Many people see the word gazebo today and immediately think of a small plastic or canvas tent with no sides, and that’s exactly what we’ll be covering in this article.
Gazebos were originally small pavilions in public and private parks, and of course many of them still exist today. But they are permanent structures, a bit like small bandstands.
They are built with brick and concrete, wood, or sometimes metal, but the main characteristic is that they have a roof but open sides, providing shade but allowing cooling breezes to pass through.
Temporary Modern Gazebos
Although classic gazebos are still being put up, temporary gazebos are far more popular today. This is because they are lightweight, portable and cheap. People can have a couple in the shed or the garage and put them up on hot days or when they are having a party or barbecue in the garden.
They provide useful shelter from the uncertain UK weather, shade from the sun and cover from rain, although with no sides they won’t fend off a storm. But they will keep food and drink tables dry in the occasional shower.
The usual form is four poles, nearly always lightweight metal and telescopic, one at each corner, with diagonal cross-braces across the top to keep the tension. A square fabric roof, either canvas or plastic (usually polyethylene or polyester), is stretched over the cross-braces. The roof brace structure usually forms an apex, handy for fending off summer rain in the UK. There are often slim strips of fabric that come down the legs to the ground.
Any lightweight structure in the garden needs to be secured and gazebos should come with pegs to put in the fabric or the poles at the bottom of each corner. Large gazebos can have tent-style guy ropes but these constitute a trip hazard so you need to assess the risk and make the choice.
Security and Wind
If you’re having a garden party or barbecue with lots of small children it might be better to avoid guy ropes and focus on getting better security at the bottoms of the legs. Or perhaps, if you put the gazebo next to the house or a garden wall, you can secure it to that.
All gazebo manufacturers and sellers are keen to stress the importance of securing gazebos. As you can imagine, with no sides and a nice lightweight roof structure they are very prone to being carried away in a strong wind. Owners ands users are urged to take them down if the wind gets up and never leave them up overnight.
Gazebos don’t have to be square. Some are double width, with either five or six legs, having two apexes. Others are rectangular with a pitched roof, although these are tending toward being marquees rather than gazebos.
And, of course, having pushed the definition of a gazebo as a structure without sides, yes, you can get sides for them! The cheapest products won’t have them but many mid-range gazebos have optional sides which can be taken on and off. They can also be left on and rolled up or dropped down if required. This actually makes gazebos a much better proposition for the UK, where the sun is never very high in the sky, as sides can be raised or lowered as the sun moves throughout the day
Commercial Pop-Up Gazebos
Larger gazebos have a pop-up folding and locking mechanism for the roof and telescopic legs. These are aimed at commercial users who erect them at events and exhibitions, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be used in an ordinary garden as well. The real advantages of these are their portability and ability to be quickly erected or taken down.
One supplier has an impressive video which shows a gazebo being completely erected and being taken down again in less than a minute and a half, by two people. It should be pointed out that this doesn’t include getting it in and out of its carry bag and pegging it down but it’s still impressive. The pop-up mechanism is now filtering down to smaller domestic gazebos and it is now possible to get them for as little as £25.
Have a Go with a Gazebo
There you have it, cheap, lightweight and quick to erect, the perfect garden ‘building’ for occasional use. Great for a barbecue or garden party and light enough to take to the beach too.