What is the Difference Between a Gazebo and a Pergola?

Gazebos and pergolas are often confused. That’s understandable, since they are similar structures in many ways.

However, we wanted to make sure we addressed this common question so that you could make the very best choice for your yard.


A gazebo always has a full roof on it. That means you could sit and eat under it, even in the rain.

Gazebos are usually free standing, but not always. This is one of our favorite gazebo projects, and as you can see we attached it right to the deck.

We’ve also attached gazebos to garden walls.

With that being said, a gazebo is typically meant to serve as a 360 degree viewing spot for the entire landscape. It is a full outdoor building, though some gazebos leave the sides open.

Usually, however, gazebos are fenced, and you can even add screens to them to shut out the elements even more while you enjoy this outdoor space.

It is definitely a building, however, so it doesn’t give you the same “flowing outdoor room” feel that a pergola will. That’s not to say it’s not a beautiful and classy addition to your yard, though! It’s just a matter of preference. If you’d rather have a 360 view of your landscape while, say, relaxing in a hot tub (putting hot tubs in gazebos are popular choices) then a gazebo may well be for you.


A pergola is usually either an arch structure or a column structure that supports a lattice work.

They’re often used as walkways. In fact, the word “Pergola” is Italian for “close walk of boughs.” That’s because they’re also meant for flowers or other plants to grow all over them, and when you turn them into a shaded walkway they can become quite gorgeous.

The one you see pictured here, of course, is serving as an entryway. Using a pergola for an entryway definitely gives you a “secret garden” feel that’s very enchanting.

If you want to extend your home or make a full outdoor room complete with a kitchen, a fireplace, and a spot to dine then a pergola may be for you. We’ll simply attach it to the house. However, it doesn’t have a roof like a gazebo, so you won’t be able to use the outdoor room when it’s raining.

Finally, we see pergolas used to create little sitting spots or meditation gardens. Instead of providing a 360 degree view like a gazebo, these little structures are great for creating closed off, flowery hideaways.

Either option can make your yard amazing!

Obviously your choice should be based on how you see yourself using this new addition to your yard, and what would please you the most.

However, either choice can make your landscape “pop” as never before. Either one is a classy addition to your yard, especially when you choose Northern White Cedar as your building material.

Want to learn more? If you live in Whitefish Bay, Shorewood, Wauwatosa or anywhere else in the Milwaukee metro area, call us! We’ll help you design the gazebo or pergola that fits your budget and your needs.

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