Difference Between Arbors and Pergolas

June 7, 2023, by: Jamie


$2,200 average

(approximately $75 per square foot)


$4,000 average

(approximately $35 per square foot)



  • Economical
  • Easy to install
  • Great for smaller spaces


  • Less supportive of some plants
  • More decorative than practical
  • Can get expensive

$2,200 average

(approximately $110 per square foot)

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  • Easy DIY project
  • Economical to build
  • Lots of attractive options


  • Can be maintenance-intensive
  • Wood will fade and rot
  • Termites love wood

$4,000 average

(approximately $35 per square foot)

Check Local Pricing

Get free estimates from deck and porch contractors in your city.

In this RenoCompare comparison post we’re going to breakdown the main differences between arbors and pergolas, highlight the best materials for each and take a look at the many style options, ideas and uses of these two backyard/garden features. As usual we also give homeowners an average estimate of how much they are likely to pay for professional installation of arbors and pergolas and a helpful round up of frequently asked questions.

Main Differences | Construction/MaterialsStyles | Uses/Ideas | Costs | FAQ’s |

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Arbors and pergolas are similar, so it’s no wonder that many people confuse the two. If you’re planning to upgrade your yard with one of these attractive additions, it’s important that you know the difference.

The most noticeable is size. Generally, arbors are much smaller and more decorative. They frequently function as an entryway into a garden. Pergolas are larger and made to fit over a patio or deck, providing some protection from the sun and other weather elements.

Homeowners use them as entertainment areas for their yards. On the other hand, arbors can contain seating areas, but they are small, generally the size of a loveseat or bench, with the open walls of the trellis providing some minimal privacy.

Related Reading:
Pergolas Versus Gazebos
Decks Versus Patios
Porch Versus Deck


Arbors are typically made of wood to blend into the surrounding landscape. However, you should choose your construction material for its visual appeal, structural integrity, and ability to withstand your local weather.

Wood arbors have a classic appearance and a natural allure. Teak and cedar are the best choices as they are resistant to rot and insects, can withstand extreme weather and have a pleasing appearance. Wood arbors will require occasional maintenance to keep up the structure’s integrity. Oak or pine also work well and will last if you stain or paint them for protection.

Metal also gives arbors a classic appearance that is sleek and simple, yet they have one significant advantage over wood in that they won’t succumb to the elements if powder coated. Over time, metal arbors develop a soft green patina to complement your flora and add a natural attractiveness.

Coated aluminum is a good choice as it is sturdy, lightweight, and long-lasting and resists peeling, chipping, and cracking. Iron is a much heavier material that gives an imposing appearance. It’s prone to rust unless you treat it with zinc powder. Steel is the sturdiest metal and requires treatment to prevent rust and corrosion. If you choose either iron or steel, set the support stakes deep into the ground.

Vinyl arbors are ideal for areas with extreme weather. This material can withstand scorching heat and freezing temperatures. Vinyl won’t fade or splinter like wood or dent like metal. Maintenance is also straightforward, as an occasional spray of water with a hose usually will remove any dirt. You can find vinyl crafted to resemble real wood to mimic the warmth and charm of a natural product without the maintenance.

When deciding on arbor vs pergola, you’ll have a few more material choices with the latter, although the three most popular ones remain the same.

Pergolas made of wood are popular as they are larger and require more material. Cedar and redwood are good choices, with the latter offering a premium look. Wood will require occasional painting or staining to keep it looking good, plus periodic replacement of rotted pieces.

Aluminum and steel are good choices if you want to build a metal structure. Both will give your pergola a modern look with simple shapes and clean lines that go well with contemporary architecture. For a more industrial appearance, opt for coated steel to ensure the structure doesn’t rust.

Vinyl offers the least maintenance out of the top three materials, as pergolas made of it can last for years with only an occasional power washing. Note that high-quality vinyl can get expensive.

