4 Types of Outdoor Shade Structures

Written By Kenneth Wilson  |  0 Comments

Are you planning on decorating your garden? Not sure whether to get a pergola or gazebo?

With our Florida sun, a lot of homeowners like to spend their time outdoors. That’s why you’ll see that most of their yards have a landscaping feature that doubles as a comfortable outdoor living space.

Besides the pergola and gazebo, there are other types of outdoor shade structures you can get. You can also get an arbor or a pavilion for your home. Most people get confused with these embellishments since they look the same from a distance. Each type has its own unique features, but all of them offer sun protection and privacy.

According to American Society of Landscape Architects or ASLA’s 2018 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey, the pergola is the most popular choice for outdoor structures that provide shade; followed by the arbor, pavilion, and then gazebo.

If you are already set on getting a pergola, you should know there are different types you can choose from. Find out which pergola is the best fit for your home. If not, here is a guide that provides information on the general design, purpose, and benefits of the different kinds of backyard embellishments that provide shade.

1. Pergola

A pergola is a wide-open outdoor embellishment supported by four beams and has no walls. This structure can be freestanding or connected to your home. It’s flat roof traditionally has a lattice or trellis design which offers partial shade, but sometimes screens are added to provide more cover. You may also add vines or sheer curtains to increase privacy and shade.

But the primary purpose of pergolas is not to completely shelter people. Its traditional design is built to allow more air circulation and sunlight can pass through. Think of it as just a relief from the harsh Florida sun.

Other than that, this structure is used to create an outdoor extension of a home or patio. You can use it for outdoor dining or entertaining guests. It can also be placed on a deck or at the poolside area. Compared to a pavilion or gazebo, this structure won’t obstruct the view from inside your home as much.

Adding this embellishment also upgrades the look of your backyard. If designed well, this can even increase the value of your home. So if you don’t mind a little sun, and you won’t be using your outdoor shade structure when it’s raining, you can opt for a pergola.

Compared to the pavilion and gazebo, it’s easier and cheaper to maintain a pergola. It’s faster to install and requires fewer materials to build. The construction cost and time will still depend on what type of pergola you get. There are ones that can be made from a kit or bought whole. You can also build one on your own or get a contractor to custom build you one.

2. Arbor

It’s easy to confuse an arbor with a pergola because they have the same lattice or trellis design. But what makes the arbor different is that its side also has a lattice framework. It can have two or four beams and often has an arched top. Similar to a pergola, vines can be used to increase shade and privacy for this structure. These are also smaller than the other kinds of backyard embellishments because it’s not meant to become an outdoor living area.

Arbors are primarily used to accentuate walkways, paths, and entrances of backyards or gardens. Their purpose is to decorate gates and yards, and sometimes even outdoor weddings. Some people also use them to shelter a seating area or bench. If you only want an outdoor shade structure for the reasons above, then you should get an arbor.

Since it’s a small structure, it requires fewer materials to construct and will cost less than the other embellishments. It’s easy to install that you can do it yourself, but you can also get it custom made, buy it whole, or build it from a kit.

3. Pavilion

A pavilion is a fully-covered pitched roof structure with open sides that provides shade as well as shelter from the rain. It is supported by four or, if bigger, six posts. Similar to a pergola, it can also be freestanding or an outdoor extension of your home that is attached to a patio, deck, or concrete area.

Pavilions are commonly used to cover a seating area or a deck. Since it is typically bigger than the other types of outdoor shade structures, there are plenty of available upgrade options.

If you install a wall, it provides more cover and can now be used as an outdoor kitchen or bar. Place some picnic tables or make it more comfortable by adding a couch. If you want an outdoor shade structure you can use even when it’s raining, a pavilion is one of the options you can get.

Since it’s a bigger structure that will require more materials, it will be more expensive to construct and to maintain. It’s also harder to find a home that has these pre-installed, so if you want custom-made one, you have to build one or hire a contractor to do it. If you’re not that particular with the design, you can make one from a kit.

4. Gazebo

The easiest way to differentiate a gazebo and a pavilion are by its shape. The gazebo is a hexagonal or octagonal structure with a fully-closed solid roof that is often added on patios, decks, gardens, or concrete area. It can also be freestanding, have a built-in floor, or attached to a wall. Its side is usually semi-open with railings and it can be designed with lattices, trellises, or curtains. Sometimes gazebos have screened-in walls so that bugs can’t enter inside.

Because of its oval design, it’s great to place in an area with a nice view. But it doesn’t always have to be round, there are also some gazebos with a square or rectangle shape.

This embellishment is typically used as a retreat or meeting space in public areas. But today, they are installed in private residences for the same purpose. Homeowners who love spending time outdoors install these to provide shade and shelter from the rain. This is another outdoor shade structure you can install if you want to spend time outdoors even when it’s raining, but it will be smaller than a pavilion.

Even if they are smaller, it will still cost more to build and maintain this structure than a pergola. It’s also harder to come by a house that has these pre-installed, so if you prefer a specific design, you also need to build one or get a contractor to do it. If you’re fine with any style, you can buy a kit and assemble it.

About the Author

I can build it, and I can help you get the patio enclosure you want! I got my start in the Florida patio industry back in the 70s as a young general laborer looking for something to make a few bucks. At the time I never thought it would end up as my career. Over the years I grew beyond the laborer position, becoming a foreman, superintendent, and then into executive management for some of the largest patio contractors, and material vendors. Now into retirement and slightly bored, I offer consulting services to new and existing contractors, and publish this website to help the people who love their patio's and screen enclosures the most - YOU!

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