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Gazebo Vs Pavilion Vs Pergola: Which One Is Right for You?

August 3rd, 2022 | 4 min. read

By Phil Parsons

You want to add a shaded space to your backyard, but you can't decide on which kind. In the battle of gazebo vs. pavilion vs. pergola, how do you make sure you pick a winner?

Gazebos, pavilions and pergolas are all great options. Each has differences that might make it a better fit for your outdoor living goals. 

At KP Contracting, we love adding shady structures to any southern Maryland backyard. We've built plenty of pavilions, pergolas and gazebos, and we'd love to help you build any of those three. 

In this post, you'll learn how you can be the winner in the battle of gazebo vs. pavilion vs. pergola. You'll understand which of the three best suits your outdoor living goals. 

gazebo with dining table (2)


Gazebo Vs Pavilion Vs Pergola: A Quick Rundown

Which option wins in the battle of gazebo vs pavilion vs pergola? The answer depends on you. What are your outdoor living goals? If you want space for a grill and table, a pavilion's a good choice. If you want a space attached to the house, pergolas are a good option. The right option depends on your backyard design scheme.

What Are Gazebos?

Gazebos are stand-alone structures that can be hexagonal, rectangular, or oval. They have a solid roof and railings or even walls. Gazebos can be made from wood, vinyl, or aluminum. Gazebos can be screened in thanks to their smaller size. A screened gazebo provides more protection from bugs.

What Are Pavilions?

Pavilions also provide shade and protection from the elements. However, pavilions are typically larger than gazebos, and have open sides. This makes them ideal for hosting large parties or events. Pavilions are also great if you want a separate space for a grill and cooking area.

pavilion with grill and dining set (1)

What Are Pergolas?

Pergolas consist of vertical posts supporting a grid of crossed beams. They can be made from wood, vinyl, or aluminum. Pergolas' latticework tops provide dappled shade. You'll get aesthetically pleasing cover from the sun. However, pergolas don’t protect from the rain. Waterproof covers can be added to pergolas, though.

pergola attached to house

Gazebos provide privacy 

gazebo poolside (1)

Gazebos are great if you want a small space distinct from other areas. The closed-off railings of a gazebo make it a self-contained retreat. If you add screens, and you have another de facto room.

Where pavilions are great for cooking or large gatherings, gazebos are ideal spaces for cozier get-togethers. They're large enough for small tables, or even small pieces of outdoor furniture.

Most sides of a gazebo are closed in, giving you privacy and a sense of seclusion. And because it’s a stand-alone structure, you have the freedom to place it anywhere in your yard.

Pavilions are perfect for large-scale entertaining

Summer, barbecue evenings, and fun with the family. That’s the easiest way to explain what a pavilion means.

Pavilions are perfect for hosting large gatherings like birthday parties, barbecues, or graduations. The open sides allow guests to move freely between pavilion and backyard. If you love hosting dinner parties or barbecues, the pavilion may be just what you’re looking for. Inclement weather isn't a problem, as pavilions have solid roofs.pavilion poolside (1)

If you have a large backyard and love entertaining, pavilions suit your needs. Since they start at 10 x 12 feet, pavilions require a large backyard. They're an exceptional partner to pools. A pool and pavilion combination is a pool party looking for a crowd to happen in.

Pavilions for crowds, gazebos for small groups

Pavilions and gazebos both provide shade and protection from the rain, but provide different experiences. Pavilions are the right option if you've got a lot of space, and plan to do a lot of entertaining. Gazebos are a good pick if you have less space, want an independent structure, or just need a retreat for the temperate months. 

Pergolas combine shade and structure  

white wooden pergola on a wooden deck with chairs and lights

Pergolas are great for shade, privacy, and visual interest. You can add plants or lights to the pergola to make your outdoor space more inviting and functional.

Pergolas are made from wood, vinyl, or aluminum and have vertical posts supporting a roof of crossed beams. Traditional pergolas don’t have solid walls or a roof, which means they provide some shade but won’t fully block out the sun or rain. You can get a pergola with a polycarbonate roof or add a shade sail to get more protection if needed.

Pergolas extend the indoors, gazebos provide privacy

Pergolas add texture and depth to your deck or patio. Pergolas also feel like an extension of the inside of your house. Pergolas are perfect if you love the "bringing the indoors outside" design philosophy (also called biophilic design). Pergolas are also significantly cheaper than gazebos.

Gazebos are good if you want a space separate from your deck or patio. The covered roof and side walls add to the gazebo's privacy. Gazebos can be put any distance from a deck or patio. If you have a larger backyard, a gazebo could fit in multiple places.

Pavilions for protection, pergolas for price

Pavilions are the right choice if you want solid cover, a large space, and the potential for additions like grills, outdoor kitchens, or furniture sets. Pavilions provide a space to relax like pergolas do, but offer other options as well.

Pavilions provide more protection from the sun and rain than pergolas, but they also come with a higher price tag. If you’re looking for something cheaper and smaller, then a pergola is the way to go. Pergolas are also more versatile and can be added almost anywhere in your outdoor living space.

So, which is better? A gazebo, pergola or pavilion?

Which is best for you: gazebo, pavilion or pergola? It depends on your vision for your backyard.

If you want space to entertain a large group, a pavilion is the right choice. If you want a casual space with natural light, you'll want a pergola. Gazebos are good for covered privacy.

Whichever option fits your Maryland home, we'd love to help you build it. Give us a call at   240-266-5900, or contact us here. If you're confused about picking a contractor, check out these four questions to ask before choosing a contractor, or this list of the hidden costs of hiring a cheap contractor

Phil Parsons

Phil Parsons is an owner at KP Contracting with 20-years’ experience in custom remodeling and the development of outdoor living spaces that bring friends and family together. He is a degreed engineer, and his work has been featured on HGTV.