What Is The Difference Between a Pergola, an Arbor, a Trellis, and a Gazebo?

pic of a pergola built in loveland, co

When planning to spruce up your backyard, you first need to understand the various landscaping features and options available. After all, you cannot design an eye-catching landscape if you do not know what is possible. To this end, you ought to understand the various decorative architectural features used in landscaping and how they affect your landscaping design. 

While the terms are often-times used interchangeably, pergolas, arbors, and trellises, and gazebos are different in design and purpose. What’s more confusing is their immense similarities in appearance. Do an image search of these terms, and you might end more confused than before. The architectural elements borrow a lot from each other on the design front, making them appear quite similar. You might choose a landscaping design that incorporates one or several of these structures. 

With that in mind, you need to ensure that you understand the design of all these landscaping features. A proper understanding will help you create a relaxing, beautiful, charming, and even functional space in your backyard. 

Herein, we will explore the difference between pergolas, arbors, and trellises, and gazebos to help you understand these options. Crucially, I will help you gain a better understanding of how these features are used and their impact on your landscape.

What is a Pergola?… and how is it different?

Pergolas are sizeable wooden shade structures that traditionally consisted of permanent columns affixed into the ground supporting an openwork lattice or slated roof or a solid roof. This is different from arbors, which use a latticework sidewall to support vines and other climbing vegetation. And unlike gazeboes that have a full roof, pergolas have simplified roofs.

In the past, pergolas were defined as free-standing structures used to provide a shaded seating area in a backyard. The classical definition also incorporated the use of vegetation to add to the shade. This is especially true when the structure was draped with climbing plants forming an “outdoor room.” As such, pergolas are designed and custom-built to meet the needs of a particular homeowner. 

Traditionally, these architectural elements were used to shelter a secluded hideaway at the end of a garden path, the modern interpretation of pergolas has seen them used as an attached extension of a house. The use of pergolas in manner is popular among homeowners looking to add some shade into their patios. The pergolas are used to cover the patio, oftentimes without the addition of foliage. In fact, it is common for many people to use the term “patio cover” interchangeably with the term “pergolas.”

When used a patio cover, pergolas offer protection to your outdoor living spaces such as the patio. To further improve protection from the sun, many homeowners are adding a retractable canopy to their pergolas covering patios. They also tend to be easier to construct as the feature will use the pre-existing walls instead of constructing new ones.

What is a Trellis?… and how is it different?

The trellis is, in many regards, the most misunderstood architectural element in landscaping among the populous. For some, any pergola that is covered with flora is a trellis. For others, the terms trellis and arbor mean the same thing. In reality, however, a trellis is a landscaping feature constructed of a flat latticework consisting of a tighter weave. 

Typically, this is a single-sided feature. Another distinctive character of the trellis is the non-permanency of the design. Most trellises are not permanently affixed to the ground and can be moved around with relative ease. The trellis is also unique among the landscaping architectural element in that it is the only feature not to have a roofing structure when installed vertically.

As you can appreciate, the trellis is a unique feature in its own right. While it might serve the same purpose of supporting flowering foliage and vines as many arbors and pergolas do, it does, nonetheless, meet the goal in a unique way. For instance, when used vertically, its main function is to provide shade and divide spaces. On the other hand, when used horizontally, it is used purely for shading purposes. 

As for supporting climbing vegetation, the feature provides support to climbing plants, enabling them to grow higher, longer, and fuller. While having a tightly weaved lattice, trellises allow some sunlight to penetrate through. Additionally, they do not shelter the foliage from the rain.

What is an Arbor?… and how is it different?

As an architectural element, arbores are typically open structures that consist of two lattice wall joined by an arched or squared top. The side walls sport a design very similar to a trellis, although with a looser lattice framework. Overall, however, an arbor must have a roof designed to support vines and climbing plants. Sometimes, it includes an actual gate where it makes sense to have one.

