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Canopy vs. Pergola vs. Gazebo

Take the time to relax in your backyard, whether you're dining alfresco, catching a few rays by the pool or enjoying an evening under the stars. With a backyard shade, you can add a protective covering from the hot sun, a climbing wall for plants and even an enclosed space to keep pests away. Whether they come pre-fabricated and ready to assemble or as a complete do-it-yourself kit, canopies, pergolas and gazebos all offer a variety of features for your backyard. Use the following information to help guide your decision when choosing to purchase one of these classic backyard structures.

Canopy

Pergola

Gazebo

Usable space

More spaceVariesLess space

Price range

Less expensiveModerateMore expensive

Stand alone

YesRarelyYes

Sun protection

YesSometimesYes

Portable

UsuallyNoRarely

Canopy

Advantages of canopies

  • Sun protection - Most canopies come with soft  fabric roofs that can keep you out of direct sunlight.
  • Cost - The least expensive style of outdoor shade, canopies offer shaded areas for a significantly lower cost than more intricately designed gazebos or pergolas.
  • Sports-themed - Sports fans will love that many of their favorite teams can be represented on canopies for tailgates, sports-themed backyards and game-watching parties.
  • Portability - Because they are lighter than other outdoor shades, you can easily move a canopy around your yard, and even take it with you when you're on the go.
  • Usable space - Canopies are more open than other outdoor shades, so many models will allow you to seamlessly set up underneath and beside the space.
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Limitations of canopies

  • Style - While some canopies offer a stylish elegance, most are simple frames with light coverings.
  • Weather-resistance - Most canopies are not sturdy enough to withstand strong weather conditions, so you'll need to take them down or stabilize them before a big storm.
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Pergola

Advantages of pergolas

  • Allows for climbing plants - Because of the open structure and slatted roof of a pergola, plants can climb up and around, wrapping themselves through the open spaces. As plants grow and spread out, they'll also provide shade.
  • Extension of the home - With a covered pergola, you can create an outdoor room that is an extension of your home. If you don't have a covered patio or extended roof, this can be a reliable option.
  • Usable space - Pergolas offer the most usable space, as they are the widest open outdoor shade. Some models are smaller, but the majority are quite large.
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Limitations of pergolas

  • Cost - Pergolas can be significantly more expensive than canopies, while offering less shade.
  • Sun protection - Most pergolas do not have covered roofs. While you can purchase a canopy cover for your pergola, the structure alone does not offer protection from the sun's rays without a cover.
  • Portability - A pergola cannot be moved once it is in place. Whether it's attached to your home or another structure on your property, or you have a standalone model, the wooden structure is often heavy and built to last.
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Gazebo

Advantages of gazebos

  • Sun protection - Most gazebos have a hard roof, and some gazebos make use of a fabric roof; both roof types will keep the sun from shining directly on you.
  • Elegant style - Gazebos are the most intricate of the outdoor shade structures.
  • Durability - Many gazebos are built with durable material that can help them withstand tough weather conditions including rain, snow and heavy wind.
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Limitations of gazebos

  • Cost - A gazebo can be the most expensive of outdoor shelters, depending on the style. Complete wooden gazebos with hard rooftops are more expensive than the portable canopy-style gazebos.
  • Portability - Most gazebos are stationary and not easily moved. In addition to the sturdiness, the sheer size and weight of a gazebo keeps it standing firm in one space.
  • Usable space - Gazebos are often the most closed-off outdoor shade and the structure takes up a lot of space, so they have the least amount of usable space.
  • Labor - Sometimes, you'll find do-it-yourself gazebo kits, instead of a pre-fabricated gazebo. You'll need to follow detailed instructions to build the gazebo, instead of one that is easily installed on your property.
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