Gazebo Vs Cabana Compared – What’s the Difference?

  • Written By: Rachel
  • Time to read: 4 min.

In an earlier article, I compared a Pergola and a Gazebo. And I thought I was done. But a cabana has been brought up to my attention. Someone wanted to know what the difference is. And I plan on telling you. 

Both gazebos and cabanas are structures made with solid roofs to offer protection from the sun and rain. They can be made of the same materials. However, a gazebo has open sides whereas a cabana has at least 3 enclosed sides. Neither should be confused with a pergola, which has an open rooftop.

Cabanas have shifted to mean different things these days, thanks to mass marketing interpretation. However, I’ll explain to you what a traditional cabana is compared to a gazebo and then I can direct you to the article I previously wrote that includes a pergola on top of all that. Hopefully, you can make an informed decision about what you need in your backyard space. Just keep reading to find out! 

Gazebo vs Cabana - What's the Difference?

What Is a Cabana?

A traditional cabana has always been an enclosed outdoor space wherein people can rest, eat, and maybe even change clothes. Some even have plumbing provided. When I was growing up, my aunt had a gazebo out in her yard and a pool in the backyard.

In the backyard, she had a cabana built. It was enclosed with a door. The main portion of the cabana was screened in to keep bugs out and had tables, chairs, and a television. There was a completely enclosed bathroom on one side with hooks down the wall for people to use for towels and bathing suits. 

However, the modern definition of a cabana is simply an outdoor structure that offers protection from the sun and rain that has at least three walls and only one opening. Cabanas are most often found near a water feature, like a pool. Most of them have three walls and then a large open wall and they have furniture inside to make them comfy. 

What Is a Gazebo? 

A gazebo is a building structure made for protection from sun and rain that has no solid walls or perhaps just one and a solid roof. There is the traditional round (octagonal or hexagonal) gazebos and then there are the newer mass-marketed metal gazebos that may be square in shape. There can be seating inside and often railings or something that separates the inside from the outside. 

Custom gazebos are often the focal point of a property, usually placed where people can have a nice view and enjoy themselves. Larger ones might even be used for get-togethers. Unlike pergolas, which have open tops, gazebos can actually protect you from a hard downpour just as much as they can protect you from the harsh sun.

What Is the Best Material to Use for Making a Gazebo or a Cabana?

Most gazebos and cabanas are made by professionals who use wood or polycarbonate wood material for the structure. Wood makes up for most of this, but recently wood prices have skyrocketed. Even so, it still costs less than composite. As of May 2022, pressure-treated pine sold for approximately half what the same amount of composite wood costs. It doesn’t last as long and must be maintained with quarterly treatments to get even close to the same lifespan. 

Premium woods like cedar and redwood cost almost as much as composite and you still have to maintain them. But you could get as much as 40 years out of those. Even though the product guidelines tell me that composite wood lasts 20+ years, it definitely can last as long as 50. Any poly-composite wood will last longer and have less maintenance to worry about. The furniture made from this recycled product lasts for years and years

There are mass-market gazebos made of fabricated metal or aluminum as well. These structures, when properly seated and maintained, can last for as long if not longer than the other two I’ve mentioned. You have to be sure the metal is treated or painted to keep oxidation from occurring (rust). They are usually cheaper than standard gazebos and we’ve had one. It was very nice and I’d love to have another one. 

Should I Have a Gazebo or a Cabana in My Backyard?

The question is, what functions do you want the structure to accomplish? What do you plan on using your structure for? This is very important. Also, what kind of space do you have available for it? You may want to hire a landscape designer to help you get this project accomplished. Then, you’d have fewer headaches.

I would definitely hire professionals to make these buildings happen, even if I bought a pre-fabricated metal gazebo. They would know what the legal zoning was in your area. They would also be responsible for getting all paperwork and permitting and then having the site inspected. If anything happens, having a licensed and insured professional means that you always have something to fall back on. 

I would caution you not to purchase any prefabricated gazebos (or any large structures for that matter) until you know what the laws are in your area concerning these structures. We had to have an inspector be sure ours met code and was specific footage away from our property line. Also, we had the unfortunate loss of money when we had to return a prefabricated gazebo. It seems there is a wind rating on these structures and ours did not meet local guidelines. We’re in a hurricane zone. Just be aware of these possibilities. 

In Conclusion

I hope the article helped you make decisions or at least helped you understand the differences between these two outdoor structures. Knowing which structure you should be planning for and what materials you want to use for that structure are the most important considerations when you are planning out the backyard. But you know, if nothing else, you learned some vocabulary, right?