What are the differences between a Porch and Veranda, Gazebo and Pergola, Patio and Deck?

How many times have you loosly used a term for a type of structure such as a porch or veranda, portico or pavilion, or simply mixed them up.  Hopefully this helps clear up the confusion. 

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The term portico is Italian and means a small porch.  A portico is a porch leading to the entrance of a building or extended as a colonnade with a roof structure over a walkway and supported by columns and may be enclosed by walls. This idea was widely used in Ancient Greece and has influenced many cultures, including most Western cultures.

The important part about porticos are the columns. Porticos also tend to be smaller than porches.


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Extending from the main structure, a porch is a covered shelter attached to the front of the entrance of a house or building.  A porch can be expanded to wrap around the building. The structure is external to the walls of the building, but it may be enclosed in certain types of frames including walls, columns or screens.

A great thing about porches is that they are neighborly. Older neighborhoods have houses with porches. Neighbors always wave and talk to each other on these long summer evenings.




A veranda is Portuguese for porch.  It is a roofed, open-air gallery or porch. A veranda is often partly enclosed by a railing and frequently extends across the front and sides of the structure. A wrap-around porch is really a veranda.


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Gazebos are round or octagon shaped and usually have a domed roof that is supported by eight symmetrical pillared columns. You often find them in backyards and in public parks. Sitting in one on a sunny afternoon can often improve a person’s overall mental health. This is called the Gazebo Effect.


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Pavilions are much bigger than gazebos. They are usually square or rectangular. and are often found in parks or outdoor community event centers. They are great for picnics and cultural events.


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Pergolas have open roofs. Pergolas are usually made with pressure treated lumber and are often over patios.  Pergolas are designed to support climbing plants, but unlike arbors, pergolas have posts supporting a roof like structure.




An arbor usually incorporates a trellis into its structure, creating a tunnel-like passageway of climbing plants. A trellis is typically a latticework built to support climbing plants or vines. An arbor can be arched or square at the top. 

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A balcony is usually a small platform on the outside of a building, enclosed by walls or balustrades, sometimes supported by columns or console brackets. The platform is projecting from the wall of a building and is usually above the ground floor. A balcony is a small second floor porch.


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Patio is a Spanish word that means inner courtyard. A patio is usually at the back of the house. It can be made of concrete, paving stones, tiles or even gravel. Patios are usually used for hanging around and socializing, or barbecuing and having meals outdoors. 

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Who doesn’t love a big deck? Decks are usually made of pressure treated lumber or composite. Decks are much like a patio in function but can be raised as much as a full level from ground level. If they are more than 30 inches off the ground, they should have a railing around them.  Canada requires a railing they are more than 24 inches off the ground.