Patio Umbrella vs. Pergola: Which One Is Right for You?

Patio Umbrella vs. Pergola

While building your ultimate home, you definitely want to get all it can offer. The outdoor area is just as important as the inside of your house. Indeed, you may want to enjoy warm summer days outside, but the harsh sun rays may be a bit irritating and a space in the shade is a must-have. The challenge here comes when choosing the right option. Among them are two good ones: a patio umbrella and a pergola. But, which one is the best?

If you are looking for a portable, retractable shade, you should turn to patio umbrellas. However, if you are looking for something permanent and immovable, then go for a pergola.

This article will get you well informed and help you get the right shade to create your perfect outdoor space. It draws inspiration from our comparisons on the characteristics, similarities, pros, and cons of each.

What Is a Patio Umbrella?

A patio umbrella is a collapsible umbrella made for using outdoors, either in a residential or commercial building. Patio umbrellas come in various styles, like table, tilted, sail, or offset.

Initially, patio umbrellas were designed to fit through a hole on a table to ensure their stability and anchorage. Although, throughout the years, there have been advancements, and now, we also have patio umbrellas that are offset (cantilever umbrellas), thus eliminating any obstructions on the table.

Patios umbrellas come in various shapes, like rectangles, squares, or octagons. They have canopy fabrics to ensure the umbrella protects you from UV rays and light rain.

Pros of Patio Umbrellas

Below are some advantages of patio umbrellas:

  • Patio umbrellas are pretty easy to install, don’t require professional advice, and require little maintenance.
  • Patio umbrellas deliver instantly. Once you set it up, you are ready to go, with no additions required. This is one of the fastest ways to get shade on your patio.
  • When not in use, you can store your patio umbrella, giving you some extra space in your backyard. Some patio umbrellas are very flexible and can fold up to occupy a small area when unused.
  • Once installed, patio umbrellas require little to no maintenance unless they have outlived their time of service.
  • They are portable and move depending on the sun’s position, and thus, on the time and seasons. Some can even tilt. The movements are either automated or manually operated with buttons.
  • Modern patio umbrellas are quite easy to operate and often only require a button, and the sets of springs do everything else.
  • Cheap materials used to manufacture patio umbrellas make them an inexpensive way of providing large shades.
  • They can be easily customized. For instance, you can choose the colors you like, giving you a chance to express yourself.
  • They have waterproof canopy fabrics that protect you from ultraviolet radiation and rain showers.
  • Patio umbrellas are easy to clean. Washing them with vinegar and mild detergent will do the trick.

Cons of Patio Umbrellas

Here are some disadvantages of patio umbrellas:

  • They do not provide adequate protection from the rain.
  • There is a limit to the size of patio umbrellas. The bigger the umbrella, the less stable it is.
  • Some cheap patio umbrellas feature low-quality materials and are easily degraded. For instance, canopy fabrics may look dirty and fade over time.
  • Patio umbrellas are light, can be pretty unstable, and easily blown by strong winds.
  • Large patio umbrellas require huge bases that may not be pleasing to the eye.
  • Patio umbrellas do not provide enough room for the extension of the living space.
  • Patio umbrellas do not have a privacy feature. They only have a canopy, and thus, can only provide shade.
  • Patio umbrellas cannot be easily customized. You only get to choose the color and type of support.

What Is a Pergola?

The literal meaning of a pergola is projecting eave. A pergola, a type of gazebo, is an outdoor structure made of beams supported by four or more sturdy columns. Materials like wood, bamboo, stone, metal, or cedar make for fine pergolas.

Pergolas may be open or covered with organic covers (shading plants and thick vines) or canopy fabrics. Privacy features like drapes, latticework, and screens are a great addition to your pergola.

Pergolas may be stand-alone structures or may be attached to your roof. You may also use pergolas to connect your house to other structures, like a gazebo, and get so much out of your outdoor area. Well-maintained pergolas covered in foliage are pretty eye-catching and provide you with a safe outdoor haven.

