What is a pergola or gazebo and should I buy one?

Looking for semi-permanent shade for your backyard? In this article you’ll learn about the top things to consider when shopping for a pergola or gazebo.

You may be thinking about your shade options and wondering where to start. With the right shade you can make your outdoor area a space you can use year-round for entertaining and to protect you from the elements.

The best shade solution will be the one that fits your needs, space and budget. We always recommend buying quality if you can to avoid repurchasing a large product again in a few years time.

In this article you’ll learn the top things to consider when buying a pergola or gazebo so you can be sure you are buying one that's built to last.

What is a pergola or gazebo?

A pergola or gazebo is an outdoor structure that features a trellis or crossbeam covering to provide some protection from the elements. Although originally very different structures, the term pergola and gazebo are now often used interchangeably to describe semi-permanent or permanent outdoor shade.

They may have a full or partly retractable roof if the purpose of a pergola is primarily for shade, but many pergolas offer only partial shade with intermittent beams laid spaciously across the top.

A pergola can extend your living space and increase the amount of time you can spend outside. A well placed pergola can create enough shade to make even the hottest days enjoyable.

Pergolas and gazebos come in a variety of shapes, heights and styles, so there’s an option for every backyard.

Does a pergola or gazebo add value to your house?

Yes, a quality pergola creates an additional outdoor space that can be used in the warmer months, increasing the flow of your outdoor living space.

The right shade will also modernise your backyard and make it an inviting place to spend time year-round, just add a pizza oven or outdoor fire and you have a perfect winter space.

Pergolas can also be used for carports and have both attached and standalone options depending on your needs. A well built pergola will not only add value to your house but it will be built to last, giving you many years of quality shade and protection from the sun.

What are the different types of pergolas?

Most pergolas are customizable and come in a range of shapes, sizes and materials. Here are some of the common structural options available on the market.

Freestanding pergolas can stand on their own, often have four or more pillars and can be attached to a concrete pad or decking area.

Attached pergolas will often be connected to an exterior wall, and may only have two pillars depending on size. These are often used out the back of the house leading from the lounge or dining area to create an outdoor living space.

Louvred pergolas are an adjustable system with overlapping panels, allowing you to open and close the louvres to increase airflow, let in sunlight or keep out wind and rain. Modern louvres will be motorised and allow you to easily open and close them with a push of a button.

What makes a good pergola?

As there’s a huge range of pergolas available in Australia, and so many options out there it can be hard to decide which is best and what features to look out for, so we have narrowed it down for you.

When purchasing a pergola you should look out for:

  • Material - the best pergolas are made of powder coated aluminium, this is durable and strong, as well as providing a sleek, high-quality finish for your outdoor space. We recommend going with the largest dimension post you can to ensure durability.
  • Ease of use - if the pergola has lights and louvres a remote option will save you time and effort. This is great if the weather turns, with the click of a button the louvres will close automatically and the lights will come on.
  • Size options - a great pergola range will come in a variety of sizes, to best suit your backyard space.
  • Warranty - if you are buying a quality product you should expect a 3-5 year warranty on the structure and a 1 year warranty on the components (motors, lights electronics).
  • Extra features - are always great to have and could include shade blinds, colour range options and assembly assistance.
"Shading your pool or spa is a great idea. It protects you from the sun and means you can use less sunblock – one of the worst things for clogging up filters."

Can I build a pergola or gazebo?

Yes, you can build your own permanent shade. There are plenty of do-it-yourself videos available online at leading hardware stores to help you do this.

If you do want to build a pergola, gazebo or other permanent shade structure in your backyard or outside area – there are a few things you should consider before you start.

For example:

  • Have you got the right skills for the job?
  • Do you need to hire a builder?
  • Will you need building consent for your structure?
  • Have you got all the tools you’ll need?
  • Have you factored in the cost of materials?

Bear in mind that, while it’s possible to build your own pergola, you may find it easier and just as affordable to buy a new, pre-made one.

For example, in Australia pergolas cost anywhere from between $600-3,000 for an entry level pergola, $4,000-10,000 for mid-range pergolas depending on the size and installation requirements. Large, customised pre-made pergolas can cost well over $50,000 depending on the design.

How much does it cost to install a pergola?

The installation costs will depend on whether you install the pergola yourself or bring in a handyman to do it. Some options may require multiple people for installation, including an electrician if you have a pergola with motorised louvres, and can take between 4-12 hours to complete.

If you hire someone to install the pergola this could cost between $500-$1,500 depending on the size of the structure and the time needed to assemble it. A complicated installation could cost a lot more, especially if there are any compliance or council regulations. We recommend checking with your local council before installing your shade structure.

Watch: How to build a Vortex™ Pergola

Should spas or pools be shaded?

If you own a pool, spa or swim spa then this is another great reason to install quality shade like a pergola or gazebo.

Shading your pool or spa is a great idea. It protects you from the sun and means you can use less sunblock – one of the worst things for clogging up filters.

Ideally, we recommend that pools and spas are shaded - at least partially.

There are two main reasons for this:

  1. Protection from the elements. If you live somewhere scorching hot or with a lot of rain, you might want to consider installing shade protection over your spa or pool. Sitting in a spa or pool in full sun not only increases the risk of sunburn, it could also be really uncomfortable. Many shade options are waterproof too so you get sun and rain protection in one.
  2. Reduced maintenance. Shading your pool or spa will not only protect you from the sun while swimming or soaking – it also means you may not need to use as much sunblock, which is one of the worst things for clogging up filters. So, keep your filters clean and clear and reduce maintenance time with some quality shade.

In Summary

We hope this article has helped you understand more about pergolas and the many options available on the market and what to consider before you invest in one.

If you are looking for more information on pergolas or alternative shade options you can check out our other articles here.

As always, if you need any more help or advice, feel free to drop into your local Spa World Showroom.

You can also contact our customer care team via our website. We are happy to help.

Check out our Shade Buyer's Guide below to learn more about different shade options.

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