An arbor is typically designed to be an entryway or passageway covered with climbing foliage. As such, many homeowners use the structure to define the entryway into parts of the garden. It is also used to divide and define two distinct areas in your garden. Some landscaping designs use an arbor to protect garden beds from being trampled. 

Owing to the modern interpretation of what an arbor is, many homeowners are adding seating facilities (usually an L-shaped bench) in the “tunnel” of their arbors. In this use of an arbor, the structure is used to provide a vegetated shading area. Others still replace the lattice framework roof with a solid roof for improved weather protection.

Undoubtedly, however, this feature adds an element of character and mystic to any backyard. Moreover, given its versatility, you can incorporate an arbor into your landscape design, even when you have limited space. 

What is a Gazebo?… and how is it different?

Perhaps gazebos are the most famous of all garden architectural elements. Gazebos have come to symbolize prestige and luxury, thereby giving this feature considerable notoriety among the general public. So, what are they?

Gazebos are free-standing structures with an octagon shape and, in some cases, and oval shape. Like the pergola, the gazebo has columned side-walls, which can be screened from insects to provide an “enclosed” garden space. Otherwise, the upper wall is left open, giving the structure an airy feel. Most modern gazebos will have a built-in floor. Alternatively, the entire structure is built in a concrete base giving it a sturdy raised floor.

The structure must also have a solid pitched roof to be considered a gazebo. As mentioned above, pergolas can have a solid roof or a latticework or slated roof. Although not always, gazebos also have a decorative tiny done – cupola – topping the roof.

Inside the gazebos is a shaded area for seating. Many homeowners will add built-in benches for seating. However, some will leave the space open, which makes more versatility in terms of space usage. Owing to the unique design of the space, gazebos are ideally suited to host a large gathering outdoors.

While you can use them to fill large empty spaces in your backyard and to infuse some character to your backyard, gazebos are expensive to build. Additionally, in many cases, you will need a permit to install a gazebo.

The Final Word

As you can appreciate, backyard features come in all shapes and sizes. Moreover, the different architectural elements thrive in performing different functions. Some are best suited for supporting vines other climbing vegetation, while are best suited to provide shade.

When designing your landscape and installing these features, ensure the features complement each other, and the overall design of your landscape. 

Finally, ensure each element is high-quality, durable, and suitable for your intended purposes. Otherwise, the features will not yield the desired positive effects.

For help with your backyard oasis give us a call today at 970-663-2868 or email us here. To learn more about our patio cover and pergola building services click here.

Wood Decks Versus Composite Decks

The outdoors has become an important part of every home. Everyone is interested in having the best space. When buying homes, prospective buyers will prefer a home that has a beautiful space like a deck. Decks come in different shapes and sizes. The good thing about a deck is that you can personalize it and make it feel like yours. It becomes an extension of your indoor space. Your family will appreciate being in a beautiful outdoor space.

When planning to build a deck, one of the key choices you will have to make is on the type of decking to use. There is a wide range of options, but the most common are wood and composite. Whether you are planning to do it on your own or you are going to hire a contractor, you will need to choose the option that works best for you.

Treated lumber is used in most decks for framing. The framing is the part of the deck that you cannot see unless you are below it. Your choice involves the materials making up the railings and the decking surface.

Wood decking

There are different wood species you can use for your deck and railing. Some of the most common options are redwood, cedar, and pressure-treated pine lumber. If you are looking for exotic wood species for your deck, then you can look at options such as ipe, tigerwood, and mahogany.

Composite wood decking

Composite decking was invented in the ’90s and has continued to become popular. Composite wood decking is made of wood fibers that are encased in plastic. More and more people are choosing composite decking because of their high-performance. They have also noticed that wood decking has its challenges.

