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What is a Gazebo Used for, Anyways?

The world of outdoor backyard structures is nuanced. Homeowners have a lot to think about. Arbors, pergolas, pavilions, and our topic of conversation today-- the gazebo. The gazebo is a fairly common structure, though less so than the typical pergola or arbor. But unless you’re thinking of building one, you may not understand the purpose of a gazebo. So what is a gazebo, and what makes a gazebo different from a pavilion, patio, or any other other backyard structure? Let’s discuss.

What is a gazebo?

Let’s start simple. What is a gazebo, anyways? A gazebo is a free standing structure with a roof, often hexagonal or octagonal in shape, with some form of railing on each side. Gazebos look almost like an open-air room in the midst of open outdoor space. They often feature fully incorporated or raised floors built with the same or coordinating material. For example, a gazebo built from cedar could feature both cedar railings, and a raised cedar floor for a seamless look.

For decades, gazebos have been popular in gardens and public parks. Now, many homeowners are incorporating them into their backyard designs. The first gazebos can be found in architecture as far back as the Egyptian gardens, and have been a prominent part of outdoor structures ever since.

These structures can range greatly in size. Most backyard gazebos are smaller, and are built to incorporate into the landscape design. In public facing outdoor architecture, they are scaled up and can hold a large number of people. 

You may be thinking to yourself, “How is this different from a pergola? Or a pavilion?”. This is a common and understandable question. But there are several distinguishing features to help you tell these structures apart.

Gazebo vs Pergola vs Pavilion

Many outdoor structures may seem to closely mirror each other. With so much terminology going around, we often see people calling a gazebo a pavilion, or misidentifying a pergola as a gazebo. So what sets the gazebo apart from these other structures?

The difference between a gazebo and structures such as a pergola or pavilion is really simple. To determine which structure you have in front of you, take a look at the base. Is it self contained? Does the structure have a railing, or some sort of wall that breaks it from the rest of the space? If the answer is yes, you’re probably looking at a gazebo as seen in the image above.

Both pavilions and pergolas have roofs, but neither feature railings or a raised, built in floor, as shown in the below image. Most gazebos will have one or both of these features. This makes a gazebo feel more like a separate, outdoor room than simply a covered space. Still, a gazebo is not just another name for a shed. To be considered a gazebo, the structure must feature open sides all the way around, giving it open air appeal.

What is the purpose of a gazebo?

Now that we’re all up to speed on what a gazebo is, you’re probably wondering why someone would install one in the first place. There are many reasons these structures are appealing to homeowners. 

First of all, gazebos exemplify “outdoor living”. Like a pergola covered patio, the gazebo is a great place to put your favorite outdoor furniture, or relax in the morning with a cup of coffee or a good book. Gazebos create the feeling of an indoor-outdoor room without any solid walls. They are a distinguished part of the space, without making the user feel isolated from the environment.

Second, gazebos are a great, functional way to fill space on a larger property. Constructing a gazebo can be a good way to create a destination in an otherwise sprawling lawn. They’re a beautiful way to break up natural landscaping without feeling purposeless or out of place.

Finally, gazebos offer more versatility than a common pergola or pavilion. While a typical pergola provides shade and breaks up direct sunlight, most do very little to shield homeowners from the element. In comparison, a gazebo features a fully covered roof that protects from wind and rain. Many homeowners feel like this increased versatility makes a gazebo a worthwhile purchase.

How much do they cost?

A gazebo isn’t a cheap investment. On the low end, gazebos can run around $2,000 dollars. But quality structures will run anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 dollars. Where your project falls within this range will depend on a few different key aspects.

A gazebo will vary in cost depending on multiple factors. These include, but are not limited to, complexity of design, size, and material chosen. As a rule of thumb, the more intricate the design becomes, the more expensive it will be to build. Same rule can be applied to size. Expenses will naturally begin to rise when the time and labor needed to build your dream structure begin to increase. 

Furthermore, quality material costs money. It can be tempting to purchase a flimsy pre-made structure from your local home and garden or hardware store. But these untreated woods and vinyl models aren’t likely to last more than a season. If you want a structure that will look beautiful and last you for years, investing in a higher quality cedar, ipe, or composite wood blend is worthwhile. 

Does this project make sense for my yard?

A gazebo doesn’t make sense for every yard. In the vast scheme of outdoor design, gazebos are often not favored for several reasons. Not only do they take more time and resources to construct, but they don’t make sense for the lifestyle of many homeowners.

Constructing a contained and covered outdoor room may be functional for those looking to make more of a large space, but smaller or average sized yards probably don’t need the additional interest. In these cases, pergolas offer a similar sheltered effect, without the constraints of building an entire gazebo. 

However, if you have a larger property and are looking to direct traffic or utilize more of your space, this structure could be a perfect fit. A great gazebo should look like a natural choice, rather than a random structure. This can be a tough thing to do on your own. If you’re wondering how a gazebo would look in your backyard, ask your local landscape designer. They can help you visualize the final outcome, and answer any remaining questions.

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