How To Choose A Gazebo

Many things can punctuate an event, but none quite like a quality gazebo. From weddings to concerts, from romantic proposals to picnics, a gazebo is an elegant, often decorative, addition to a host of fun event opportunities.

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The word gazebo seems like a very simple and singular concept, but it is far from it. While it is a style and design of building structure, it can be open air, or enclosed with windows and screens. It can be a quick, pop-up model or an ornate wooden oasis. The limit to a gazebo's uses, is proportionate to the limits of your imagination.

What is a gazebo?

The most broad definition is a gazebo is a pavilion structure, free standing or attached to an existing structure, and can be moveable or fixed to a concrete foundation. It can be many shapes, many sizes, but the roof always comes to a peak, either by way of a spire, or like the apex of a house roof.

People think of gazebos and their mind wanders to many places, depending on their history or geographic upbringing. For instance, if you live with football fans who love to tailgate, a gazebo to them is a shaded, pop-up that keeps the sun off their necks while they cheer on their favorite team.

On the other hand, if you grew up in the southern states, a gazebo is an ornate wood retreat with seating, probably near a pond, where you can watch the ducks swim and let your cares drift away in a cool, spring breeze.

What are the types of gazebos?

Every gazebo has a purpose, and there are many to choose from. If you ever find your gazebo has lost its purpose, it isn't hard to come up with another one. They are useful and have much to offer.

  • Pop-up: A simple, shade structure with a metal skeleton and canvas roof. Usually sold with a canvas carrying bag. These are light, compact when taken down, and have a carry strap, which is great if hauling it over a distance. They are rarely more than 4-feet long broken down, which makes them small enough to fit in your vehicle.
White Steel Pop up Gazebo
Fully Enclosed Aluminum Pop up Gazebo
Pop up Fiberglass Patio Gazebo
Instant Steel Pop Up Gazebo
Hexagon Aluminum Pop Up Gazebo
  • Party tent: A large, open room that can be set up and torn down very quickly with enough helpers. The skeleton is steel with a canvas roof, but also canvas sides that can be drawn down and tied to prevent wind, or tied up to give the tent an open air quality. Very popular with weddings and the military.
White Steel Party Tent Gazebo
Navy Blue Steel Party Tent
Navy Blue Steel Party Tent
Extra Wide White Party Tent Gazebo
Fully Enclosed Steel Party Tent Gazebo
Heavy Duty Steel Party Tent Gazebo
  • Patio gazebo: Smaller than the party tent, these can also be enclosed if desired, but the canvas panels extend from the sides.
Light Brown Square Metal Patio Gazebo
Yellow Circular Metal Patio Gazebo
Grey Steel Soft Top Patio Gazebo
Black Steel Hardtop Patio Gazebo
Double Roof Steel and Canvas Patio Gazebo
White and Black Patio Gazebo
  • Grill gazebo: Also in the canvas line, this simple shade overhang is easy to throw together if keeping your barbeque out of the sun is your goal. They also come with hangers built-in to the unit for hanging barbeque tools and accessories.
Hardtop Steel Grill Gazebo
Soft top Steel Grill Gazebo
Metal Grill Gazebo with Brown Soft Top Roof
Outdoor Fabric Top Grill Gazebo
Black Aluminum Grill Gazebo
Metal Grill Gazebo with Light Brown Soft Top Roof
  • Wood patio gazebo: Unlike the canvas model, it's all wood counterpart has a myriad of styles and sizes. Wood gazebos have a peaceful elegance, which is fine if it isn't necessary at a picnic in a distant location, due to the heavy structure. But, because of the craftsmanship in the standard wood gazebo, it will last a very long time, if upkeep is maintained. And they won't fly away in anything short of a tornado.
White Solid Wood Patio Gazebo
Big Solid Wood Patio Gazebo
Red Cedar Wood Patio Gazebo
Hardtop Solid Wood Rectangular Gazebo
Fully Enclosed Manufactured Wood Gazebo
Cedar Solid Wood Gazebo with Aluminum Roof

What styles and sizes of wood gazebos are available?

Before we continue, be aware. Wood gazebos aren't built to be moved. If you are looking for a quick, weekend set-up, canvas is the way to go. But if you want a permanent structure that is going to reside where it is built, an all wood gazebo is a great choice.

  • Regular patio gazebos: These open air models are between 8 feet and 12 feet long, and 8 feet and 12 feet wide, square. The ceiling is at 10.5 feet, and they can have a metal roof or one with shingles. These work well in a traditional home, perhaps with a picnic table or outdoor dining table, sitting between 6 or 8 people. Put a swing set next to it, and you can watch the kids in shade and comfort.
  • Octagonal patio gazebo: Also an open air design, these are more ornate than the square models, boasting a higher peaking roof, handrails with spindles that surround 7 sides of the perimeter, and the option for either regular or wood shingles. They can be from 10 to 18 feet wide, to 10 to 13.5 feet deep. A lovely setting like a spot by a pond or the perfect spot to view a sunset is where these would be best suited. They have a rural appeal, so a farmhouse or country home would be nicely complimented.  And a round table with seating for 5 or 6 would round out the scene very well.
  • Studio style gazebo: These are the most intricate, but the least gazebo-like of the all wood options. They have the characteristics of the other gazebos with one big difference: windows and screens. This option is most often rectangular with some square models here and there. They can be as small as 9ft by 9ft, to as large as 12 feet wide by 19 feet deep.

    This can be a dining space if you need a larger area than your existing dining room, and depending on your chosen size, can easily seat up to between 10 and 12 people comfortably, with plenty of elbow room. If in a mountain cottage, a lake house or a contemporary structure in an area with both sun and snow, this gazebo choice will enhance its profile

    They have the possible customization to add either glass or plastic windows, screens, or both. They can be roofed with metal sheeting or standard shingles, and are commonly found attached to the main house, or very near to it. Not a bad addition if an art studio or a well-lit reading room is on your list of home upgrades on a budget.

