Pergola vs gazebo vs umbrella (Comparison, pros, cons and more)

Searching for your ideal shade solution and wondering if you should invest in a gazebo, outdoor umbrella or pergola? You may also be wondering what the difference is between a gazebo and pergola. This article answers those questions and more.

It’s easy to get some of these shade solutions confused, especially when it comes to gazebos and pergolas. To help in your decision-making, we’ve answered the most common questions around these top three shade options.

After reading this article, we hope you have a good understanding of the difference between pergolas, gazebos and umbrellas, pros, cons and which will work best for you.

What is a gazebo?

A gazebo is a small building that has no permanent walls, sits in an open space such as a garden and is usually a place for people to relax.

What is a pergola?

A pergola is a structure commonly found in a backyard or connected to a property. Like a gazebo, it may have temporary walls to provide extra protection. It may also have a canopy that can open or close or one that allows plants to grow around the beams to create natural shade.

What is a pagoda?

A pergola is not to be confused with a pagoda which is typically a religious structure found in Asia and has a solid roof. A pergola should also not be confused with a pergoda which has a slat roof and doesn’t offer the same shade as a pergola which can have a louvre roof.

What is an outdoor umbrella?

An outdoor umbrella provides protection from the sun or rain, comes in a range of sizes and has a variety of uses from heavy-duty umbrellas for backyards or commercial use to small lightweight umbrellas for the beach or picnicking. They can provide shade over many square metres or be small enough to fold up and put in your bag.

Gazebo vs pergola vs outdoor umbrella - which is best?

Now that you have a basic idea about each shade type, let’s discuss some of the pros and cons worth considering when deciding between a gazebo, outdoor umbrella and pergola.

What are gazebo pros and cons?

Pros

  • Waterproof and sun protection. Although UPF ratings can vary, most gazebos provide protection from sun and rain.
  • Withstand weather. Gazebo frames can be made of many materials including aluminium, steel or wood. A permanent gazebo can withstand harsh weather while portable gazebos cannot withstand heavy winds.
  • Temporary fixture. Like an outdoor umbrella, some gazebos can be assembled or stored away when desired and can be portable so you can change its positioning as you please.
  • Adjust height. Some portable gazebos will allow you to adjust the height of the canopy, allowing more versatility
  • Optional walls. You can purchase screens for some gazebos, allowing more protection from the elements.
  • Price. Portable gazebos can be an inexpensive option with prices starting from around $35 for a basic gazebo to more than $100,000 for a high-end custom built gazebo.

Cons

  • Design. Although portable gazebos come in a range of colours and styles, they may not always look ‘aesthetically pleasing’ in every outdoor environment compared to an outdoor umbrella or pergola.
  • Robustness. Depending on how much you spend on a gazebo, some cheaper gazebos made with cheaper materials may not be able to withstand wind, rain and constant set ups and pack downs as well as higher quality gazebos and will quickly deteriorate.

Our verdict. Both an umbrella and a portable gazebo can give you temporary and portable shade. However, if you’re after a bit more privacy and something that can withstand all weather conditions, a permanent gazebo or pergola could be an ideal option because they can withstand different weather types.

What are pergola pros and cons?

Pros

  • Motorised louvre roof. Some pergolas have the ability to open or close the roof at a touch of a button.
  • Sun protection. Pergolas with a roof are likely to provide protection from harmful UV rays.
  • Size. Pergolas structures can be customised to suit your large or small outdoor setting , this means the amount of shade and protection they provide can be greater than an outdoor umbrella.
  • Durability. There are pergolas on the market that are made using aluminium frames and stainless steel bolts. This means the pergola can stand the test of time.
  • More privacy. Some pergolas come with the option of shade blinds that can be added on and pulled down to provide shade and privacy.
  • Fixed in place and can be custom-built. Pergolas can be made of different materials including aluminium as well as wooden beams and posts. This means there’s more opportunity to make a pergola look the part and be a permanent fixture in your outdoor setting

Cons

  • Fixed in place. Pergolas are permanent fixtures and usually bolted to the ground, preventing the ability to move your shade around.
  • Not the cheapest shade option. For a ‘diy’ assembled pergola, you can expect to spend a minimum of $500 and for the upper end of range, around $40,000.

Our verdict. If you’re after a permanent piece of shade, a pergola could be a good option for you. Once standing, a pergola is there to stay and doesn’t require further assembling, just attaching optional blinds or clicking a button to activate the motorised louvre roof. If you’re after shade that will fit the design of your outdoor setting, then a permanent pergola could be more likely to tick the boxes than an umbrella or gazebo.

A pergola can also provide the best of both worlds because pergolas can be made so they’re portable too. If the idea of having a pergola still appeals to you but you would like to move it around, you don’t have to rule the pergola option out.

