In the wide realm of outdoor structures, two that are frequently confused for each other are pergolas and gazebos. The difference between pergolas and gazebos is that pergolas are often attached structures with open-lattice roofs while gazebos are freestanding buildings with closed roofs and floors. Each can be a range of sizes and serve various purposes, but gazebos are mainly for shelter and pergolas generally lend support to plants.
Pergolas and gazebos are both usually made out of wood, though various metals and vinyl material can sometimes be used for either. The difference in structure, however, between pergolas and gazebos has to do with how open they are. A pergola has a flat, open roof, usually consisting of a very wide-open crisscrossing lattice or slatted beams designed to let in dappled light from the sun. The sides of a pergola are usually made from two or four posts or narrow sections of trellis material. The main purpose of the pergola is to allow plants and vines to climb up its open structure to cover the sides and roof.
While still a relatively open structure, a gazebo usually has a full roof, which is often turreted or domed. There is typically some type of low wall and pillars or posts around the sides of a gazebo, as many gazebos offer benches along the perimeter of the interior. Frequently, gazebos will have an independent foundation or floor, which can be either concrete or wood, to give further support to the benches and roof. Gazebos can be round, hexagonal, or even rectangular, and being inside one gives the impression of being in an outdoor room.
Another major difference between pergolas and gazebos has to do with their function in a landscape or property. One popular use of the pergola is as an outdoor walkway, providing a shaded covering for a sidewalk or to connect two buildings, while supporting vines. Pergolas are also often used interchangeably with arbors as gateways to garden areas or as a covering for a swing or single bench. Very large gazebos are also known as pavilions, and can be found in parks and public areas to house picnic seating or performance spaces. Given the open yet protected nature of gazebos, they are often used as viewing locations for scenic overlooks or for ceremonial occasions.