Sun Shelters – Planning Guide Spring 2024!


Hard-top Gazebos

Hard-Top Gazebos – The hard-top gazebo generally have a metal or polycarbonate roof. The frame material is either wood or metal. Hard-top gazebos will have more parts, hardware, and material to assemble. The structure of a hard-top gazebo is stronger and has more supports as it needs to withstand the load of the roof and whatever Mother Nature wants to put on the roof (e.g. snow, rain, etc). Hard-top gazebos come in different sizes – 10×10, 10×12, 12×12.


Soft-Top Gazebos

Soft-Top Gazebos – The soft-top gazebo’s roof is made of a thick canvas cloth material. The frame and body that make up the soft-top gazebo generally is not made up of the same amount of parts as the hard-top gazebo due to less roof and weight load. The frame of soft-top gazebos tend to be lighter and made of aluminum material. I definitely recommend soft-top gazebos for areas that more sheltered from high winds.



Pergolas – Pergolas do not have a fully covered roof, rather, there is rafters that run across either horizontal or vertical to the upright posts that hold the roof structure up. Most pergolas will come with a top cloth roof cover that can be extended or retracted block or allow shade. There is some pergola options that allow the rafters to completely close to allow the roof to closed which is really cool option!


Roof Style Options

Roof configuration is an important factor when maximizing shade.  You want plan where you want the gazebo and ensure the roof style will be effective in maximizing shade in that location.

Two-sided roof (Barn style) Hard-top Gazebo
Octagon Roof Style Hard-top Gazebo
Traditional Square Roof Hard-top Gazebo
Pergola with Retractable/Moving Roof Panels

What are the different options for roof/frame material for a gazebo or pergola?

Generally there are three material options that prefab gazebos and pergolas come in: polycarbonate, aluminum, and wood. All three have there pros and cons. I prefer the aluminum roof with a wood or aluminum frame. From my experience, the polycarbonate roof material will not hold up in hail or harsh weather conditions like heavy snow, rain or wind. Polycarbonate roof panels are often see-thru and dont offer a full sun shade effect of an aluminum roof.


What are the general sizes for gazebos and pergolas?

The smallest sizes for a prefab gazebo would be 7 feet x 5 feet and the largest can go all the way up to 14 feet x 20 feet.


Cool Addons for Gazebos and Pergolas!


  • Mosquito Netting – An essential addon for any gazebo or pergola. It is a netting that hangs from the the cross beams that the roof sits on. Usually there is a curtain hanging system that uses hooks and you just hang the netting around the perimeter of the gazebo. There is a zipper that attaches at 4 sections to allow different exit options.

  • Privacy Screens – These are thicker curtains that repel the rain, snow, sun, etc. These screens will fully unclose the gazebo and will give further privacy and protection from outdoor elements.

     Chandelier Lighting in a Pergola

  • Lighting – There are some different lighting options from chandelliers to exterior/interior roof lighting. I will be covering some options in another blog to give you ideas on gazebo decorating/lightings ideas for backyard ambience.

  • Planters – There are different planters that can hung or placed around the upright columns of the gazebo or pergola.

  • Baby and Pet Gates – If you have a baby or pet you can enclose the gazebo/pergola with a gate/fencing around the gazebo so that they are kept in shade and wont wander off.


Where should I put a Gazebo or Pergola?

99.9% people put gazebos in their backyard. Placement is usually on a deck or brick/paver patio. An important consideration when thinking about placement is the anchoring of your gazebo/pergola. Anchoring the structure is 100% necessary to avoid it blowing away which could result in damage to property or injury. On decking I usually recommend lag screws into wood, on ground surfaces like patio block or concrete, I would use a concrete anchor.

When placing a gazebo on a deck or in a yard, I recommend 24 inches off any structure – that being your house, fence, shed, etc. The reasons why you want space around the perimeter of the gazebo/pergola is to aid in the assembly and preventing damage to structures/property. If you live in an area with snow or heavy rain you want spacing off the roof so that there will not be a build up of snow or water against your house. Also, some town/city local bylaws require structures to be built away/off a property line or fence.


Other Considerations – Building permits, Maintenance

  1. Building Permits – Most local building bylaws require a building permit for any structure with a footprint of over 100 square feet. Other bylaws determine building guidelines based on the percentage of real estate the gazebo will take up on your property. I always recommend you contact your local bylaw office and house insurance to ensure you are properly within code and covered.

  2. Maintenance:

      • Hard-top gazebos and pergolas – I recommend doing seasonal washing of the roof to ensure no organic debris is stuck.

      • Soft-top gazebos – I recommend removing the roof of a soft-top gazebo for the winter season to extend its useful life.

      • All gazebos/pergolas – Checking your anchoring hardware (lag screws) and assembly hardware to ensure everything is nice and snug and secure.

      • Wood gazebos/pergolas – Applying weather oil/protection stain as needed to protect the wood and extend the life of your gazebo or pergola.

  • Assembly Considerations – You will find that each prefab gazebo or pergola packages will have different levels of complexity. Unfortunately, not every model or brand is the same. Generally the hard-top gazebo will have more assembly time and complexity versus a soft-top or pergola. Anything with wood materials will add further complexity as there likely will require some straightening of the wood to ensure squareness of the structure. I will be writing about a few gazebos we have done to give you an idea of of the level of complexity for assembly.



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Assembly StarsAuthor/Owner
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Assembly Stars is Western Canada’s trusted brand for residential and commercial delivery and assembly services. With a dependable team of licensed technicians, we’re the assembler of choice for local department stores like Canadian Tire, The Brick and Best Buy.

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