Pavilion or Gazebo? 7 Questions to Help You Decide

Pavilions and gazebos have both been popular backyard structures for many years. 

From simple designs to ornate structures, these backyard spaces create aesthetic focal points in landscaping. At the same time, they provide a sheltered location for hosting or relaxing outdoors.

But if they are both so great, how can you decide between the two? 

In this blog, we’ll explore seven questions to help you decide which backyard structure is right for you. 

Let’s begin!

Table of Contents

  • Gazebos and Pavilions Explained

    1. Gazebos and Pavilions Explained

  • How do you want to use this structure_

    2. How do you want to use this structure?

  • How large is your backyard_

    3. How large is your backyard?

  • How much maintenance are you willing to do_

    4. How much maintenance are you willing to do?

  • What is your budget_

    5. What is your budget?

  • What is the weather like in your area_

    6. What is the weather like in your area?

  • What is your home aesthetic_

    7. What is your home aesthetic?

  • How much privacy do you want_

    8. How much privacy do you want?

Gazebos and Pavilions Explained

There are quite a few design options for backyard structures. So, to ensure we’re all on the same page, we’ll briefly describe gazebos and pavilions and how they compare. 


Gazebos are traditionally free-standing structures designed with a built-in floor and partially open sides that can be screened in. Gazebos can be round, oval, rectangular, or octagonal. Roof styles include a standard pitched roof, a domed roof, or the iconic pagoda. Commonly constructed from wood, vinyl, or a combination of the two, gazebos add beauty to any backyard.

Although gazebos can be large, they are usually smaller than pavilions. Their partially closed sides make them well-suited to more intimate gatherings, entertaining small parties, relaxation, or paces of shelter from the sun. 

Because of their beauty and whimsical quality, they are often used as backdrops or focal points for weddings and other special gatherings.

gazebos - beauty and whimsical quailty


A pavilion is a square or rectangular structure with a fully closed roof and with open sides. They tend to be larger than gazebos and are excellent for outdoor hosting and events. Like gazebos, they are commonly built from wood, vinyl, or a combination of both. Some pavilions are also constructed from metal, though this is less common. Metal pavilions are usually found in parks and other public places. They can also be large storage or parking shelters.

Pavilions can have numerous roof styles, including (but not limited to) gable roofs, hip roofs, pyramid roofs, and arched roofs. They offer protection from the sun but because of their open side don’t offer much protection from wind or rain.  

Pavilions also differ from gazebos in that they don’t have built-in floors. Either the flooring is a continuation of the surrounding flooring (e.g., patio tiles), concrete, or simply the earth. They are usually used for hosting larger groups, while gazebos are best suited for individuals or more intimate gatherings 

Now that we’ve described gazebos and pavilions let's talk about how to decide which is right for you. Here are seven questions to help you decide.

pavilions are larger and good for hosting and events

How do you want to use this structure?

How you want to use your backyard structure directly influences whether a pavilion or gazebo is best for you. Do you enjoy hosting large parties? Are you picturing a quiet personal oasis? Do you enjoy hanging out in small groups of friends?

Because pavilions have open sides and they are usually better suited for hosting, especially for larger groups. For the same reason, the max group size you can entertain in a pavilion is a bit more flexible. 

Large gazebos can also work well for hosting, but they are better suited to smaller parties. And you won’t have the same kind of wiggle room with group size. If we’re talking about a small gazebo, hosting is pretty much off the table. These are better suited for personal relaxation.

Gazebos do work beautifully as the focal point of an outdoor gathering. They create lovely backdrops for weddings, outdoor concert stages, and shade spaces for family reunions, to name a few.

How large is your backyard?

You should always choose a structure and style that fits the size of your backyard. If your yard is smaller, you don’t want a large, ornate pavilion that overwhelms the space. If you have a large grassy lawn, a gazebo will look shrunken and out of place in the middle of it. 

Depending on the other landscaping features, a gazebo with screened walls may appear to take up more space than an open-walled gazebo or a pavilion of the same size. For example, if you have a small, fenced backward, choose an open design so the structure doesn’t make your yard look crowded.

How much maintenance are you willing to do?

Overall, the maintenance requirements of gazebos and pavilions are roughly the same. Keep in mind, however, that the more ornate your structure, the more maintenance it will require. A wood structure of either design will also require more regular maintenance than a vinyl one.

ornate, wood structures will need more maintenance

What is your budget?

The exact price comparison varies based on the size and design of your project. Custom-built structures cost more than kits but have other benefits (like being designed with you and your space in mind). 

Pavilion projects generally cost more because pavilions are usually larger than gazebos. However, if you look at a square-foot comparison, gazebos tend to cost slightly more due to their more intricate designs.

What is the weather like in your area?

The weather in your area directly affects which structure will best serve you.

Are the summers long? Are the transitional seasons longer? Does your area have high rainfall? Depending on how you answer this, a fully-inclosed or more open-air structure may be better suited for the climate. 

For example, if your area has short summers or gets high rainfall, consider an enclosed gazebo. This will provide a bit more protection from the weather while still allowing you to enjoy the outdoors. If you have long, breezy summers, a pavilion allows you to take full advantage of the warm weather while being protected from the sun.

What is your home aesthetic?

While you have some design freedom when purchasing a custom gazebo or pavilion, each structure does tend toward a different aesthetic. 

Do you want your garden/backyard structure to blend with your home’s architectural style, or would you prefer that it stands out as a statement piece? How you answer these questions will help you decide which structure is best for you.

Gazebos tend to have a charming, elegant aesthetic. Especially when surrounded by beautiful landscaping, gazebos can take on a whimsical, almost enchanted quality. 

In contrast, pavilions tend to be more sleek and modern, skillfully blending functionality and style. Additionally, their open design helps create an inviting outdoor space. 

This is a great opportunity to explore your design preferences and choose a structure that uplifts your property as a whole.

gazebos & pavilions compared

How much privacy do you want?

If privacy is something you're concerned about, gazebos have a notable advantage. Because of their semi-closed walls, gazebos offer more privacy from the start, and screens can be added for additional coverage. 

That being said, adding privacy or shade curtains to a pavilion is possible. The only downside is that it can negatively affect the overall aesthetic of some people. 


Pavilions and gazebos are both excellent backyard structures that help create a beautiful outdoor space.  We hope you found these questions helpful in choosing which structure will best fit your space and needs! 

To explore more design options, be sure to check out our design tool that allows you to create your own structure and get a quote on what it will cost! 

In addition to pavilions and gazebos, Fisher’s Backyard offers both wood and vinyl pergolas and EZShade canopies and curtains

If you enjoyed this article, you may find these helpful as well: 

If you have any questions or are ready to purchase your own gazebo or pavilion, contact us today! We look forward to hearing from you!

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