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Gazebo vs Summerhouse: what’s the difference?


Does your garden need a gazebo?

Or maybe a summerhouse?

What’s the difference anyway?

It can be a sorry old affair, looking at your garden after winter has done its worst. When it starts getting light enough to actually see your garden, you usually find there is work to be done.

Whether you’re a Beechgrove Garden professional or just a wee bit green-fingered, there will be grass to cut, shrubberies to prune, weeding, potting, and repotting. It never ends!

But once the better weather has started you can see the worth in all that work. You start looking at your garden with satisfied eyes, feeling pretty proud of your efforts. 

And what better reward for all your graft than a garden upgrade?

If you’ve looked at any garden centre websites recently, you’ll know that there are thousands of ways to spruce up your garden. Gazebos and summerhouses are two of the many options out there to get the most out of your space.

But which one is best for you?

Let’s take a look to discover whether you need a gorgeous gazebo or a stunning summerhouse.

What is a gazebo?

Gazebos are free-standing structures that provide shelter from the rain and sun. They’re basically a roof without any walls. The roof is held up by wooden or metal pillars or a frame. Traditionally a gazebo is oval, hexagonal, or octagonal, but these days they’re just as likely to be square or rectangular.

A gazebo can be either fixed or temporary. The temporary type is the sort of thing you see at fairs and fetes with a metal frame with a canvas or tarpaulin cover. It keeps the rain off the jam, prize vegetables, artisanal cheese, or whatever they sell at the sort of fairs you go to. Seriously though, always check out the cheese. There might be free samples!

Temporary gazebos are really useful if you want shelter from a little rain, but don’t want the commitment of a permanent structure.

Fixed gazebos are made of wood or metal and are permanently installed in your garden to be used all year round. The roof will also be wooden or metal and designed to keep the rain off whatever is happening underneath it.

Gazebo or Pergola?

Now at this point, you might be thinking: “is a gazebo and a pergola the same thing?” So many names to remember it’s all getting a bit confusing.

Well…no! Gazebos and pergolas are not the same although they can both be used to spruce up your garden.

Pergolas are similar to gazebos but don’t have closed roofs. Instead, there are open slats or beams which allow the sun to shine through. Some pergolas combine the features of a gazebo by adding a canvas roof to cover the slats. 

A pergola is more about marking out space, for seating or a garden feature, rather than about providing shelter. You can add some climbing plants to it if you want to add a little shade and cover. But let’s face it that’s just adding another thing to your ever growing to-do list.

What is a summerhouse?

Now, we love a summerhouse, but what exactly is it (apart from stunning)?

A summerhouse is a closed timber building consisting of walls, doors, a floor, and a roof. 

Summerhouses usually have lots of windows to let in the sun and are designed for recreation rather than storage.

The most obvious difference between a gazebo and a summerhouse is the walls! 

While a gazebo is an open-air structure, a summerhouse is a complete building that provides shelter from the weather and can contain furniture or whatever else you want to put in there. 

What can you use a gazebo for?

A gazebo will keep most of the rain off and shade you when it’s sunny, but otherwise, you’re open to the elements. 

In a Scottish garden, the weather will limit the amount of use you can make of a gazebo. You’ll be able to use a gazebo on a fine, warm day that happens to be showery, or on a scorching hot day to avoid using Factor 750 sun cream.  Other than that, you’ll essentially be outside, which limits the ways you can use this shelter.

Oh, and you should ALWAYS use sun cream – even in the shade! Factor 50, people – avoid those wrinkles while you can.

If you want to sit down and enjoy a sunny day in your garden without running inside when it showers, a gazebo is perfect for you. Maybe you need some shelter for a barbecue or family picnic. Maybe you’re selling your own artisanal cheese! 

For light shelter from showers and the sun, go for a gazebo.

What can you use summerhouses for?

You can do pretty much anything in a summerhouse that you can do in a house, except maybe take a bath!

We don’t really recommend cooking in one either…

But because the walls, roof, and floor provide protection from the elements, you can set up your summerhouse as though it’s an extra room in your home. 

Daybed to lounge on as you eat your breakfast? Why not?

Sofa and mini-fridge to save you from going to the kitchen for a cold beer? Bring it on.

Over the years we’ve seen everything from train sets to art studios to yoga rooms – your summerhouse can be whatever you need it to be.

Because it’s enclosed, you can add electricity to your summerhouse, giving you options for heating and lighting that can extend its use into the colder seasons.

A summerhouse can also be insulated and lined, which helps keep it warm in the winter and cool in the summer. 

It’s basically a multi-purpose room outside that can be set up, however, you fancy.

If you’re looking for comfort and convenience as you enjoy your beautiful garden, a summerhouse is the solution.

How much does a gazebo cost?

Timber gazebos start at around £700 and range up to around £12,000. The cost depends on the materials used, the size of the gazebo, and the specifications of the design. Pergolas are generally cheaper because they don’t have a closed roof and use less timber. 

Some gazebo manufacturers supply light canvas or mesh “walls” that can be added to make the structure a little more enclosed. Some models also feature a single wall. 

Gazebos are usually sold as self-assembly packs, meaning that you have to build them yourself or hire someone to do this for you. 

You should also consider the groundwork that will have to be carried out to make sure that your gazebo stays in the ground where you put it! This will either involve digging post holes for concrete footings or laying a slabbed base.

How much does a summerhouse cost?

Summerhouses range between £800 and around £25,000, depending on the size, style, materials, and specifications of the building.

You can check our Summerhouse Calculator for more information on the factors that affect the cost of a summerhouse, and to see if there’s a summerhouse to suit your budget.

A summerhouse also needs an appropriate base. The best base for a summerhouse is a slabbed base, but ground screws can also be used to support your building.

The full costs of a summerhouse project may also include insulation and lining, installing an electrical supply, and furnishing the building once it’s installed. These are optional extras that you can choose to add, or simply enjoy your summerhouse the way you choose.

Gazebo vs Summerhouse: which one is best?

So, it’s a gazebo for light shelter, a summerhouse for an extra wee room that you can use however you like!

Here at G&M we don’t build gazebos because we think a garden building should get as much use as possible, even if the weather isn’t fine. But it all depends on what you’re looking for.

It’s hard to pit these two contenders against each other, because they’re different.

Different use, different prices, different installation, different options. 

But now you know how they’re different and which one you’re looking for to complete your garden upgrade. It’s all about figuring out which one is best for you.

If only it was this easy to keep on top of cutting the grass!

For more information about summerhouses, take a look at these blogs:

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