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Gazebo vs pergola vs umbrella - What's the difference? (Cost, pros, cons and more)

May 24th, 2023

Estimated read time - 8 minutes

Author – Annabella Garwood – Content Manager UK, Jacuzzi Group 

If you're looking to create a comfortable and stylish outdoor living space in your garden, you might be considering different types of garden shelters.

While gazebos, pergolas and umbrellas can all offer protection from the sun and rain, they each come with their own unique features and benefits.  

In this article, we'll cover the key differences, costs, pros and cons of these popular garden shelters. This will help you work out which one could be right for you.  

Wooden gazebo in garden

What is a Gazebo?  

A gazebo is a freestanding structure that has a solid roof and open sides. Gazebos, also referred to as garden gazebos can be made of wood, metal and fabric.

They can be designed in a variety of shapes and sizes, including hexagonal, octagonal and rectangular.  

The open sides of a gazebo make them a popular option for hosting events such as weddings because those that have fabric attached can be tied to the posts and decorated with flowers. They also come in a variety of styles – both modern and classic designs.  


Cost of Gazebo in the UK  

The price of a gazebo in the UK can range in price from £29 to £42,000, depending on the size, materials and features.


Gazebo pros and cons 


-Range of structures and designs – Depending on materials, you can choose between a gazebo made from material, wood or aluminium  

-Price – Price range makes a gazebo a possibility for many budgets. The top of the range options made from the strongest materials and custom-built are more expensive 

-Walls – Gazebos can become a private space with walls made from wood or fabric  

-Relocatable – A lightweight, portable gazebo can be moved to different locations and stored away when not in use. A gazebo made from wood or aluminium is in a fixed position and is more challenging to move to a different location 

-Branding – Can be customised with specific colour, text, logo and imagery 



-Maintenance – Can require more maintenance than a pergola because without an internal drainage system, they may collect more debris. This means more regular clearing and cleaning 

-DurabilityA lightweight pergola, such as one made from material, is not designed to withstand strong weather conditions or wind 

-Shelter – Although gazebos are designed to have a roof, a lack of strong walls (except those made from wood) doesn’t make a gazebo as shelter-proof to wind and rain as a pergola 

-Fixed roof – Less adaptability to change between exposing or sheltering the area under the gazebo (as you would get with a louvre or retractable roof)  

Gazebo and pergola difference

What is the difference between a pergola and gazebo? 

The main difference that defines a pergola from a gazebo is that while both are outdoor structures that can be used for relaxing, entertaining, or sheltering under, a pergola has either an open-air cross beam or lattice style roof, or one with louvres that can rotate or retract.  

A gazebo has a fixed close roof, no matter if it is made from wood or fabric.

What is a Pergola?  

A pergola is a wooden or metal structure with posts and crossbeams to create an open-air roof. Pergolas can be freestanding, semi-detached or assembled in a small space. A pergola can also be placed over a seating area, hot tub, swim spa or other outdoor feature. Some types, such as a garden pergola, made of wood, can be adorned with plants.   

Others, for example an aluminium pergola or a metal pergola, have a rotating louvre roof or retractable roof. This means you can decide if you want full exposure, partial or full protection from the weather above.     


Cost of a Pergola in the UK   

The price of a pergola in the UK can vary depending on the size, materials and design. You will find they range in price from around £250 to £16,000.  

Pergolas can also be custom-built and this will come with a price tag set by those constructing it.  

Wooden pergola over a hot tub

Pergola pros and cons  


-Louvre or retractable roof for adaptabilityTo have shelter or to not have shelter. Pergolas with this roof type allows you to continue using your space outside if there’s a change in the weather 

-Range of structures and designs – Depending on materials, you can choose between a pergola made from wood, aluminium or metal (steel) 

-LED lights for night use Some pergolas will come with LED lights that you can switch on when the sun goes down 

-Size optionsMany pergola retailers offer several size options so you can shade varying size objects such as a hot tub or a large swim spa. There are customising options on the market too so you can have a pergola built to shade a specific space and corner pergolas that can be used in small areas 

-Blinds for privacy – If you want to shelter from the wind or want to feel like you’re in your own oasis under the pergola, there are pergolas on the market that can be fitted with privacy blinds which can be attached to some or all pergola sides 

-Sun and UV protection – A pergola with a louvre or retractable roof will be able to provide protection from the sun when closed so you can get the best of both worlds, stay outside for extended periods while looking after your skin 

If you’re wanting to place a pergola over a hot tub or swim spa, it also means you don’t need to apply sunscreen which can clog the filters. Some metal pergolas also have UV protection to prevent fading 


-Fixed structure – Most pergolas are fixed to the ground for safety reasons. This means you cannot move the pergola when the sun moves or move the pergola to shade a different outdoor area 

-CostNot the cheapest shade option on the market 

-Lack of privacy and shelter with some pergolas – A pergola with an open-air design, crossbeam or lattice style roof will provide minimal privacy and protection from the weather above. To tick these boxes, you will need to consider a metal pergola or aluminium pergola 

Close up of pergola with umbrella

What is a garden umbrella?  

