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Gazebo, Pergola & Pavilion – What is the Difference?

There are a wide range of wooden buildings and structures that you can use to enhance your garden.  Gazebo, pergola and pavilion are three words that you might have heard. All of these three are similar garden structures, usually made from wood. But what is the difference between them? And which one is right for your garden? Read on to find out.

What is a Gazebo?

A gazebo is a wooden garden building with a roof, and open sides all around. It can be free-standing, or erected against a wall or fence. Generally, a gazebo is hexagonal or octagonal in shape, though it can have any number of sides. A gazebo can be erected in a range of different settings, and on a range of different bases.

It can be built on a concrete plinth, on an area of lawn or grassland, or can have its own wooden decking incorporated. While the sides of a gazebo are usually open to the elements, screening can sometimes be provided. This can take the form of a lattice screen, or, in certain situations, incorporate curtains for occasional use.

A bench seat is often incorporated around the edges of the structure. However, these are garden buildings that can be used in a range of different ways. They may also be kitted out with a space for dining, or other furniture and elements for outdoors recreation.

What is a Pergola?

A pergola is another type of wooden garden building. But while gazebos are often multi-sided, a pergola is usually square or rectangular in form. Unlike a gazebo, a pergola does not have a fully covered roof. Instead, a series of pillars or vertical posts are used to support a lattice of cross-beams overhead. The lattice of beams provides a little shade, but sun and rain can still go through.

Pergolas are usually used as frameworks to support the growth of vining or climbing plants. Woody vines such as roses, wisteria, ivy, jasmine and honeysuckle are often planted to cover the structural framework, providing more shade, and a pleasant recreational environment.

A pergola is often used to cover a patio, outdoor seating or outdoor dining area. Smaller examples can also be used to create pleasant arbors, or to form an arch over a gateway or path. These multi-functional frameworks can be used in a range of ways. They can blend in harmoniously with the natural environment in a garden.

What is a Pavilion?

Pavilions are common in parks and public gardens, and are becoming more popular in larger private gardens too. These are free-standing structures without walls, but roofed. They are generally very like gazebos – but larger. The larger size of these garden buildings means that they can lend themselves to a series of more ambitious designs and upgrades.

A pavilion can be used, for example, to house an outdoors kitchen. A  pavilion might be the ideal place for events or family gatherings. One might feature an outdoors fireplace, and comfortable seating for a decadent outdoors living room. The larger size of a pavilion means that is can be used in a huge range of different ways.

Which One Should I Choose For My Garden?

First of all, when thinking about whether you should get a gazebo, pergola or pavilion, you will have to think about local rules, bylaws and regulations. Depending on where you live, there may be some rules about the type and size of structure that you are allowed to create. Over and above this, however, there are a number of other things to consider.

Consider Your Site

One of the most important considerations is the size, layout and characteristics of your particular site. In a small, domestic, urban garden, for example, there may only be space for a small pergola across a patio. On larger properties, in rural settings, there will likely be far more space to play with. You will be able to be more adventurous about the types and sizes of the garden buildings that you choose to incorporate.

It is also important to think about the climate where you live. In a rainier climate, a covered roof structure such as a gazebo or pavilion could be a better choice. You would be able to use the space more often. In sunnier climes, you might prefer the open roof of a pergola.

Of course, practical considerations will also include the characteristics of the ground. Think about whether the building will be on grass, soil, or hard paving. Your choice may be informed by the type of foundations you would have to make. A large pavilion will generally require more groundworks than a smaller, lightweight pergola, for example.

Consider How the Structure Will Be Used

When deciding which outdoors structure will be right for you, you should also consider how you actually intend to use the space, and when. Will you use the space for sitting and relaxing, for quiet, solitary contemplation or larger social events? Will you be dining outside, cooking outside or enjoying a hobby in the space?

Do you want a space that you can use all year round, or will you be using it only during the summer months? Thinking about how you will use the space, and when, should help you decide whether a gazebo, pergola or pavilion is the best choice for you.

Consider Your Own Style Preferences

Finally, it is also important to consider the aesthetics of your new garden structure. Gazebos, pergolas and pavilions all have slightly different characteristics. They look and feel somewhat different. While practical considerations and function are very important, how the structures look and feel is important too. Take your own style preferences into account.

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