What is a Gazebo Without a Roof Called?

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What is a Gazebo Without a Roof Called?

You may have seen one while strolling around the neighborhood or maybe you came across it while researching the best gazebo for your lifestyle. It looked like a gazebo but it was missing something crucial. 

What is a gazebo without a roof called? It’s a question we get all the time at GazeboSpot.

While the answer is straightforward, it prompts more questions about what kind of gazebo (with and without a roof) is the best option for you and your family.

Let’s dive in to this question and consider a few others while we’re at it. 

Quick Answer: What is a Gazebo without a Roof Called?

pergola with dining area

A gazebo without a roof is called a pergola.

The definition of a gazebo is a wall-less outdoor structure with a solid roof supported by vertical columns.

A pergola is also an open-air, outdoor structure with vertical columns. But those columns hold up a latticed or beamed roof.

While a pergola technically has a roof, it is never solid. It’s always slatted in some way, letting in some sun.   

What is a pergola with a roof?

A pergola with a solid roof is a gazebo.

Think about it this way: if you can look up and see even a sliver of sky, you’re standing in a pergola. If all you can see is building material, you’ve wandered into a gazebo.

The solid roof of a gazebo is usually made of wood, vinyl, galvanized steel, aluminum, or polycarbonate plastic. There are many different types of gazebos for public and residential use. All of them are open-air and provide 100% shade.  

A pergola’s beamed or latticed roof can be made from the same materials but wood and vinyl are the most popular choices.

What are Other Differences Between a Roofed Gazebo and a Roofless Pergola?

Victorian style gazebo

Gazebo and pergola purists will insist that these open-air outdoor structures have two distinct differences: shape and flooring.  

They will argue that a gazebo isn’t a gazebo unless it’s round or octagonal. In reality, that’s really only the case for gazebos in public spaces (especially civic settings) and Victorian-style gazebos for residential use. 

Round or octagonal gazebos tend to have a solid wood (usually cedar) or vinyl frame with a shingle roof made of the same material. They’re designed in the “Victorian style” which means that the intricate framework and heavy adornment on the roof echo the architecture in Queen Victoria’s England in the mid to late 1800s. 

Purists will also insist that gazebos must have flooring to be a gazebo. This also only tends to be true of Victorian gazebos, which are built with an elevated floor made of wood or vinyl manufactured to look like wood. 

On the other hand, a pergola purist will argue that a pergola must be rectangular or square. They’ll also say that another defining feature of a pergola is its lack of a floor.


That statement is a little misleading though. A pergola’s floor is whatever it’s built on. If you build a pergola on a wooden deck, its floor is a wooden deck. Cement foundation? You get the point.

With so many people embracing the gazebo life nowadays, there’s not a lot of room for such narrow definitions by purists. There are far more residential gazebos and pergolas than public versions.

In an age when you can buy endless styles of gazebo and pergola kits to assemble at home, these distinctions of shape and flooring quickly fall by the wayside.

The only real difference between a gazebo and a pergola remains the type of roof.

Is a Gazebo Without a Roof Right for Me?

You may have had your heart set on a gazebo but upon further reflection, a pergola might now be more up your alley. Here are a few factors to guide your decision.


slatted pergola

The most obvious consideration here is your environment, specifically how much sun your property receives and your climate. 

Pergolas are more suited for moderate climates with moderate sunshine because they don’t offer 100% shade (although you can make them shadier) yet they are intended to stay up year-round. 

Like gazebos, pergolas are durable primarily because of their building materials. When properly cared for, they can last as long as hardtop gazebos. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a roofless pergola is a right choice for a snowy year-round environment.

On the other hand, if you live in brutally sunny Phoenix and your primary need is shade and temperature regulation, your best bet is a hardtop gazebo to stay cool

Even though a slatted pergola roof does wonders for airflow, hardtop gazebos with tiered roof vents do a much better job at regulating the temperature inside. A polycarbonate or galvanized-steel gazebo roof with a vent is the utmost in summertime comfort. 

Style and Adornment Possibilities

pergola with bougainvillea

Pergolas are more flexible and offer more possibilities when it comes to natural adornment. Many pergola owners, train climbing flora like Bougainvillea and roses to wind up and around the columns and latticed/beamed roof of the structure. 

Unlike a hardtop gazebo, the open slats of a pergola roof offer endless opportunities for flora to latch on and create a natural canopy.

If you have a green thumb or are able to hire a landscape consultant, a pergola is an open canvas for your own design. 

Final Thoughts

Roofed gazebo or roofless pergola? It’s a great problem to have.

It’s important that you consider whether a solid roof is necessary for your environment or if a slatted roof is more in line with your style and sensibilities.

Regardless of your choice, you’ll be extending your living space to the outdoors for the happiness and health of your family. That’s all that really matters.