Different Types of Gazebos (Which Design is Right For You?)

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With so much information out there about gazebo types, design, and materials it can be overwhelming to decipher which gazebo is right for you and your family. Because there are different types of gazebos, we’ve distilled down what you need to know to make an informed purchasing decision. 

The glossary below will help you navigate the many options available when it comes to gazebo types. 

What is the Best Type of Gazebo to Buy?

This is the ultimate question. No matter the type of gazebo you end up choosing, all of them (that are worth buying at least) are an investment. Before you can decide which kind of gazebo will best fit your needs, you need to take stock of what you’re looking for. 

Here are 3 questions to ask yourself in the gazebo shopping process. 

How Will I Use It?

Gazebos come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Some of them even boast additional features that make them unique. The most important question to ask yourself is how you will use your new gazebo. 

Will it be a permanent addition to your property for years to come? Will it host a special but temporary event? Is it meant to cover a hot tub or BBQ? Do you want to take it camping?

All of these are different questions and call for different types of gazebos. 

How Much Space Do I Have?

Gazebo Size in Yard

If you’re looking to extend your everyday living space to the outdoors, then you’re probably planning to add a gazebo somewhere on your property. How big is your property?

Unless you want to build your gazebo from scratch (as opposed to purchasing a gazebo kit to put together yourself or hire someone to assemble), gazebos for home use come in a handful of sizes that range from 8’ x 5’ to 13’ x 13’. 

For events like a wedding, you can find larger temporary gazebos in the 20’ x 10’ range. 

Obviously yard sizes vary, and if you’re in the United States, the average yard size varies wildly by which state you live in. A homeowner in California, for instance, only has on average a 5,500 square foot yard to work with, compared with a Vermont resident who has almost 74,000 square feet of potential gazebo heaven! 

You don’t want to squeeze an oversized gazebo into a small yard. You also don’t want to lose the opportunity to significantly expand your living space outside.

When considering gazebo types, make sure to choose a design that will complement (not complicate) your property and lifestyle. 

Where Do You Live?

Many hardtop gazebos can stay up year round no matter your climate. Yes, even in snow! But if you’re keen on using and maintaining your gazebo all year, then it’s critical to make sure you purchase a gazebo that is legitimately built for year-round use. 

And by that we mean that only hardtop gazebos (gazebos with a roof made from hard, solid material) should be used year round. And even then, there are exceptions. 

If you’re looking for the most durable hardtop gazebo, your best bet is a wooden gazebo but, (and this is a big “but”), it must be constructed with pre-treated wood and be meticulously maintained with sealant and paint. Otherwise, rain, snow, and wind will render it unusable in just a few years. 

Many hardtop gazebos made of vinyl, steel, aluminum, or polycarbonate are also suitable for all four seasons.

No matter the material, you should expect any year-round gazebo to require a basic level of maintenance.

3 Primary Types of Gazebos: Hardtop, Soft Top, Pop-Up

Despite the wealth of information and opinions on different types of gazebos, the taxonomy of these outdoor structures really boils down to three basic types: hardtop, soft top, and pop-up. 

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Hardtop Gazebos

Like the name implies, hardtop gazebos have a roof made from a solid material. With almost no popular exceptions, this material is either wood, vinyl, aluminum, steel or polycarbonate. This post delves into all of these materials and specifically addresses their durability.

With the exception of polycarbonate, the frames of hardtop gazebos are usually made from these same materials. Polycarbonate plastic is typically reserved for roofs because of its unique properties of both transparency (to let in filtered light) and durability (to withstand the weight of snow).

Curiously, some consider hardtop gazebos to also be “temporary” or “portable” gazebos because they don’t require a cement foundation to build on. But keep in mind that, depending on the material, some hardtop gazebos can weigh close to 600 lbs! There’s nothing portable or temporary about that. 

As mentioned before, most hardtop gazebos are chosen for their year-round properties. A gazebo that stays cool in the hot sun while also weathering the rainy season is a true extension of your home and should be maintained as such. 

Also like a home, you can add elements to your hardtop gazebo like a fire pit or BBQ. Remember that any elements that involve fire should only be added to hardtop gazebos, not soft top. (You can, however, add a BBQ inside a pop-up gazebo.)

If you’re looking to expand your living space to the outdoors and you’re committed to investing the upfront cost and periodic maintenance, a hardtop gazebo will provide you with years (if not decades) of outdoor comfort. 

Soft Top Gazebos

Soft top gazebos are far more temporary and portable than hard tops. Overall, soft tops are significantly lighter, less expensive, but also, less durable than gazebos made from exclusively solid materials. 

Soft top gazebos share 3 characteristics:

  • Fabric roof 
  • Foldable and/or easily storable frame made from aluminum or plastic
  • Easy to attach mesh walls and protective mosquito netting 

Compared to their hardtop counterpart, soft top gazebos are:

  • Significantly less expensive
  • Much lighter
  • Mobile (within reason)

They are an especially attractive option for renters and other short-term residents because they are able to be assembled and disassembled pretty easily.

Easy access to the fabric top (which is usually canvas) also means that tops can be changed and additionally accessorized. 

Pop-Up/Camp Gazebos

Pop-Up Gazebo and Tent

Truly portable and extremely temporary gazebos are those that can be erected and taken down in a matter of minutes. As their name implies, you can pop them up very quickly and with minimal effort. 

The primary difference between pop-up gazebos and tents is height. Tents are designed with sleeping in mind. Camp gazebos are for standing adults. However, it’s no surprise that many tent manufacturers also make pop-up gazebos. 

Pop-up or tent gazebos share 3 characteristics:

  • Mesh sides for wall panels 
  • Fold up easily in a portable carrying bag
  • Pre-built aluminum or steel frame

Compared with hardtop and soft top gazebos, they are:

  • Endlessly customizable, including wall panels and doors
  • Not intended to be left outside year-round
  • Made from fire-retardant materials

Many people decide that a pop-up gazebo actually suits their needs at home. Others view it as a critical component for their home-away-from-home camp site. No matter your preference, pop-up gazebos give you most of the benefits of more permanent gazebo types at a fraction of the cost. 

Final Thoughts

Choosing a type of gazebo for your property and lifestyle doesn’t have to be complicated. While there are an endless number of gazebo ideas to enliven your yard, there are only 3 basic types of gazebos that you need to know to make a smart purchase. 

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