If you’re interested in installing a yard feature that helps delineate yard spaces and adds ambiance, shade and protection against other elements, comfort, and luxury, your mind will probably wander to a few different structure names. And while you’ve heard the terms, you might not be exactly clear on the differences between arbors, pergolas, patio covers, and cabanas.
The precise definitions and characteristics of these yard structures can vary some depending on whom you ask, and sometimes even where you are in the country. Plus, creative designers often venture away from standard characteristics to improve aesthetics, adapt to the surroundings, or cater to the taste and desires of the customer.
This all makes it impossible to give exact definitions of these yard structures. However, we’ll outline the basic differences between arbors, pergolas, patio covers, and cabanas as they’re widely understood. So, just keep in mind that the information below has generalized explanations of the traditional take on these structures. This helps you know where to start with research and a conversation with your contractor.
Basic Form and Function of Arbors
Arbors are simple freestanding structures used to mark an entrance, often to a garden or a pathway. They’re mostly just for walking through, rather than sitting under. They usually have only two or four posts, and in latter cases may have lattice on the sides, and a single beam or a few beams across the top. Sometimes, arbors are extended to run all along a path, rather than just stand at its entrance. Arbors are commonly made of wood, though vinyl and stone are also used with some regularity.
Basic Form and Function of Pergolas
Pergolas are often confused with arbors, as their form is similar. They’re often made of wood, though vinyl, stone, brick, fiberglass, and other materials may be used. This structure is intended to be sat beneath; it can be freestanding or attached to a house, and is constructed over an existing yard feature like a patio or pool deck. It has four or more posts and beams across the top forming a flat roof that creates partial shade, allowing some sunlight through. Pergolas usually feature a bit more architectural detail than arbors.
Basic Form and Function of Patio Covers
Patio covers are like pergolas in that they’re made to sit under while enjoying a patio, deck, pool deck, etc. They’re usually attached to the back of the house. Wood, stone, and brick are common building materials. The key difference between a patio cover and a pergola is that a patio cover has a solid roof for more complete protection against the elements; the roof is often triangular. Ceiling fans and lights are frequently affixed to the underside of a patio cover’s roof.
Basic Form and Function of Cabanas
Cabanas are commonly associated with resort pools and tropical beaches. These freestanding structures have a solid roof and usually have two or three sides closed off for more comprehensive protection from the elements and for privacy. Basically, they’re an outdoor room, often outfitted with outdoor kitchen or bar features, furniture, televisions, and other amenities. They’re built from many different materials and in a wide array of styles, and are generally situated near a backyard pool.