Building and Construction, Feature, Operations, V9I3

Gazebos, Pavilions, Pergolas

(Photo courtesy of North Country Storage Barns)

Over the past few years, consumers have had time to focus more on their backyards.

They’ve looked at them in terms of beauty and functionality.

They’ve also looked at their backyards in terms of places for gatherings or to relax—to have fun.

Shed and portable structure builders and dealers had exactly what consumers wanted for aesthetically pleasing storage, but what about adding to their customers’ backyard enjoyment?

That’s where gazebos, pavilions, and pergolas come into play. By offering one or more of these types of structures, builders and dealers can better fill their customers’ wants and needs along with adding in new revenue streams.

All this while likely not adding too much change into the construction mix.

STRUCTURES DEFINED

These three types of structures are very similar in design and usage. However, it’s in the details that builders will design, construct, and attract interest in them from customers.

Gazebos are considered the best-known and most popular relaxation and gathering structures for backyards. They provide protection from the elements, but the open design allows enjoyment of the backyard.

These structures are often octagonal (sometimes with partial sides/railings), feature a hard, shingled roof, and can be left open or completely screened in to keep bugs away from guests. 

Your customers may think a gazebo is more of a community gathering space in a town square—something from the past—but smaller versions of these structures provide a focal point for a backyard gathering, offering shade from the sun while allowing cool breezes to flow through.

Shed builders could construct gazebos that are reminiscent of the past with lots of decorations and detailed, carved posts; however, modern gazebos can be simpler and more functional, depending on the wants and needs of the customer.

Common materials used to build gazebos are wood, plastic, or composite material. The roof can be covered with shingles, cedar, or metal.

The structures are often anchored, and they can be built with flooring and seating options.

Pavilions could be defined as simplified gazebos. Where a gazebo often has multiple sides sometimes with partial walls and railings that could be screened in, and more design features, pavilions offer a simpler hard roof covering with wide open sides.

Where gazebos stand out in backyards, pavilions blend more into the surroundings, providing shade during outdoor summer events.

Your customer’s imagination is all that limits what they could use a pavilion for, from providing a cover for an outdoor kitchen or a spa to a poolside shady place to relax and cool off after a swim.

For pavilions, builders can use wood, aluminum, and vinyl. Most customers match the structures to their homes, complete with complementary décor and furniture. 

Pavilions can be set up to be freestanding in the yard or next to the house, adding to the space of the house. 

Pergolas are similar to gazebos and pavilions in that they have open sides and a roof, but pergolas are even more open. 

Pergolas don’t provide a full roof, rather, more like an open, overhead framework. These structures have been described as a blend of a garden arbor and a pavilion.

Many people who own pergolas allow climbing and vining plants to grow up the framework and throughout the overhead structure. 

Because of the openness of this type of structure, pergolas are more suited for drier climates where guests won’t have to be concerned about rain or bugs. However, because of the more open roof, they’ll be able to enjoy a little bit of sun.

Customers can choose just how open the roof of a pergola is by selecting narrower or wider slats. And the customer could use a removable cover during inclement weather for more protection.

Like pavilions, pergolas can be placed on their own or next to a house or other backyard structure as an extended space. 

Common materials used to build pergolas are wood and vinyl.

BUSINESS CONSIDERATIONS

What should a shed builder/dealer consider before adding gazebos, pavilions, and pergolas into their product mix?

Stephan Yankovski, a sales rep for North Country Storage Barns in Update New York, which sells all three products, says that gazebos are the company’s biggest seller.

“Gazebos for sure; they are both attractive and utilitarian,” he shares. “Prices for gazebos is lower than pavilions due to the lack of on-site install cost at the customer’s site for the pavilion. 

“Gazebos offer practical and full protection from sun and rain, unlike the pergola.”

Yankovski says that demand is steady from his customers for these products. 

