Pergolas are a freestanding structure usually placed within the landscape. They can cover a pathway and define the walking space, or can cover a patio or entertaining space outdoors. A pergola usually has open sides, and either a slatted or solid roof.
Patio covers are similar to pergolas, except they are attached to the house. This can be an advantage, because the patio cover can use the home for support and thus may cost less to build than a freestanding structure.
Gazebos are an eight-sided structure with a solid roof, most commonly used in traditional garden styles like English or French. Gazebos have gotten a bad name since so many of them have been built from cheap kits and placed poorly within the landscape, yet they can be an attractive addition if the style of the surrounding landscape works with the structure.
Shade sails are a modern way of gaining relief from the sun. Fabric is stretched across specially-engineered poles to accent and cover a seating area or patio. Shade sails look great with the straight lines and simple geometry seen on contemporary homes, and do double duty as a decorative and artistic part of the landscape.
Screened porches are built directly onto your house, usually off the back door for easy access. Instead of glass windows, they have large screens that protect from insects. Screened porches are great for dining, since you get the experience of being outdoors without having yellow jackets landing on your burger.
Sunrooms are also built directly onto the home. Because a sunroom can be fully-insulated and built with dual-pane windows, it’s a four-season structure that acts as an addition to your home. They’re fully weatherproof, so you can watch birds and wildlife in comfort, even in winter. A sunroom is really only different from the rest of your house in that it has so many windows to enhance your experience of the outdoors.