Many people will go with wood decking over composite decking because it is affordable, readily available, and it is something they are familiar with. They have to deal with wood decking problems like rot, splinters, and high maintenance. For those who choose composite, their main worry is that it doesn’t look as good as wood decking. However, advancements in manufacturing have made possible composites that have the natural look of wood. This means you get the chance of having decking that looks exactly like wood without having to worry about the hassle that comes with having a wood deck.


There are some key issues you have to look at when it comes to choosing between the two options.

Looks

During the early days of composite, it used to look artificial, but today it has changed. Today, they come in a wide range of looks and colors. This means you will be able to find one that works for you. They have a variegated appearance and randomized grain pattern which ensures that two boards aren’t the same. This means the composite can replicate the look of the wood and appear just as natural.

Moisture

One problem that homeowners notice with wood decking is that they absorb water easily. If stains, sealers or paint are not applied regularly, the wood decking becomes susceptible to cracking, splintering, warping, and rotting. Composite decks don’t absorb water because they are moisture-resistant. Composites can be installed in areas with high moisture conditions without having to worry about decay.

Maintenance

Wood needs to be painted, stained, or sealed regularly to defend against moisture, which then extends the life of the wood deck. With composite, all you have to do is sweep it or wash it to keep it looking good.

Insect damage

Insects tend to damage wood decking because they like wood and/or the moisture they find inside of it. They cannot damage composite decking because it is not made of wood.

Splinters

A common thing many homeowners notice at one point is a splinter, which is a natural thing to happen with wood. Composite is made from small wood fibers that have been encased in plastic, and this is why they won’t splinter. This is good for those walking barefoot on the deck, or children and pets with sensitive feet.

Maintenance or durability

Composite decks are durable and long-lasting and can hold up well for up to 50 years. They can withstand harsh weather and natural wear and tear. Wood will last between 10-30 years depending on the type of wood.

Composite boards have built-in UV resistance that prevents them from fading. Natural wood will fade and lighten faster than composite. If you notice your wood deck is starting to fade, paint or stain it and it will look new.

Price

Pricing is one of the benefits you can expect to get from wood decking. Wood is cheaper to buy compared to composite. While you will pay less for wood, composite is going to pay itself back over the years not having to invest in the maintenance.

The species of wood you choose is going to determine the price difference. If you choose an exotic type of wood, then expect to pay more. You need to look at the different options then choose the type of wood you want based on your personal preferences and what would complement your house.

Workability

Both composites and wood can be easily cut. One advantage composite has over wood is that they can be bent easily by applying heat. This will make it easy to form curved deck sections.

Surface Temperature

Wood has an advantage over composites when it comes to the warmer weather because composites tend to become hot when exposed to direct sun, which can be uncomfortable for many people. Feet can start to blister in temperatures of about 109 degrees Fahrenheit. Composite technology has improved and has managed to reduce heat absorption by about a third, but wood still has the clear advantage when it comes to staying cooler on those hot days.


There is a wide range of options to choose from, which is why it is important to invest time and effort in the process. Start by knowing what type of wood decking you consider your favorite. This will help you narrow down your options. You can then compare the wood and a composite that looks like that wood.

The main factor when choosing decking material comes down to preference. If you love the rich and natural look of wood and you don’t mind its maintenance, then natural wood becomes the best option for you. If you are looking for a deck that is low maintenance and lasts longer, then composite might be your best option.

If you have a limited budget, then you need to put that into consideration when making your choice. Cheaper options don’t mean that they are not of quality. With this in mind, you can expect to have an easier time choosing the best option for you.

If you are not sure about your options, then consider talking to one of our experts who has worked with the different materials. Visit your local lumber store and have a look at the options. Touch them and see whether it is something you might want for your deck.

We have experience dealing with both wood and composite decking. If you have any questions about decking or about the deck building process don’t hesitate to contact us. You can also visit our deck building service page to learn more about what we have to offer.

With our skills and experience, you will end up with a beautiful deck and you will find yourself spending more and more time in your new outdoor space. Give TNT a call today at 970-663-2868.