“From the months of March through July, annually, customers have been purchasing these structures,” he says. “If there has been a downturn during the last few years due to cost of materials and demand, it has been slight.

“Sales are more consistent due to the fact that often the customer is a commercial customer, or a government or organization, hence a less limited budget.”

Mike Yoder, a partner in Westwood Sheds in South Carolina, which offers gazebos, says the structures tend to be a more seasonal product with spring being the best time for them.  

However, he adds, “They are a bit of a dated product. It seems like demand for them is not what it used to be. I am not sure how much longer we will keep offering them.  

“They do dress up the sales lots and add some variety to the product line but the actual value that adds is a bit hard to measure.  

“We do not offer pavilions or pergolas at all.”

Yankovski has found that customers tend to prefer customizing their structures for their homes and backyards.

“Customers like to explore their own choices of color at times and want other options instead of just white for vinyl or cedar-type stain for the wood,” he shares. 

“Some non-residential customers have been eliminating screens and even railings—which we do as a standard—to avoid any potential vandalism, etc.

“Customers are including metal roofing more often in their projects. Here in the north country, snowfalls can be substantial, and that gives customers more peace of mind.”

When it comes to building gazebos, pavilions, and pergolas, Yankovski says there are similarities to the shed-building process.

“The tools are often the same,” he says. “The same crew that sets up our sheds at a customer’s location set the gazebos and pavilions up as well. 

“The permit and zoning folks want paperwork showing they have a decent snow load and that they can withstand the weather.”

However, some differences should be noted when it comes to designing and building these structures versus sheds.

“The design on gazebos, pavilions, and pergolas is more intricate,” Yankovski points out. “Also, there is less room for error due to the fact that most of the material you are working with is exposed. 

“Corner/post bracing needs to be incorporated into the design structure due to the lack of wall sheathing, like on a shed.

“Gazebos are more difficult to deliver if you use the Mule. Of course, pavilions and pergolas are constructed onsite, whereas 95 percent of our sheds arrive at the customer’s property fully intact and ready to use.” 

A key piece of advice Yankovski offers to builders considering adding these products is to be sure its builder can construct them.

“If your organization does not contain craftsmen who can construct these, find a quality vendor who can,” he says. 

Westwood Sheds buys its gazebos wholesale from Kauffman’s.  

“They are so different from sheds it does not make sense to try and build gazebos and sheds out of the same shop,” Yoder shares.  

“A pergola can be incorporated perhaps in your entry or doorway to your sales area and can serve a dual purpose,” Yankovski points out.

“For gazebos, start with structures 10 and/or 12 feet in diameter.”

It’s important for shed builders thinking about offering gazebos, pavilions, and pergolas to know their local markets.

“Notice what is in the front and backyards of the customers in your market area,” Yankovski suggests. “If you have many areas which middle class/upper middle class, you will find more need for larger, vinyl structures.

“We also sell an entry-level gazebo model named the Timberline, which suits customers who may be retired or on a fixed income and just want to get away from mosquitoes.

“Even though the changes have not been substantial, we are very thankful that the costs of these structures have lowered recently.”

FINAL THOUGHTS

Yoder recommends that shed builders thoroughly investigate the pros and cons of adding these structures to their product lines.

“I need my sales reps selling sheds; that’s where the money is for us,” he points out. “If I add too many other products without adding more sales staff to cover those products, my sales reps will have a split focus and shed sales will suffer.  

“There is a valid argument that more products make a more attractive sales lot and will pull more people in, but we only have one person at our stores and one person can only do so much.  

“We have thought about expanding our stores to include a lot more than just sheds and having a sales team instead of a sales rep at each location. Time will tell where we end up on that.”

Yankovski’s final thought on gazebos, pavilions, and pergolas is to make use of the Internet for marketing. 

“Due to the unique nature of these three items, our organization—even though based in Upstate New York—has had the opportunity to sell/install these items on the west coast of Florida, a military base on the island of Hawaii, and even beyond,” he shares.

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