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The Difference Between a Patio and a Pergola?

There is a lot of terminology flying around when it comes to home renovations, and it can be quite easy to get confused. If you are looking to build an outdoor entertaining area, and are starting your research, you will often see options for both a ‘patio’ and a ‘pergola,’ so let’s discuss the difference. 


Some of the definitions of patio versus pergola are vague, and they are remarkably similar concepts, yet the definition of a pergola is much more clear-cut. The defining concepts are as follows:



The patio is an old Spanish word that was originally used to describe interior courtyards. Over time it adapted to become the way to define an outdoor area at the back of the house used for some form of entertaining. Traditionally, patios were not shaded areas; rather they didn’t have walls at all. However, over time we have come to understand patios as a shaded outdoor area, with support beams and some form of roofing. Commonly a patio is built out of timber and is a good alternative if a steel-framed pergola isn’t the option for you due to budget. 


Like any outdoor home additions using timber, a patio would commonly need to be taken care of regularly with staining, replacements, or any other methods of upkeep. These kinds of amenities are required when the space is exposed to the weather regularly. 


However, this isn’t always the case, as timber purchased for outdoor application is treated and can be reasonably resistant to the sun, wind, and rain. However, time can be a factor in which these materials start to shift or become damaged. 



A pergola is often referred to as a space that has a much sturdier construction, and therefore the main difference between patio and pergola are the materials used and price. By choosing a pergola for your home, you are looking at a steel structure which is inherently more expensive; however, it would not require the maintenance of a patio using timber and would be much more efficient when braving harsh weather conditions. Pergolas can also use other materials such as poly-carbonate as roofing. 


Some industry professionals suggest that a pergola is a part of the backyard, bridging the home to the outdoors, and a patio is more or less an extension of the home.


Both a pergola and a patio have a similar design and purpose, yet they differ slightly when it comes to the traditional definitions. Ultimately, the difference comes down to which material you use when building your outdoor entertaining  area! If you are looking for further clarification as to what the difference is, you can ask your builder (providing they are the right person for the job).