A garden umbrella, also known as a parasol umbrella, patio umbrella and sun umbrella, is a portable shade structure. In simple terms, it is a fabric canopy attached to a pole.

Umbrellas can be made of various materials, including fabric, metal and wood, and they come in several designs including centre pole, wall-mounted and cantilever. 

Depending on the brand and model, you’ll find LED lights, cover and bases are some of the accessories included or an optional extra. An umbrella can also be branded or customised for an event or business. 


Cost of a garden umbrella in the UK  

The cost of a garden umbrella in the UK can range in price from £40 to more than £10,000, depending on the size, material and features. 

Garden umbrella pros and cons   


-Portable –Garden umbrellas can be disassembled, relocated or stored

-DesignVarying design options on the market makes it possible to find a garden pergola that suits your outdoor space 

-CostA range of entry level to top-of the range luxury garden umbrellas makes means there’s an umbrella for all budgets 

-AccessoriesSome pergolas can be fitted with LED lights and a cover for to prevent fading, wind and mould when not in use 

-BrandingSome umbrella brands will offer the option to have the umbrella customised with branding 

-Adaptability – Some pergolas can tilt and rotate, meaning you can stay shaded and sheltered to the movement of the sun 


-Durability Although there are umbrellas on the market that have a wind rating, they won’t withstand the same strength of wind and rain compared to a quality, fixed pergola  

-Size Although there’s a wide range of canopy shapes and sizes on the market, umbrellas don’t typically provide as much shade and shelter as a pergola or gazebo, unless you purchase the largest in the range, or with a post that supports multiple canopies 

Metal aluminium pergola over a hot tub

Can I Shelter a Hot Tub?  

Yes, a hot tub can be sheltered with a range of products including a gazebo, pergola and garden umbrella. It is more likely that a gazebo and pergola can be customised to fit the specific size and shape of a hot tub.

An outdoor umbrella, such as a tilting, cantilever or wall-mounted option may be able to shade the entire hot tub, otherwise it can be tilted or rotated to shade a desired area 


Can I Shade a Swim Spa?  

Yes, a swim spa can be shaded with similar products that shade a hot tub. These include a gazebo, pergola and outdoor umbrella. As an example, there are rectangular pergolas on the market that can shade an entire swim spa. There are also cantilever umbrellas on the market that can have multiple canopies attached to create a large shade area for a swim spa 


How Can I make hot tub and swim spa maintenance easier?  

To make hot tub and swim spa maintenance easier and faster, you may want to consider adding a pergola, gazebo or umbrella to your outdoor area. The benefits of investing in a shade solution include: 

-Protecting your hot tub from debris 

-Preventing the hot tub or swim spa cover from fading and rotting 

-Provides a sheltered space for you to carry out routine hot tub or swim spa maintenance tasks 

-Protection from UV light means you’ll need to apply minimal or no sunscreen. This will stop your filters getting clogged with oily residue 

wooden pergola over a swim spa

Gazebo vs Pergola vs Umbrella, which is Best?  

Deciding which outdoor or garden shelter best suits your needs comes down to a couple of factors including your budget, style, space, function, and the area you want to space. 

If you are looking for a shade solution that is temporary and relocatable, so you can move it around different sections of your outdoor space, then a garden umbrella or a portable gazebo could be a good option for you. 

If you are looking for a structure that has a natural look and can be customised to suit your space, a wooden pergola or wooden gazebo may suit you well. 

If durability, design, quality and easy function is important to you, a metal or aluminium pergola with a louvre or retractable roof could be ideal for you. 


At the end of the day, choosing the right shade option is a personal decision. We recommend you choose the highest quality option within your budget and one which has the right functionality to suit your needs, so you get the best use from it. 

To delve a bit deeper, we recommend you read this review article which covers the price ranges, pros, cons of what we consider to be the top 5 brands that offer aluminium pergolas in the UK.

Want to learn more about the Pergolas by Jacuzzi®? Take a closer look at the collection online or you can find your nearest Jacuzzi® showroom and speak to our teams at more than 30 locations around the UK.

Affiliations: Jacuzzi® is a registered trademark of Jacuzzi Group. All rights reserved.