It’s a good question. On one hand, it wouldn’t seem that an outdoor structure without walls could produce or trap much heat. But on the other, with so many types of gazebos out there, some must be better than others for keeping cool on a hot day. So are hardtop gazebos hot?
The answer is “well, they certainly can be.” But if your goal is NOT to swelter in your own backyard, we’ve got everything you need to know to buy or build the coolest hardtop gazebo.
There are 3 factors that determine the interior temperature of your gazebo:
- Roof Material
- Roof Design
- Sides of the Gazebo
Let’s address them one by one for a complete picture on what makes hardtop gazebos hot or not.
All gazebos share the same basic structure: a vertical frame comprising 4 columns holding up a horizontal roof.
The majority of hardtop gazebos sold today have frames made from steel, wood, or vinyl. Similarly, hardtop gazebo roofs are constructed from aluminum, polycarbonate plastic, wood, or vinyl. In most cases, every gazebo uses a combination of these materials.
While the frame material doesn’t have a significant impact on how hot your hardtop gazebo is likely to get on a warm day, the type of roof absolutely will.
We’ve listed roof materials in order from coolest to hottest:
There’s no doubt about it, polycarbonate plastic keeps you coolest in a gazebo. It’s worth noting that polycarbonate is also the primary material for most common items in our lives. From water bottles to kitchen ware to medical equipment, it is a uniquely versatile material.
In many hardtop gazebo designs, thin sheets of polycarbonate are used within a steel grid to form a lattice roof that not only regulates temperature but also blocks harmful UV rays.
Polycarbonate is also known for its remarkable transparency and resilience. Nearly identical to glass, there’s a reason why it’s used to make bullet-proof glass.
Strength, transparency, temperature regulation. Are polycarbonate hardtop gazebos hot? No, they are not.
Wood is a great option for your roof as well. You can find all-wooden gazebos and also models with wooden frames but roofs made of steel, aluminum or polycarbonate.
Gazebos made entirely of wood are the heaviest and, with consistent maintenance, the most durable gazebos out there. When it comes to keeping you cool, it all depends on what kind of wood you’re talking about.
When considering wood options for purchasing or building your gazebo, remember this: the darker the wood, the more heat it retains, the hotter your gazebo will be. Another factor worth noting is density. The denser the wood, the less heat it will absorb, the cooler it will stay.
Some of the best options that check all of these boxes include:
- Yellow Pine
If you’re purchasing a gazebo, you’re most likely to see Cedar, Balau, and Redwood as popular options. If you’re building your gazebo, you should consider the other wood types as well.
Galvanized steel is steel that’s been layered with a thin layer of zinc to help resist rust and corrosion. This layer also lessens heat absorption, which keeps the gazebo’s interior temperature cooler.
Unless you want a wood or vinyl model, every hardtop gazebo (of decent quality) on the market has a steel frame. Steel is heavy, sturdy, and when galvanized and powder-coated, extremely resistant to corrosion, rust, and sun fading. Steel is great for frames. Skyscrapers are built from steel.
Steel is also a great structural material for gazebo roofs. Although it keeps internal temperatures cooler than other materials, it’s best when it’s playing only a supporting role for thin sheets of polycarbonate.
Vinyl gets hot. For the same reasons that composite wood decks burn your bare feet on a July afternoon, gazebos with a vinyl roof might have you heading inside at about the same time.
The vinyl used to make gazebos is often painted to look like wood (from a distance). But unlike those dense, light-colored woods that reflect heat, vinyl (aka plastic), is hot to the touch when exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time.
There are many clear advantages to buying a vinyl gazebo (low maintenance, high durability) but if you live in an especially hot and sunny climate, there are better gazebo options to keep you cool.
There’s a reason why you use aluminum foil to tent food that’s hot off the grill. Aluminum has no mercy when it comes to heat capture. Without a doubt, gazebos with aluminum roofs will heat the interior more than any other material.
This can be a great advantage in colder months on sunny days. If your climate is on the cooler side but you also have a good amount of sunshine year-round, an aluminum roof might be the perfect option for you.
But if that doesn’t describe where you live, you’re much better off choosing a different material for your gazebo roof.
In addition to the material used to make the roof, the design of the roof is a critical factor when it comes to keeping the gazebo cool on hot days. In regards to design, we’re specifically concerned with two questions:
- Does the gazebo have vents?
- Is air flow optimized?
If your gazebo roof is made of vinyl or aluminum, two materials that are guaranteed to make you sweat, you definitely need a roof vent. Roof vents are exactly what they sound like. They’re openings in the top of your gazebo that act as escape hatches for heat and smoke.
There are two types of roof vent design: single- and double-tier. If your gazebo is on the smaller side and you don’t plan to add a fire pit or BBQ, then a single-tier vent is all you need.
On the other hand, if you’ve decided to add a fire pit or BBQ, you’ll need the extra space on the ground and the extra tier in the roof to usher out additional smoke. (Remember that you should only house a BBQ or fire pit beneath a hardtop gazebo, not a soft top gazebo or canopy with a fabric roof.)
In addition to vents, air flow is a huge factor when it comes to keeping your gazebo cool. Even if your gazebo lacks top air vents, if it’s large to x-large (at least 10 x 12), there should be enough air flow throughout the structure without heat having to dissipate through a top vent.
So it’s fine if you’ve got your heart set on a design without a roof vent, but consider the larger version so that you don’t sacrifice airflow. Plus you can add that extra piece of furniture you’ve been wanting.
Sides of the Gazebo
The final factor in whether hardtop gazebos are hot is the “walls” of the structure.
Put simply, if you hang drapes or sliding doors (solarium style) around your gazebo for privacy, you will both limit airflow and retain heat. It goes without saying, but other than mosquito netting, any material that you enclose your gazebo with is going to increase its interior temperature.
If you live in a cooler climate, this option is a really good one for making your gazebo a year-round extension of your living space. If that’s not your intention for buying a gazebo, then you don’t need to worry about these “extras” when purchasing.
There are so many options when it comes to buying or building a gazebo. How hot the final hardtop product will be is just one of many considerations when making a purchase. As with most decisions about gazebo design, it’s important to understand the factors that impact the final product.