Additional pergola materials options include fiberglass and concrete. Fiberglass is also low-maintenance and holds paint well, but it’s also the most expensive material. For a classic look, choose precast or custom-poured concrete pillars. This material will last forever and only require occasional cleaning and chip and crack repair.


Arbors and pergolas come in dozens of different styles, even when you select pre-made kits, so you’re bound to find one that suits your home’s architecture. You’ll find many styles for both, one of which will suit your personal taste and architecture.

Consider these arbor styles:
• Arched – the most traditional form, often used as an entry or exit from gardens
• Pergola-style – offering Grecian-style elegance, showcasing columns topped by crossbeams
• Moongate – semi-circles that are wider than traditional arbors and are suitable for larger spaces
• Grape – flat-topped arbors specifically designed to withstand the woody vines of grapes
• Gabled – featuring steeply pitched roofs, these arbors are great for a traditional English garden
• Circular – also called a round arbor, it features a curved side and a top but allows you to create “windows” to the exterior.

The styles for pergolas are virtually endless. However, you’ll find several common looks, with each easily customized to fit your preferences. Popular styles include:
• Attached – Ideal as an outdoor home extension
• Freestanding – Create a sheltered living space in your yard
• Arched – For a more romantic and elegant look
• Louvered – Adjustable louvers replace rafters
• Awning – Mounts directly to a wall, covering a door, window, or a garage


The uniqueness of pergola vs arbor depends on how you use the space. The climbing or vining plants you choose to grow on arbors will define your look. Arbors can provide a small, private seating area with shade, serve as a way to separate garden areas and direct traffic, or simply be decorative.

Many homeowners build a pergola to add privacy to their yards. They’re also popular as semi-sheltered seating areas or as a way to draw attention to a backyard kitchen or dining area. Other pergolas uses are a poolside accessory or hot tub cover to give your backyard a resort-style look.


Costs can increase quickly, especially if you are unfamiliar with installing either hardscape feature. Most arbors cost between $1672 to $2722, with labor included. If you DIY, Arbors can cost as little as $100. Many simple arbors cost $300 to $600 to install, but if you want a custom one, you may see prices as high as $15,000.

Pergola kits can decrease the cost of your project if you intend to DIY. Pergolas cost between $700 and $12,000 to build, with the latter figure representing a custom build with many different extras. The most budget-friendly solutions are aluminum, vinyl, and untreated wood. Add $20 to $60 per hour for professional installation.


What is a pergola with a roof called?
It’s still called a pergola. Some say that a pergola with a roof is technically a pavilion, but those structures have permanent roofs. Although the traditional construction of a pergola is either two or four posts with an open framework on top, many pergolas have retractable roofs or awnings to protect you from the elements.

What are the different parts of a pergola called?
These are the main pergola parts:
• Two or four vertical supports or columns
Beams and rafters that comprise the roof
• Screws and brackets that connect to parts
• Footings, usually concrete, that support and connect columns
• Ledger board, a supporting beam anchored to a building wall frame for attached pergolas

Are a trellis and an arbor the same?
Both support climbing plants and provide shade or privacy, but they are not the same. A trellis is a flat latticed surface that sits against a wall, while an arbor resembles a small covered patio or pergola. The primary purpose of a trellis is to support vining plants, while an arbor is more decorative.



Jamie Sandford - Owner and Lead Editor at RenoCompareJamie Sandford is the Chief Editor at RenoCompare (find out more). Jamie has been involved in construction for over 30 years. Straight out of college, Jamie worked with construction crews for the television, film and theatre industries for over 12 years. In his thirties, he turned his attention to DIY decorating and construction, working on many house renovations and remodels. During this time he started to specialize in home flooring and in 2013 he launched the Home Flooring Pros website. Two years later he launched RenoCompare.

“I’ve seen interior design, remodeling, and construction from both sides of the street, contractors on one side and homeowners on the other. My aim is to close the gap between the professionals and the consumers and make it easier for both sides to work smoothly and effectively side by side. At RenoCompare we want to save you time and money by giving you the information you need as simply and as quickly as possible!”

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