer curtains to increase privacy and provide more shade.

Source: Elle Decor

But for those who still want a traditional or open-top pergola, there’s nothing wrong with a wide-open structure. Pergolas weren’t built to completely shelter people. It has a trellis roof so it can allow more sunlight to pass through and provide more air circulation. So if you won’t be lounging in your outdoor area when it’s raining and prefer being partly exposed to the sun, a traditional pergola is suited for you.

Besides the open-top and skillion pergola, there are more types of pergola. If you want a pergola with a house-like appearance, a gable pergola has a ridge or peak roof, making the roof triangular. Another type is a pitch pergola, which is called this way because it has a pitched or angled roof that is attached to a section of a house, a standing structure, or a tall wall. Similar to a skillion pergola, sail pergolas provide more cover since it has a stretched fabric or canvas suspended between the trellis roof. 

For a more durable alternative, there are also steel pergolas, which uses steel beams. This is best for areas with harsh weather conditions. It can withstand strong wind pressure and is easier to maintain. If you want a unique-looking structure, arched pergolas have convex or concave arches. There is also a pergola for walkways or pathways, and it’s called a promenade pergola. This can make the path look magical as if you are walking through a forest, especially if the pergola is covered with climbing plants such as roses, vines, or wisteria.

Similar to the gazebo and pavilion, a pergola can also be freestanding or an outdoor extension of a home or patio. It can also be placed on a deck or at the poolside area. Either way, it is a beautiful addition to an outdoor area and will require smaller space. But it has to be designed well to increase the value of a home. 

How much does it cost? Since most pergolas do not need any concrete as they can be assembled on the grass or existing deck or patio, it is less expensive than the other types. The cost to build a pergola can cost around $2,100 to $5,800. The price can double up to $10,000 or more if it is custom made using high-quality materials. The cost for materials can range between $1,000 and $5,000, while installation costs are from $500 up to $1,000. It can cost more if the pergola is more complex such as an arched pergola.

If you don’t mind getting a kit, a small vinyl pergola kit will only cost around $600 to $1,000. On the other hand, a 10x10 foot aluminum pergola kit will range from $1,500 to $3,000 while wooden pergolas are priced between $2,500 to $5,000, depending on the wood. If you’re unsure what material to get, here’s a guide on the different types of materials for your pergola.

Besides being less expensive, it will also be faster to install these kits, usually around one to two days. 

Design Guide: 30 Outdoor Shade Structure Design Inspirations For Your Home

Summary: Comparing Pros, Cons, and Cost

To make it easier for you to decide among the different types of outdoor shade structures, here is a table comparing all three. This will help you to choose based on the installation costs, coverage, and more!

GAZEBO

Cost

  • Custom-built: $8,000 to $20,000
  • Kit/Pre-assembled: $1,500 to $7,000
  • Materials: $2,000 to $8,500
  • Installation cost: $4,000 to $9,000

Pros

  • Coverage: Provides more shade and cover on top and the sides
  • Appearance: Looks elegant
  • Long-lasting: Made out of durable materials
  • Location: Placed anywhere since it comes with a built-in floor
  • Electricity: Installed with electrical wirings and outlets
  • Protection: Screened-in to keep the bugs out
  • Upgrades: Add a surrounding deck or pathway

Cons

  • Area: Takes up a huge chunk of the yard space
  • Costs: More expensive than other types
  • Maintenance: Harder to maintain
  • Installation: Requires more materials and takes longer

PAVILION

Cost

  • Range: $3,000 to $12,000
  • Kit: $4,700 (wood), $6,000 (vinyl)
  • Materials: $1,000 to $5,000
  • Installation cost: $2,000 to $7,000

Pros

  • Coverage: Fully-covered roof
  • Air circulation: Open sides
  • Add-ons: Install electrical wirings and outlets
  • Upgrades: Add a wall for more shade and protection
  • Materials: Requires fewer materials to install
  • Large: Provides more coverage

Cons

  • Area: Takes up a huge space in the backyard
  • Privacy: Open sides offer less privacy

PERGOLA

Cost

  • Custom-built: $2,100 to $10,000
  • Kit: $600 to $1,000

  • Materials: $1,000 to $5,000
  • Installation cost: $500 to $1,000

Pros

  • Air circulation: Open sides
  • Designs: Comes in different types for various purposes
  • Area: Takes up a smaller place
  • Location: Can be placed anywhere and doesn’t require built-in flooring
  • Installation: Less expensive and faster
  • Materials: Requires fewer materials

Cons

  • Coverage: Less shade with a trellis or lattice roof
  • Quality: Materials can fade or get termites
  • Durability: Cannot hold swinging chairs, hammocks, and other hanging furniture
  • Privacy: Open sides offer less privacy
Kenneth Wilson
August 16, 2020
Cost Guides, Yard & Garden

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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