Pergola Vs Arbor: What’s The Difference?


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When choosing outdoor structures for your backyard, you may be confused about the difference between a Pergola vs Arbor.

Beautiful pergola backyard
Beautiful pergola

While these two names are often used interchangeably, there are quite different and serve different purposes.

In This Article – We explain each structure, its purpose, and how they are different from each other. This should guide you in making the right decision about the structure for your outdoor space.

What Is A Pergola?

A pergola is a large and open structure with four support beams and a roof.

The roof can be closed or open with beams arranged in interlaced patterns.

The openings allow sunlight and air circulation while still providing shade to the user.

You may also find plants such as grapevines draped over the pergola roof to enhance its aesthetics or provide extra shade.

One can also use a cover such as a tarp to provide additional protection.

While the sides of a pergola are typically open, you can choose to have some latticework added.

This enhances privacy and provides extra shade.

A pergola can be a freestanding structure or be connected to your house, stretching over your patio or seating area.

Even Better – It may also be connected to other structures in your compound, like a garage or shed. While most pergolas are made of wood, it is also possible to construct them using metal or vinyl.

What Is The Purpose Of A Pergola?

Here is how a pergola can come in handy in your home.

Provides an outdoor extension to your home

If you want to spread your living space to the outdoors, consider getting a pergola.

It provides a seamless transition from the house going to the patio.

Ensure that the pergola design and material complement your home’s exterior.

Provides shade

While an open pergola may not provide complete protection from the elements, it offers some shade that improves your outdoor experience.

You can cover it with vines or a retractable cover to get more shade. You can also choose a sail roof, which is a closed option.

Enhances privacy

If the openness of your outdoor area makes you uncomfortable, a pergola could help with that.

Consider adding a lattice pattern or some sheers on the side to make it more private.

Enhances aesthetics

A pergola can add some life to your garden and make it more appealing.

An open-top particularly gives the impression of continuous airflow and exposure to sunlight.

Draping the pergola with some vines also provides an extra touch and complements the surrounding nature.

Increases your home’s value

If you’re planning to sell your home, a pergola could increase the value.

It is critical to have your pergola well done and complement your home to enjoy this advantage.

A poorly done pergola may decrease the value instead.

What Is An Arbor?

An arbor is a much smaller structure than a pergola.

It is covered with lattice or related patterns and has a rounded or squared roof.

The designs allow vines and climbing plants to attach themselves to the arbor.

That said, one can choose to leave an arbor open with no plants attached to it.

Arbors act as entryways leading to a path, garden, or backyard. Passing under it feels like you’re going through a narrow tunnel.

They provide some shade and also act as décor.

Arbors are generally freestanding structures but may sometimes be attached to fences.

Some arbors have a gate that adds to their entryway purpose.

Key Takeaway: You can have an arbor made of wood or wrought iron. It is possible to buy a pre-made arbor and fix it in your garden. However, you can choose to have a custom-made one in your preferred style and color. 

What Is The Purpose Of An Arbor?

These are some of the ways having an arbor will benefit you.

Provides a welcoming entryway

Their work as entrances come in handy in weddings and other outdoor events.

They help designate the path to be used during these events.

Used as a design element

Arbors add to the beauty of a place.

They also work as great photo backgrounds, with the climbing plants adding a pop of color.

Provides shade

Though an arbor is narrow, it can provide you with some shade while walking through the garden.

You can also place a seat under it and relax there.

Acts as a gate cover

An arbor is a great way to protect your gate from the elements. Besides, it’s a charming addition.

Pergola vs. Arbor: The Differences

Now that you are more knowledgeable about the two structures, let’s look at their differences.

Their appearance

Arbors have two posts, while pergolas have four.

The roof of an arbor can be arched or flat, while that of a pergola is flat. 

The sides of pergolas are typically open, while the sides of an arbor are covered in a lattice.

In Addition – The two structures also differ in size, with the pergola being a much larger structure.

Their uses

A pergola acts as an outdoor room, providing you with a sheltered place to sit outside.

It’s perfect for hosting friends and family, and you can cook under it.

On the other hand, an arbor acts as a doorway, leading people down a path.

It may also serve as a decorative structure.

Unlike a pergola, you can only have one or two people sitting under an arbor. An arbor also provides less shade than a pergola.

The cost

You are more likely to pay more for a pergola than an arbor.

This is due to the size difference and the amount of work that goes into installing it.

Arbor park
Arbor in the park

However, this price difference depends on the materials you choose to use.

The choice of plants

While both pergolas and arbors support vines and climbing plants, the choice of plants may differ.

Due to its size, a pergola can hold heavier plants that would otherwise be too heavy for an arbor.

Grapevines or wisteria are good examples of plants that may be too heavy for an arbor.

For an arbor, you can consider plants such as:

These can also be used on a pergola.

How Are Pergolas And Arbors Similar?

Arbor backyard purpose
Arbor backyard

Even with their differences, these two structures have some similarities:

  • Both are mainly made of wood. However, one can use other materials such as metal and vinyl.
  • Both support vines and climbing plants. They can also be used plain without any additional decorations.
  • They are both found in outdoor spaces such as backyards, gardens, and parks.
  • Both structures can be freestanding or attached to other structures.
  • Both structures can have lattice sides.

Additional Decorations You Can Add To Your Pergola or Arbor

Plants are fantastic decorations for your outdoor structures, but you can also consider adding other decorative materials.

This includes the following.


Fairy lights in your arbor or pergola will make your space more beautiful.

At night, the lights will be twinkling, evoking a warm feeling.

These lights make for a perfect background if you choose to take photos from here.

Since a pergola can handle more weight, you can have larger bulbs or even a lantern hanging down. For arbors go for small lanterns.


You can use fabric on both of the structures.

Pergola vs arbor explained
Pergola backyard

The material could act like a curtain in a pergola to give you some privacy.

In an arbor, fabric comes in handy at events such as weddings.

The choice of material is dependent on the theme and colors of the event.

In either of the two structures, ensure that the fabric maintains harmony with the rest of the decorations.


Battery-powered candles are a cute addition to your outdoor structure décor.

You can arrange them on the ground, display them on nearby structures like rocks or stumps, or hang them.

Choose the colors of candles that best bring out the mood you intend to evoke.

A fireplace

A fireplace is excellent incorporation to an open pergola.

You can sit your guests and family around the fire and enjoy your time together.

If a fireplace sounds like an appealing addition, you can consider having a retractable cover for your pergola.

Final Thoughts

It is now easier to choose between a pergola vs. arbor for your outdoor space with this information.

Still, you can choose to have both structures because they serve different purposes. 

Take your time to pick the best material and design for your chosen structure.

It should also complement your home design to have a seamless flow.

Both pergolas and arbors are available in readymade kits that you can buy and install.

Alternatively, you can have a custom-made one that’s perfect for you.

It’s critical to note that a custom-made structure may cost you more than the kits, so you need to weigh your choices.

Lastly, have fun decorating your structure in your preferred style and make it your dream space.

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