Keeping You Cool in Summer with a Covered Pergola or Gazebo

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If you have the money and time to build a permanent or semi-permanent cover for your patio, a pergola or gazebo are good recommendations.

Pergolas and gazebos are medium-cost, unattached structures that can provide cover for your outdoor living space. One usually has a full roof or a tiered roof. The other is open & you can attach weatherproof material to it for shade and protection. Both can keep you cool in hot weather. 

You may think these are going to the extremes of cost with trying to beat the heat. But pergolas aren’t always very expensive. They’re also quite easy to build and get permitted for. Gazebos may be a bit more expensive and more difficult to permit, but they can be a wonderful addition to your backyard. 

What are pergolas? What are they used for?

Pergolas are outdoor structures that comprise columns or pillars that support a roofing grid or rafters. Usually, the roof is open or covered by a light covering. The covering is separate and usually there for shade, not really for protection from the elements. 

Pergolas are usually room-sized and often built as a continuation of a house into an outdoor living space. These structures can sometimes come with a retractable cover that can conveniently provide simple shade from the sun.

Pergolas have been used to cover trails and for recreational backyard use. People use pergolas in residential areas to define a specific outdoor living space away from the rest of the yard. You can find pergolas made of pressure-treated wood, vinyl, fiberglass, and metal.

What are gazebos? What are they used for?

Gazebos are like pergolas, but they have a solid roof or tiered roof. However, it’s definitely a roof that is not open to the sky. They are also usually free-standing and not part of the building or close to it.

There are the traditional round (octagonal or hexagonal) gazebos and then there are the newer mass-marketed metal gazebos that may be square. They can seat people inside and often have railings or something that separates the inside from the outside. 

Custom gazebos are often the focal point of a property. Unlike pergolas, gazebos can actually protect you from a hard downpour just as much as they can protect you from the harsh sun. 

How much do pergolas and gazebos cost?

The cost of both structures really varies depending on what materials are being used (wood is at a premium at the moment) and the area of the country you live in. Availability can drive pricing. To make sure your columns are sturdy, an auger will most likely need to be rented and cement used on the columns. And this is if you DIY. 

If you opt for DIY kits, depending on the material, you can get a pergola for as little as $400. Keep in mind, these aren’t exactly going to be works of art, but they will be very practical. 

There are wooden and vinyl kits that can be more, as I’ve listed above. Those look better but cost anywhere from $1400 to $3000. The price also depends upon the size of the pergola or gazebo you’re looking at.

Plain Metal Pergola Kit – Price does not include labor for supplies and assembly + permitting

Vinyl Pergola Kit –  Price does not include labor for supplies and assembly + permitting

Wood Pergola Kit – Price does not include labor for supplies and assembly + permitting

For DIY gazebos, the price can go up or be around the same, depending on which version you choose. These prices also depend upon the size. You can have a permanent hardtop aluminum gazebo that’s a 10’ x 12’ for around $1900 or the same thing, but 12’ x 20’ for around $3500.

This was the first option for us and went ahead with the purchase, but because of a lower wind rating for our area, we were restricted from building this and had to send it back.

Aluminum Gazebo Kit – Price does not include labor for supplies and assembly + permitting

You can get non-permanent gazebos made of a cheaper material for as cheap as $300. Just know you get what you pay for. The cheaper kits rarely last more than a season; maybe two.  

Hiring someone can cost more because they usually build custom pergolas and gazebos, not from kits. These can begin at around $3000 for pergolas and run upward at $7000 depending on the intricacy and material. Custom gazebos in our neck of the woods can be much more expensive, beginning at $6500 and reaching around $14,000 for a residential version. 

The larger they get, the more expensive they can be. But on average, if they don’t have to be wind graded as ours do, the average price of a 12’x12’ custom wood gazebo is around $5000–$7500. This is where doing your own research in your area is the best thing to do for details. 

And don’t forget, most cities and counties make you get permits for building anything like a pergola or a gazebo. So, that needs to be taken into consideration.

As long as you purchase a well-constructed pergola or a gazebo and you keep proper maintenance on them, they can add value to your home. So the cost may be worth it for the enjoyment and the value that is added. 

Other than providing shade, how can pergolas and gazebos help everyone keep cool? 

Pergolas can provide a structure for trailing plants, which can also actually provide shade beyond just what a cover can provide. Both pergolas and gazebos can provide a structure from which you can anchor misting systems, fans, and shade sails. They can also hold speakers and lights and shades and curtains for privacy. 

Which do you think you’ll get? 

I know we’ve decided on a pergola that I will write about in a future article. Our bank account cannot take the cost of a gazebo. In our area (close to the Atlantic coastline) gazebos have to withstand 130mph winds per zoning. And that costs a lot of extra money. You need to be sure of your local zoning and permitting practices before making your decisions. 

If you need something less expensive to help with cooling your backyard, I’ve written an article about several ways to handle the heat. Hopefully, this article can help you decide if a covered structure is right for you and, if so, which one you need to look into first.

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"Growing up a country-girl means you enjoy the outdoors as much as possible, and no matter where you go in life, the outdoors is always part of you. I began doing research on things I wanted to do to make my outdoor space my own, no matter where we moved. And that research led me to write this blog to share with you!"