Pergola vs Arbor: What’s the Difference and Which Should You Choose?

Creating a welcoming space in your backyard can seem like an overwhelming task at first glance. But, if you look at your backyard like a blank canvas, there is so much you can do with it. From your garden to your deck or patio, your backyard should reflect as much of your personality as your indoor spaces do.

That’s why you should consider sprucing it up with either a Pergola or an Arbor. One or both of these structures in your backyard will make a statement that the neighbors will be raving about. Not to mention, a Pergola will give you some privacy to entertain in the great outdoors without actually bothering your neighbors.

But what is the difference between a pergola vs arbor? In this article, we’re outlining the key details that separate one from the other so you can make an informed decision when it comes time for your next backyard project.

How to Decide Between a Pergola vs Arbor

The first thing you need to know before you can begin transforming your backyard space is to know the difference between an Arbor and Pergola. While similar in composition, these are two very different structures that serve different purposes. And, deciding between an Arbor vs Pergola is purely based on your personal preference, although you may need a larger yard for a Pergola.

Depending on your yard and garden may also depend on which type of structure you choose to incorporate into your backyard design. An Arbor is a perfect touch to add to the entryway to your garden while you can’t go wrong with a Pergola for entertaining and adding some living space to your home. Whichever you choose, you’ll enjoy the quaintness that it adds to your backyard retreat.

So, let’s take a look at what makes a Pergola or an Arbor, exactly.


A Pergola is usually larger than an Arbor because it’s made to fit over a patio or deck and serve as a type of enclosure from the elements. You can use wood, metal, or vinyl and shade it using either climbing plants and vines or use bamboo and linen covers and shades. A Pergola will commonly be connected to your house or another outdoor structure such as a garage or backyard shed but you may also have a freestanding Pergola if you wish.

Pergolas are built with four or more posts or columns that serve as support for the structure. The roof is constructed of equally spaced beams or slats that are crisscrossed to create a grid pattern. You can opt for lattice down the sides of the frame for added shade and privacy.

How to Use a Pergola

You can design and decorate your Pergola to your taste. Include built-in seating or implement your own seating elements when it’s finished. The main purpose of a Pergola is to have somewhere to enjoy the outdoors, after all.

Consider stringing hanging lights along the borders of your Pergola for added ambiance in the evenings. You can even install fixed lighting and a ceiling fan as long as you protect the wiring from the weather. Regardless of how you choose to use your Pergola, it will serve as an enlightening arena for you to entertain or simply take a load off and relax from time to time.

Having a Pergola is just like having an outdoor living room. You can make it as natural or sophisticated as you please.


An Arbor is more of a specially designed seating/resting area for your garden. It’s constructed similarly to a Pergola, but usually much smaller. You can think of a Pergola as an outdoor room, whereas an Arbor is more of an outside doorway.

Arbors are generally freestanding, although you may see them attached to fences now and then. Some Arbors come with gates which makes them even that much more quaint as an entryway to your garden. Many Arbors also incorporate a small seating section, either built-in or with a bench placed directly underneath.

Most Arbors are covered with lattice or some kind of crisscross design in order to allow for climbing plants and vines which is the most traditional way to display an Arbor.

How to Use an Arbor

Now that we’ve answered the burning question, what is an arbor, it’s time to gain a better understanding of how to use one. You already know that it’s considered the entryway to your outdoor space, but how do you make it unique?

You can start with the materials used to construct your Arbor. Wood and vinyl are great options that will last for years to come, but if you want a more intricate design, you may opt for metal instead. Just make sure that whatever material you use can handle the weight of the plants that you intend to grow on your Arbor.

You can choose plants like Wisteria or climbing Roses for a more classic look and feel. Or, you can choose plants such as Trumpet Vine and climbing Hydrangea for a more exotic feel. Your arbor will be defined by these plants so choose wisely.

Final Thoughts

Deciding between a pergola vs arbor doesn’t have to be an overwhelming choice. You can even have both if that’s your pleasure! Just keep these tips in mind while you weigh out the costs and other pros and cons of either structure so that you’ll be best prepared when it comes time to build.

You can build these structures yourself, find a kit, or hire a contractor to get the job done right. Pergolas and arbors are great for growing plants and vines with trellises, but it’s important to factor in what types of plants you’ll be using for the amount of weight they will add to your structure. It’s best to think about what kinds of plants you’ll be using before you start building.

When you’re ready to get started on your backyard project, feel free to contact us. We offer services in and around San Antonio with over 20 years of combined experience.