A gazebo is an open-air, freestanding, outdoor structure with a solid roof. It’s one of the easiest ways to expand your living space outdoors.
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best gazebo for you and your family. When making this decision, what is a gazebo made of? is a question that should be top of mind.
In this post, we’ll talk about different types of gazebos and specifically, each type of material that manufacturers use to build them. These materials determine the durability, temperature control, design tendencies, and overall function of a gazebo.
Quick Answer: What is a Gazebo Made Of?
There are 3 types of gazebos: hardtop, soft top, and pop-up. They all have the same two structural parts: frame and roof.
Hardtop gazebo frames are typically made of wood, vinyl, aluminum, or steel. Hardtop gazebo roofs are made of wooden shingles, wood, vinyl, aluminum, steel, or polycarbonate plastic. In many cases, the manufacturer will use a combination of these materials for the roof and the frame.
Soft top gazebos are designed with an aluminum or steel frame and a polyester or canvas roof.
A pop-up or camp gazebo is an easy to set up, portable gazebo with a lightweight aluminum or plastic frame and polyester roof.
Hardtop Gazebos Made of Wood
As long as the wood is pre treated and sealed, a gazebo with a wood frame and wood shingled roof is one of the most durable hardtop gazebos you can buy or build.
Of all the gazebo materials (vinyl, aluminum, steel, polycarbonate plastic), wood is the only one that’s naturally occurring so it does require proper care and maintenance to ensure it lasts 20+ years down the road.
Not all woods are created equal when it comes to building a gazebo. Cedar and redwood are among the most popular options for builders and commercial manufacturers alike because they’re especially resistant to the elements.
If you’re a gazebo design purist, you might even insist that gazebos be made of wood to be true gazebos. The earliest gazebos made for homes echo Victorian architecture. This phrase refers to a European style in the mid- to late 1800s. At this time, buildings were made almost exclusively from wood.
The quintessential round wooden gazebo with a shingled roof in front of a city hall is still a familiar picture for many of us. Wood gazebos in public and private spaces have a floor, which is a unique feature of gazebos made of this material.
Wood gazebos are the heaviest hardtop option. They will be the most cumbersome to build or assemble from a gazebo kit. But with heft also comes durability.
You will need to re-treat or repaint the frame a few times in the course of its lifetime, but in return you’ll get to enjoy your investment for well over a decade.
Hardtop Gazebos Made of Vinyl
Along with wood, vinyl (aka PVC plastic) is one of the most popular materials for gazebos in public places. Even gazebo purists will make an exception for vinyl and agree that it passes the “real gazebo” test, which is to say that it’s round in shape and ornate in design.
This is mostly because outdoor structures made of vinyl, including gazebos and fences, are often designed to look like painted wood.
In the residential context, however, vinyl gazebos get a bad rep. That’s unfortunate because vinyl is essentially the low-maintenance version of wood.
Backyard gazebos made of vinyl are usually manufactured to look like painted wood. Unlike wood, gazebo owners don’t need to provide any special ongoing maintenance other than the occasional wipe down with a damp cloth.
Vinyl is resistant to water while also being completely rust- and corrosion-proof. It’s also lighter than wood and, perhaps most importantly, more economical.
Vinyl gazebos are fantastic options for most people looking to live the gazebo life. The one exception to this rule are those who live in a particularly hot climate because vinyl gazebos are definitely not the coolest gazebos. They do tend to get hot in especially hot climates.
Hardtop Gazebos Made of Aluminum
While wood tends to be the material of choice for those building their own gazebos, aluminum is the most popular material for commercial gazebo manufacturers. If you purchase a gazebo that you need to to assemble, it will most likely have a frame made of aluminum.
Aluminum frames are a good choice because they are lightweight yet also very durable. An aluminum frame on a standard 10’ x 12’ gazebo will weigh only a few hundred pounds. For most locations, a lightweight gazebo is ideal because it fits your needs while also being relatively easy to set up with 1-2 adults.
While there are many options for weighing down an aluminum frame after you’ve set it up, if you live in an especially windy location, an aluminum frame might not be your best choice. In that case, a wood or steel frame will be best for you because of the material’s sheer heft.
For any other environment, a gazebo with an aluminum frame will fit your needs. As long as the frame is powder-coated to resist rust and corrosion, there’s very little that you’ll have to do in terms of maintenance.
