I have customers call in or email on a regular basis that are looking for some type of outdoor structure but there seems to be a lot of confusion about what these structures are called. They say they want an Arbor and after asking a few questions I see they want a Pergola or they ask about a Gazebo and I find what they really mean is a Pavilion. Even in the articles written on outdoor living I see many different names for the same structure types. This is not too surprising to me since there are so many outdoor structure names. For example there are Pergolas, Arbors, Awnings, Trellises, Pavilions and Gazebos. This is my effort to try to get us on the same page. I will start on the smaller structures and work my way up to the larger.
An awning is a structure that is typically attached to a home without any posts or supports that sit on the ground.
An arbor can be a 2 post or a 4 post structure but they are usually smaller and used in area’s to accent a walkway or entrance way to an area. Some people like to put swings under them and with the 2 post or 4 post arbor this is about as big as they usually are. The posts are about 6 to 8 feet apart. We have done bigger 4 post arbors with the posts about 6′ x 12′ feet apart but even with the larger size it’s still for accenting an area and not really a gather place.
A trellis can be like the 2 post arbors but they are typically longer and have 3 to 4 posts all in a straight line. We have done many “L” shaped trellises as well usually a 3 to 4 post structure in each direction of the “L” shape.
A pergola can look like a 4 post arbor but they are more for a shaded gathering or seating area. Typically they are a 4 post free standing structure but they can be attached and can be very large in size some with 8 to 10 posts depending on the gathering area.
A pavilion is a structure with a roof on it keeping the rain or snow as well as the sun from coming through the roof. They are typically open on all 4 sides but can be partially closed in as a wind break. They are usually a gabled roof structure but can have a hipped roof as well.
Above photo courtesy of Alderwood Landscape Spokane Landscape Architects & Landscape Designers.
A gazebo has a roof on it like the pavilions but they are typically a 6 or 8 sided structure. Creating a round roof look.
It is no wonder people get confused on the names or styles of structures they are looking for but I hope this clears up some of the confusion about outdoor structures and what to call them.