Pergolas vs Trellis – What is the Difference?

Wooden pergolas in an outdoor urban terrace

Pergolas vs Trellis – What is the Difference?

Summer is the perfect time to wind down and relax in your backyard. And while sun exposure is good for you, too much can make you uncomfortable. You may want to consider adding shade to your decks and patios to enjoy the sun without compromising your health. A pergola and trellis are both excellent options when defining an outdoor space. Both provide shade to increase comfort outdoors. 

But often enough, these two landscaping structures get confused with each other. All the more confusing is their immense similarities in appearance. If you’re planning to spruce up your backyard, you need to understand what makes each feature different from the other so you can choose a suitable landscaping design that answers your backyard needs. Explore the differences between pergolas and trellis below. 


A pergola, by definition, is a structure of posts with latticed sides that support a roof of cross beams that projects from exterior walls. In the past, wooden pergolas in NZ were defined as free-standing structures used to provide a shaded seating area. This definition also meant that pergolas incorporate the use of vegetation to add to the shade.

Today, pergolas serve as outdoor living areas that act as an extension to your house. Homeowners looking to add shade to their patios use pergolas even without adding foliage. Pergolas have simplified roofs attached directly to your house on one end, with the other end supported by two posts. When used as a patio cover, pergolas protect your outdoor space from the sun. Homeowners can also opt to add retractable canopies to their pergolas.


While a trellis is often mistaken as any pergola covered with flora, the two are quite different. A trellis is constructed of a flat latticework that features a tighter weave built to support plants that climb. Another feature that makes a trellis distinct is that it’s not permanent. A wooden trellis isn’t permanently affixed to the ground. Unlike pergolas, a trellis can be moved around with ease. The trellis also doesn’t have a roofing structure when installed vertically.

While trellises may serve the same purpose of growing foliage as pergolas do, their main function is to provide shade and divide spaces when installed vertically. There are also vertical trellises that are ornamental and are often found in gardens. On the other hand, when used horizontally, trellises are used purely for shading purposes.

The takeaway

While very similar, pergolas and trellises have distinctive features and characteristics that provide different functions. While one is best for supporting climbing vegetation, the other is best suited for providing shade.

Let Custom Decks & Fences help you decide which one is best for your home

When choosing either a pergola or a trellis, you need to ensure that the features work for your outdoor space and that the overall design will complement your landscape. If you’re unsure which option is suitable for your intended purposes, contact our team at Custom Decks & Fences. We specialise in custom pergolas, trellises, and carports, offering made-to-measure sizes, lengths, and angles. Our team will survey your area, assess the space, and give you expert advice to help you get a suitable outdoor wooden shelter and achieve your desired outdoor oasis.

Contact Us

We would be happy to help and advise if you have any questions or inquiries.