Are Gazebos Waterproof?

For most of us, the word “gazebo” conjures up images of temporary garden structures that have a roof but no sides. That’s a reasonable definition for practical purposes but it isn’t entirely accurate.

According to many encyclopaedias and dictionaries, a gazebo is hard to distinguish from a pavilion, kiosk, alhambra, belvedere, folly, gloriette, pergola or rotunda, or even an alcove, casino or bandstand. Early examples were often intended to be permanent, so were built of brick, stone or timber. 

While some were free-standing, many were lean-tos attached to a wall and others were constructed on top of roofs. There were square gazebos, round gazebos and hexagonal gazebos, and many had sides, low surrounding walls or lattice screens.

Explanations of the word are as exotic and varied as the buildings given the name. Some people claim it is Arabic or Moorish in origin, but the earliest written mention is in “Rural Architecture in the Chinese Taste” by John and William Halfpenny in 1750.

We think they were possibly joking: gazebos were always built in locations with great views of scenic landscapes or formal gardens so it would make sense if their name is an entirely English contraction of “gaze about”.

A gazebo provides shelter from the changeable English weather in places where people might gather to enjoy the view and the open air. Even when they were built of stone, the point was to provide temporary shelter without impeding fresh healthy air and all the joys of the outdoors. Today that is still the guiding principle of gazebo design.

A gazebo for garden events

A gazebo is a great way to let small children play in the garden protected from fierce sunshine. For adults too, it means you can safely escape the house without overdosing on ultra-violet. After months of COVID-19 lockdown, we could all do with a lot more gazebo time.

Gazebos really come into their own for social gatherings. A gazebo for garden and outdoor events can be used to protect electrical equipment such as DJ decks or generators, or to make a space cosy for an outdoor meal. It may be special enough to conduct an outdoor wedding or baptism. 

Drizzle comes and goes, but barbecues have to keep on grilling, and they encourage guests to brave a few drops of rain instead of deserting to the pub.

However, it is important to understand just how much protection from the elements a gazebo will provide.

Wind and rain protection

Many gazebo models have detachable side panels, but this doesn’t convert them into “tents” in the full sense. Tents are designed to keep the environment out, while a gazebo is designed to help you enjoy it.

Canopies can be made of many materials but polyesters and PVC-coated fabrics are the most popular. The reason is simple – a lightweight modern gazebo is easy to transport, erect, lift from one location to another, or put away for storage. Some types can be erected or folded away in as little as 14 seconds. 

Heavier fabrics resist heavier rainfall but few are designed to tolerate puddles on the roof. Pop up gazebos are also a popular choice for garden parties but these types of gazebos are meant to withstand light drizzle and not heavy downpours. 

Wind is another consideration. If you expect windy weather, double roofed gazebos relieve the air pressure so are less likely to lift, and hexagonal gazebos resist gusts from more directions.

Although lightweight, even cheaper models have robust frames of steel or aluminium. Take care to choose the type you need and they will reward you season after season.

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