What are outdoor umbrella pros and cons?

Pros

  • Portable. If you want to cast shade over different areas of your outdoor space then an outdoor umbrella is ideal because umbrellas are either fixed in place or portable.
  • Price. Outdoor umbrellas can cost anywhere between around $50 to more than $8,000. This makes them a suitable option for a range of budgets.
  • Temporary fixture. Outdoor umbrellas come with several mechanisms including crank handles, pulleys with pins, rope and some umbrellas have their own piece of technology, such as the Shadowspec Shadowlift™ which comes with some of its higher quality and price umbrellas. This means you can create or take away shade whenever you want.
  • Materials and structure. Some outdoor umbrellas are made with marine-grade materials such as stainless steel and aluminium and are therefore made to last longer. Others on the market are made of plastic.

Cons

  • Limited shade. Large outdoor umbrellas can provide a range of shade, but a gazebo or pergola can provide more if required because they are available in a greater range of sizes.
  • Wind resistance. Although some umbrellas are made with materials that allow them to withstand a certain amount of wind, a permanent pergola can do the same job as an outdoor umbrella and in many cases better when it comes to withstanding harsh wind conditions.
  • Harder to customise to an outdoor setting. Outdoor umbrellas may come in a range of canopy colours and some can even have branding and logos printed on them. However a pergola may do a better job of slotting into your outdoor setting because they come in a greater variety of designs including classic and modern looks.
  • A higher quality outdoor umbrella comes at a cost. There are outdoor umbrellas on the market as cheap as $49 and can exceed $8,000 If you plan to invest in an umbrella that can be used for many years to come, it’s likely you will need to spend a minimum of around $500.

Our verdict. If you’re after an outdoor shade option that can create or eliminate shade, comes in a range of designs, colours and price tags and the opportunity to cast shade over anything going on in your outdoor area from dining, a pool, spa, swim spa to children playing, then an umbrella could be a really good fit.

Gazebo, umbrella, pergola – which is best?

Shade is one of the most important aspects in any backyard. Deciding which option will work best for you, really comes down to your own unique needs and preferences.

The most important thing is to choose a shade option you will use, provides the protection you need and fits in with your outdoor space.

If you are looking for a shade solution to last for many years, look at home in your existing or new outdoor setting, become a permanent addition to your home, then you might want to consider a pergola.

If you want the flexibility to move your shade around then you may be best with a higher-end outdoor cantilever or centre-pole umbrella made from robust marine grade materials. You can check out the outdoor umbrellas Spa World™ has on offer.

If you’re after temporary shade or something that can be easily moved around or even come on the road with you – then a gazebo or lightweight, entry-level umbrella could be a good option.

Best shade for a spa or swim spa

If you own a spa or swim spa, you’ll know how important it is to keep filters clean and clear. But did you know, one of the worst things for spa filters is sunscreen?

Why do we wear sunscreen in the first place? Whether it’s a gel, spray or lotion, they all have the same purpose - to absorb some of the UV radiation from the sun and prevent it from reaching our skin (according to Sunsmart website).

Sunscreen is oil based and if it mixes with spa water, it can clog filters and cause issues. This means more maintenance.

What are the benefits of having shade over your spa or swim spa?

When you’re protected from the sun’s rays, this means you don’t have to wear a hat, lather on sunscreen and you can spend more time in the water and less time worrying about getting sunburn and extra maintenance.

A very good shade option for spas and swim spas that we can recommend is:

a Shadowspec Unity™ umbrella.

You could also think about buying a Shadowspec Unity. You can attach two umbrella canopies to the mast so you can cast enough shade over your swim spa. Its marine grade quality components, wind resistance, ability to rotate and portability mean you can add or remove shade as you please.

In Summary

As we mentioned earlier – there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to shade – any shade is better than none in today’s harsh climate.

However, depending on your needs – some shade options may work better for you than others.

Our advice? Visit your local showrooms and try out the different options. Remember to ask lots of questions, and take photos and a tape measure so you can see how they would fit in your space.

DISCLAIMER: In this article, we’ve used brand names not affiliated with Spa World™ or Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd, the parent company of Spa World™. All information, including pricing and product details, was accurate at the time of writing (March 4, 2020) and may change without notice. The following registered trademarks are owned by companies not affiliated in any way with Spa World™ or Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd: Shadowspec™, Shadowlift™, Shadowspec Unity™ trademarks are owned by Unicrest Group Limited.

AFFILIATIONS: Vortex® Spas, Fisher™ Spas and Spa World® are trademarks owned by Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd. The Shadowspc brand is owned by Unicrest Group Limited and licensed for use to Spa World™ in Australia and New Zealand.

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