Pros of Pergola

Here are some advantages of pergolas:

  • Pergolas are quite large and versatile, providing a lot of room for your outdoor activities, like outdoor farming and entertainment.
  • Pergolas with natural covering give a supporting grid for climbing plants, like clematis and grapevines, space to grow.
  • The materials used to make pergolas are easy to manufacture and readily available, making them quite affordable.
  • Pergolas are pretty simple structures and can be easily customized to make you feel comfortable and bring out your personality.
  • Durable materials used to make pergolas can be around for a long time with little maintenance.
  • There exist pergola kits with pre-cut materials and the necessary installation equipment, making it the ultimate DIY project that you can have fun putting together.
  • Winds cannot blow pergolas away easily as they are quite sturdy structures.
  • Pergolas attached to your house are a way of regulating the temperatures of your home.
  • Pergolas give you room for customization. You may choose the canopy, color scheme, artwork, furniture, and building materials.

Cons of Pergola

Here are some disadvantages of pergolas:

  • Maintaining your pergola to make sure it remains beautiful and functional is quite the task. Certain conditions make the paint peel off, weaken the structure, and make it dirty. Pergolas require constant cleaning, repainting, and treating.
  • Pergolas are quite large and may take up a lot of space in your backyard, leaving little room for other backyard paraphernalia.
  • Installing pergolas often requires a professional’s eye and may take a long time, thus making their installation very tiresome.
  • Pergolas are permanent structures, and thus, hindering your outdoor space when not in use.
  • Pergolas are not flexible and do not offer protection from the sun at all angles.
  • Pergolas with plant canopies usually take a long time to develop shade.
  • Pergola parts are quite bulky. You can only assemble them on site.

What Are the Differences Between Patio Umbrellas and Pergola?


Patio umbrellas Pergolas
Have one support (center and offset) and are portable Have at least four supports, which come already fixed
Have canopies made from fabrics Have canopies made from latticework, plant foliage, PVC, or fiberglass
Are easy to install and require little professional assistance Are quite tedious to install and require professional assistance
Come in a variety of sizes and can be as small as allowing space only for one Come in standard sizes


Should You Choose a Patio Umbrella or Pergola?

Before you make that purchase that will change the face of your garden, here are a few things I’d advise you to look at.

How much space do you have and how much should your umbrella or pergola cover?

You don’t want your garden to appear cluttered. If you have a small garden, I would advise you to go for a patio umbrella. On the other hand, if you have a lot of space in your backyard, then I recommend a pergola. It will give you a lot of room and give your garden a facelift.

Do you want a permanent structure or just some shade during the summer?

Patio umbrellas are portable and can easily be put away when not in use. Pergolas, on the other hand, require a lot of effort and time to bring down. So, an umbrella is the best option if you are staying somewhere temporarily or in a rented property.

Also, well-constructed and maintained pergolas boost the market value of your home.

How do you want to use your space?

If you are an outdoor enthusiast and are looking to get the most out of your space, a pergola should be your go-to option. A pergola is versatile and leaves you room to grow various potted plants, extend your living space, or create room for entertainment, among other things. A patio umbrella, on the other hand, only provides room for entertainment.

Do you want to communicate with others through your structure?

You may want your shade to be an expression of who you are. Unfortunately, only a handful of things are customizable on an umbrella. On the other hand, a pergola offers many customizable options, like the kind of plant cover you want, the materials used in making the structure, the color scheme of your design, as well as the furniture and artwork, among other things.

How much money do you want to spend?

If you are looking to get quality shade at low prices, a patio umbrella should be among your top options. Indeed, pergolas are quite expensive as you have to buy materials for the construction and pay an expert for the installation.

Patio umbrellas and pergolas have been around for a very long time. There is a variety of patio umbrellas and pergolas styles. Choose one that matches your taste, budget, space, and use.

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