Arbors, Pergolas, Cabanas and Patio Covers: What’s the Difference?

Cabana Houston

These four common outdoor structures – arbors, pergolas, cabanas and patio covers – are all elements that can take an outdoor living space to the next level. But what’s the difference? Is there a difference?

The answer is a resounding, yes! We’ll explore each of these structures so you can decide which one is the best fit for your style and space.


A Long Houston Arbor

An arbor is a simple, usually small, free-standing structure designed to provide shade and add a special touch to a backyard, walkway or front entry.

They are popular additions to an outdoor living space because of their versatility, customizable design and low maintenance upkeep.

Arbors are often used to provide support for climbing plants on trellises or lattices, but can be elegantly designed as a stand-alone element. Seating can be incorporated into the design to create an inviting backyard hideaway with protection from the summer sun.

A variety of materials can be used to create an arbor, with the most popular being wood, rust-proof iron and durable P.V.C. plastic.


Creekstone Outdoor Living - Custom Houston Pergola

Pergolas are often confused with arbors as they can share similar features such as lattices. They are actually vastly different structures with entirely different uses.

Pergolas are larger structures with more advanced architectural design features. They are supported by wooden or stone columns, and are often attached to an existing home or structure although they can be freestanding.

The roof is traditionally an open grid constructed of wooden beams to allow natural light to reach the space below. The beams can be covered with a clear or tinted polycarbonate roof for extra protection from the elements.

A pergola attached to an existing home extends the living space outdoors and can set the stage for further additions such as an outdoor kitchen or seating areas. In a garden setting, a pergola can be partially enclosed with lattice to allow plants to climb up to the roof creating a cozy, private outdoor retreat.

Common materials used to build pergolas are wood and stone or brick. Materials can be chosen to coordinate with existing structures on a property.


Custom Outdoor Kitchen and Cabana - Aerial View by Creekstone Outdoor Living in Houston Texas

Cabanas are free-standing, covered structures that can add functionality and comfort to any outdoor living space. They can be designed to simply cover a cozy nook for outdoor dining or as an extravagant addition to a pool area complete with an outdoor kitchen, changing rooms and storage space.

Lighting accents, ceiling fans and heating elements can be added to enhance the beauty and value of a cabana.

Since cabanas are freestanding, think of them as an additional room that accentuates an existing home. With that in mind, the addition of a cabana will increase the value of a property by boosting the amount of functional space.

The materials used in the construction of a cabana can be chosen to match an existing home or be constructed out of different materials to make a statement in a backyard oasis. Large beams and elegant stained wood ceilings are common elements of a cabana and add a distinctive flair.

Patio Covers

Creekstone Outdoor Living - Houston Patio Cover

Patio covers are a practical, easy way to enhance and add value to your home, and make the most out of your outdoor living space. As an attached structure, they are designed to compliment a home’s style and can include a variety of upgrades like screened windows, ceiling fans and lighting accents.

Much like cabanas, patio covers extend an outdoor living space into the backyard. But since they are attached to an existing structure, that extension is merely a step or two outside the back door.

Patio covers are an excellent addition for small spaces or for those looking to add protection from the elements to an already existing patio. They protect against the sweltering summer sun and spring rain showers, and with proper placement a patio cover can keep a home cooler during the summer by blocking the sun from south-facing windows.

An addition to an existing patio that incorporates an outdoor kitchen, fireplace or seating area can be greatly enhanced by the construction of a patio cover. By collaborating with a pool company, a patio cover can extend to the edge of a new pool, providing the perfect setting for a covered swim-up bar.

All four of these structures are designed to add functionality, style and value to a home. From a quiet mini-retreat under an arbor to a luxurious fully-featured cabana at the edge of a property, an outdoor living space can easily be transformed into private oasis with the addition of any of these elements.