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One last note on aluminum. It’s considered a soft metal so if you have need to drill into the frame or roof to install lights, fans, or even wire the gazebo for electricity, you’ll be good to go with a high-speed steel (HSS) drill bit.
Hardtop Gazebos Made of Steel
Just like most metal gazebos are constructed with a lightweight aluminum frame, galvanized steel is the overwhelmingly popular choice for a gazebo’s roof.
Different from regular steel, galvanized steel has an added zinc coating to prevent rust. (Galvanized iron is also a thing.) This is an especially important add-on to steel for hardtop gazebos which are intended to be left outside year-round.
It’s a little known fact that there are many gazebos that are actually designed for all-season use in extremely wintry climates. There are even some gazebos manufactured with a snow load capacity of several thousand pounds!
In addition to its rust-resistance, galvanized steel makes for an especially heavy gazebo frame. Right up there with wood, steel takes the cake for cumbersome when it comes to assembly.
If you’re searching for an alternative to aluminum because you live in an especially windy environment, galvanized steel is your answer. Most gazebos don’t require a foundation for installation (although most kits come with hardware to anchor to any ground/flooring). But with a heavy steel frame, you’ll be fine just erecting on a porch or even grass.
It’s just as common for steel to make a more nuanced appearance in a gazebo’s roof. More often than not actually, galvanized steel only defines the structure of the roof as opposed to the entire thing. Thin sheets of polycarbonate fit between a steel grid to complete the modern look of a metal gazebo.
Hardtop Gazebos Made of Polycarbonate
Polycarbonate is a wondrous type of plastic. Perhaps more wondrous than any other kind. Most of the objects in our daily lives are made from polycarbonate as well as many others that are less banal, like bullet-proof glass.
It’s truly a magical force of chemistry.
Polycarbonate is a great material for gazebo roofs because it’s translucent enough to let in UV-filtered light. It’s strong enough to withstand the weight of multiple feet of snow. And it’s thin enough to keep the interior temperature of a gazebo cool like no other material out there.
For the ultimate in strength and temperature regulation, find a gazebo with a powder-coated aluminum frame and galvanized steel roof fitted with polycarbonate panels. You won’t have a difficult time doing this, it’s a winning combination that most manufacturers of quality gazebos have fully embraced.
Soft Top Gazebos
Soft top gazebos are another animal entirely. Even if you live in a warm and dry climate, these gazebos are not intended to remain outside year-round. The material that they’re made of is representative of that fact.
You can occasionally find a soft top gazebo with a steel frame but the overwhelming preference by commercial manufacturers is aluminum. Like hardtop gazebos, the soft top version benefits from a lightweight yet highly durable frame.
As the name implies, the biggest difference between hard- and soft top gazebos is the roof. While hardtops have roofs made of extremely weather-resistant material, soft tops have fabric roofs made of either canvas or polyester.
These gazebos are relatively easy to set-up and the roofs are intended to be taken down and stored in the rainy or wintry season. Unlike polycarbonate panels or wood shingles, fabric can’t withstand the elements indefinitely.
If you’re looking for a significantly lighter and much less expensive outdoor structure to expand your living space, soft top gazebos are a fantastic option. There are so many luxurious designs that will absolutely get you that gazebo life.
Just make sure that you properly store the top and budget for a new structure every few years.
Pop-up and Camp Gazebos
Pop-up (aka camp) gazebos are meant to travel with you. They’re highly portable gazebos that have a foldable aluminum or plastic frame that fits into a storage bag.
Pop-up gazebos are made of a thin, fire-retardant, polyester soft top that folds with the frame. Some of them are also fully enclosed with mosquito netting, which also folds with the frame and the top.
Pop-up gazebos differ from tents because of their height. Tents tend to be short because they’re intended for sleeping. On the other hand, camp gazebos are meant to provide shade to standing or sitting adults.
A pop-up gazebo isn’t usually a permanent fixture in a backyard and it certainly shouldn’t be left out year round. They are wonderful additions to a campsite or a day at the beach because of their lightweight material, portable nature, and very wallet-friendly price tag.
There are many different types of gazebos and each of them is made from distinctive materials that reflect their intended use. A gazebo is an investment and it’s worth taking time to consider what you’re really looking for before deciding which type is best for you.
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We hope that this explanation of what gazebos are made of has helped you make a decision about which gazebo is best for you and your family.