Do I need a concrete slab to install my gazebo?

For the canvas models: You really don't. Although they should be secured using tent stakes, as they are light and can be carried away by the wind.

For solid wood: It depends on the model. The simple patio gazebos can sit on the ground with no ill effect, but the much heavier octagonal and studio models need a firm foundation, as with any building. Otherwise they can sink into the dirt after a good hard rain, making your beautiful gazebo unlevel.

Customization features

Whether you pick a portable, pop-up style gazebo, or a more elaborate wood model, here are a few ideas for making it special. Some practical custom options include:

  • Mosquito netting: In the south, where mosquitos are the size of birds, a flexible yet durable mosquito net is worth its weight in gold. Keep them out, and enjoy your experience within.
  • Reversible sidewall: Terrific idea if privacy is necessary. Easy to remove and easy to clean, but still made of the same durable, waterproof canvas as the roof.
  • Privacy curtains: Removable and washable, for a quick way to shut out the prying eyes, these are very flexible, will flow with the wind, but are not transparent, so you can change into a bathing suit at the beach or have a nap, in peace.
  • Pet enclosure: Want the pets to be nearby but not underfoot, this is a simple steel cage wall that fits onto your corner supports. It allows the dogs to be outdoors, without getting too much sun.
  • Ceiling hook for lighting: Just because it has gotten dark, doesn't mean the fun has to end. A strategically placed hook in the center of the gazebo's ceiling can light your way to an evening of games and laughs. Just hang a battery powered light and enjoy.
  • Decorative lights: If you want to add a romantic theme to your gazebo, nothing says it quite like some LED twinkle lights. Who says they are only for Christmas. Pin them up, wrap them around the supports, and a regular gazebo suddenly becomes magical. Add the presence of fireflies and you have a great location to propose to your sweety or have a lovely meal.
  • Vine plants: These are a little tricky, because you kind of have to wait for them to grow and bloom to get the full effect. That is unless you buy fake flowering vines and tie or tack them to the supports. Not a bad idea if you want to add some floral charm.
  • Portable misting system: There is nothing on a hot day like a cool blast of cold water. A portable misting system can bring the temperature down in your gazebo, adding comfort on those summer scorchers. Just attach one end of a hose to an available pressurized water source, like an outdoor faucet, and the other end to your portable misting system. They are lightweight, and will wrap around the support legs, or from removable hangers installed across the horizontal beams.

What are my options in gazebo kits?

If you want the privilege of building your own gazebo, there are several kits you can purchase, that come with everything you need, minus the appropriate tools in some cases. Some kits are simple, built by the amish, and don't require hand tools. Others are more elaborate and require several. But one thing they all have, is a warranty.

The basic octagonal kits come with:

  1. All eight panels (7 sides and 1 door)

  2. 8 roof panels

  3. Shingles

  4. Ridge caps if in the design, and shingles for ridge cap.

  5. Rafters and fascia boards

  6. Hardware

  7. Roof center piece

  8. And of course, instructions.

Depending on your kit, materials and hardware will vary. Something else to consider, while it may be a respectable endeavor to assemble the kit on your own, always have a helper. Some of the pieces will be heavy. Two people can lift a roof joist easier than just one person.

Another little aside. The cost between a fully formed, prefabricated gazebo and a DIY kit are pretty close, although the sweat equity in the build may offset that balance, depending on your perspective. Know what you can do before you start. A half-built gazebo is not a pretty sight.

How can I keep my gazebo in its best condition?

Because of the materials involved, this is a great question with some specific answers. Here's why:

  • Canvas and steel gazebos: Canvas is great for protection from the rain, but its light, and steel can rust. As rain water gathers and the canvas starts to bow, it can tear under the weight.

    • In order to protect a canvas gazebo, if rain water does collect in the loose fabric, use a long, wide-ended stick, like a broom or cane, and press the water off the canvas and down the end of the roof. Also, a teflon spray for tents can be applied, also assisting with water bead-off.

    • If any steel is showing beneath the pre applied protective coating, repaint at your earliest convenience.

  • All Wood gazebos: Who loves wood? Termites. They live in the ground, always looking for something to eat. And wind can blow off roofing, even the metal sheeting kind.

    • If your gazebo is on the ground, have a pest profesional implant termite guards around the legs to keep those hungry critters at bay.

      If on a concrete slab, a pest control expert can drill through the concrete and plant termite barriers.

      Inspect your gazebo for tell-tale signs of termite inhabitation. If caught early, the gazebo can be saved. If not, it's time to start shopping for a new one. Fortunately some warranties have a clause protecting the gazebo in the event of termites, and will replace it for a small fee.

    • Roof shingles are easy to replace individually if ripped off by high winds. Most gazebo shingles are very well secured, but things happen. Replace broken or missing shingles immediately, preventing a cascade effect whereas the rest of the weakened shingles pull free and also break or disappear. Also, if in a hot environment, shingles can become brittle. Inspection of the roof is often a good idea, replacing brittle shingles as necessary.

      For metal plate roofing, each piece is individually attached and if they are pulling free of the trusses, it will be obvious by light coming through between the plates. Nail them back down with a longer nail or screw. A flying metal plate can be very dangerous, especially in a high wind. Metal can fade in color and rust with age. Inspect annually.

    • Because gazebos are designed to be outdoors, they are pretreated with a water sealant to keep them from warping. That being said, it is still a good idea to coat the wood that will be most exposed to rain with a water seal, just in case. The last thing you want is old, dry, warped wood where your beautifully crafted gazebo used to be.