What’s the difference between a Gazebo and a Pergola?

Gazebos and pergolas are both outdoor structures that offer visual interest, privacy, shelter, and shade in your garden; but the amount of protection that they offer is their biggest difference. With a multitude of design options available, from traditional to modern, they all come with unique benefits, and in this article we’ll help you to understand their differences and decide which garden structure is best for you.

Definitions of Pergolas and Gazebos

What is a Gazebo?

Dating back to 1400BC, found in Egyptian garden plans, the gazebo has been around a lot longer than a pergola. Gazebos are a freestanding structure with an enclosed roof, built-in flooring, and half open sides, offering a luxurious place to lounge while embracing your natural surroundings.

Breeze House introduced the first thatched garden gazebos to the UK market in 1994. Founder, Andrew Peck was inspired by the timber and thatched roundavels he saw during a visit to Africa. Peck was captivated by the usefulness of these native, open-sided structures, for both shade from the sun and as perfect cover from heavy rainfall.

What is a Pergola?

A pergola is a much more modern term and structure in the realms of garden buildings and has been designed to complement modern architecture; pergola was first used in the 1640’s and is rooted from the Latin word “pergula” which means “projecting eave.” Pergolas are open-air structures with pillars supporting a partial roof structure that is designed to let a proportion of sunlight and airflow through.

Design and Structure

Roof Design


Gazebos are known for their fully closed pitched roofs, which provides continuous protection come rain or shine. Similar to a house roof, but on a smaller scale, a gazebo roof can be tiled, thatched, or shingled, depending on your desired aesthetic and needs.


Pergolas have an open roof with beams laid at intervals or woven across the top, offering partial shade. The roof is popularly used to hang plants or vines for visual appeal as well as increasing the shade offered. Retracting fabric canopies are also used to add shade to the area.



A gazebo typically aligns more with the traditional aesthetic and can feel like a building in its own right. Structurally, gazebos are most often a round shape with half walled or railed sides to provide some protection from the elements whilst still allowing you to take in your surroundings. Depending on their foundations, gazebos also have built-in flooring that is raised from the ground to offer a better vantage point and ensure that the surface remains protected.


Pergolas are much more open, modern structures often used as an addition to an existing seating area. Structurally, pergolas are minimalistic and in comparison to gazebos. They are built from four posts which are embedded directly in the ground, and pergolas rarely have walls but if walls are added they are usually only partial walls with rotatable beams.

Functionality and Benefits



Gazebos are much more durable than pergolas and if built well are proven to stand the test of time. A gazebos full roof structure offers superior protection to the whole building from all weather conditions – remember even the sun, that we all love, can have damaging effects on building materials.

The various elements of a gazebo, from the roof, railings, and built-in furniture, all the way down to flooring also adds a significant amount of strength to the overall structure, with every element being ‘tied’ together to create a solid foundation.


A well-built pergola, that is correctly maintained in accordance with the material in which it is constructed, can last for years. However, the lack of weather protection can lead to much quicker deterioration. Pergolas are also a much weaker construction and are subject to damage from day-to-day use.



Gazebos are typically more expensive than pergolas, as they can be very detailed structures which require more time to craft and install. Building a Gazebos will entail higher labour costs, require multiple different building materials, spend more time in planning, and often come with external costs such as ground prep work.


Pergolas cost considerably less than a Gazebo, as there are fewer materials used with a much simpler architecture. A pergola is also much more frequently a DIY project.

Installation and Customisation

Attachment to House


Due to the nature of a gazebo’s design, with an enclosed roof, they are usually constructed as a freestanding structure.


Not all pergolas are freestanding structures but can be attached to or supported by the main structure of the home.

Customisation Options


Gazebos offer unlimited customisation potential, to meet your practical needs and personal taste. From solid walls, to built-in furniture, and additional accessories. A Gazebo can become a ‘room’ of its own, our Bespoke Breeze Houses have previously been used to house outdoor kitchens, hot tubs, swimming pools, garden bars and even play areas for children.


The simplicity of a pergola means that they are customisable to whatever your desired look might be; you can choose colour and material to enhance your outdoor living space. However, they are limited by their very minimalistic structure. 

Property Value Addition


A gazebo will undoubtedly add value to your property, as long it is built to the highest standard. It is worth a bigger initial investment without compromising on quality to ensure the best return if you choose to sell your property. 


Building a pergola is much less expensive than a gazebo, and for this reason less likely to be a unique selling point if you decide to move house. 

Choose the Right Structure for Your Outdoor Space

The decision between a pergola and a gazebo ultimately comes down to personal choice. Your garden size, the use of the structure, and how often you want to use all factors into your decision. This article explored the key differences to help you choose. If you’re still stuck, use these questions to move one step forward:

Want shelter from the unpredictable British weather? Choose Gazebo

Want somewhere protective to sit whilst still enjoying the elements? Choose Gazebo

Looking for a basic structure to add visual interest to your garden? Choose Pergola Visit a showsite to find out more about pricing, installation, and features.

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