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Guide to Outdoor Structures

Types of Outdoor Structures

For DIY deck builders and homeowners considering a backyard outdoor structure, the process can feel like a long journey. From admiring the gorgeous DIY pergola your neighbor built two years ago to watching the wedding of two young lovebirds in the stunning gazebo in the park, choosing a shade structure can be difficult. You may love the look of garden structures as you drive or walk past them, but it leaves you wondering, "What do you even call that?!"

Whether you're looking to create a relaxing shade structure for family and friends to relax throughout the warm summer nights or the crisp autumn days, or outdoor office space to work through our social-distancing time; learning more details about the types of outdoor structures will help you design the outdoor living space you truly want.

types of shade structures

Outdoor structures are multi-functional and multi-seasonal additions that help create an exterior living space and a cohesive feeling from indoors to out. These architectural features provide shelter from the weather conditions, define the parameters of your space, and offer a sanctuary from the stresses and worries of day-to-day life.

Adding bold features and plans into an outdoor design has become a natural choice for deck designers, landscape artists, and homeowners who want different ways to grow their homes and bask in the simple enjoyment of the nature surrounding them.

Types of Backyard Structures

Learn more about the different types of outdoor structures you can build in your backyard for an easy DIY structure to showcase your outdoor space


A pergola is a freestanding outdoor structure with an open roof that is supported by thick wooden columns or posts. DIY pergolas may be used to provide cover for walkways, deliver filtered shade throughout the day for an outdoor living space, or open up your patio space for more entertaining options. The word pergola has often been used interchangeably with patio cover as they are quite similar.

While boasting an open ceiling, pergola designs still create the atmosphere of comfortable outdoor living room that will appear inviting to family, friends, and guests. An ideal space for safely-spaced garden parties, DIY pergolas allow you to expand your entertaining areas outdoors.

To build a pergola use: the LINX Simplified Pergola system or Simpson Strong-Tie structural hardware.

Learn more about the different outdoor structures you can add to your outdoor living space and build a DIY arbor like this home


Arbors are outdoor structures featuring a small framework that often supports climbing plants or vines and serves as a passageway. Often arched and placed over a path or gate, Arbors can often resemble smaller pergola designs or trellises.

DIY arbor projects will often be used to define a point of entry, divide the backyard space into smaller more private sections, or to create a heightened focal point of your patio or garden space. Backyard arbors add a touch of magic to gardens and fields as they often resemble older fairy tale and castle landscaping.

To build an arbor use structural hardware from Simpson Strong-Tie.

Build a beautiful backyard pavilion and expand your living space outdoors with this guide to outdoor structures


Backyard pavilions are freestanding, often rectangular structures with a solid, pitched roof and open airy sides. DIY pavilions provide full shade for guests and pets without obstructing surrounding views of the nature beyond.

Commonly seen on country club grounds, expansive city parks, and summer camps, building a pavilion allows for large groups of people to gather comfortably no matter the weather. Generally outdoor dining tables and patio furniture will be placed beneath the structure to create an outdoor dining room everyone will enjoy.

To build a pavilion use structural hardware from Simpson Strong-Tie.

Installing a privacy panel wall in your backyard is an outdoor structure that can impress guests and improve your space

Privacy Walls

Privacy walls, or privacy panels, are essentially a single or multiple panel structure attached to mounted posts to create a barrier where needed. Featuring metal posts anchored in place, privacy wall ideas can vary between one single panel to several panels connected vertically or horizontally to deliver the architectural look you want.

Building a DIY privacy wall or privacy fence can help you create the outdoor living space you need. From creating individual spaces throughout your backyard area so that all the family and household members can relax alone from time to time, or they're hoping to block the prying eyes of neighbors, privacy wall designs can make your yard feel like it's just for you.

To build a privacy wall use: HideAway Privacy Rail system from RDI or the Privacy Screen Panel system from Barrette.

Gazebos can be a beautiful DIY outdoor structure build that creates a focal point in your backyard space


A gazebo is a freestanding, octagonal, or hexagonal structure with a solid roof and open sides providing full shade with clear views. DIY gazebos are usually raised up off the ground or patio surface to provide a more elegant feel to the space. These structures are most commonly used in traditional style gardens, classic city centers, and wedding venues. Gazebos create a perfect place to enjoy nature, relax, and gather with friends, neighbors, and family.

This construction is typically used as a retreat or meeting space in public areas. Today, gazebos are often constructed in private residential areas for the special occasions or as memorials. Homeowners who love spending time outdoors no matter the weather, DIY gazebo builds provide shelter and shade all in one.

To build a gazebo use: structural hardware from Simpson Strong-Tie.

In this guide to outdoor structures, learn more about building a backyard trellis in the garden and showcase your green thumb


A trellis is a flat section of latticework typically mounted vertically that is used to support vines, flowers, and blooms. Often added to increase the visual interest to a blank wall, trellises can also add height to patios and fences, or add privacy to an outdoor structure. Trellises are commonly confused with arbors, though the construction of each is very different.

Homeowners who want to add charm and character to your garden space usually opt to do so with a DIY trellis. This particular garden structure has an open framework that can be built from wood, vinyl, or metal and may be freestanding or attached to the home. Trellises can be used to designate outdoor rooms, provide an extra layer of privacy between outdoor seating sections, or to help you increase the yield of your garden.

To build a trellis use: Wild Hog Railing panels or Privacy Screen Panels from Barrette.

Give your garden a touch of classical magic with a gorgeous garden bridge installed in your backyard space

Garden Bridges

Backyard bridges, or garden bridges, can be made in several designs, materials, and methods to achieve a unique walkway throughout your outdoor space. Often formed to help homeowners and guests to cross over small rivers and creeks, garden bridges can also be installed to help guests have a nice, clear view of the entire landscape.

Add a touch of enchantment to your home's backyard scene with a charming DIY backyard bridge to add a classical detail to your home and land.

To build a bridge in the backyard use: structural hardware from Simpson Strong-Tie and structural deck screws.

Keep your outdoor space cool and relaxing with an awesome patio cover connected to your home

Patio Covers

Patio covers are an attached structure that provides shade and/or rain coverage for a patio, deck, or lower level space. Also referred to as an awning though the construction is very different, a DIY patio cover may have an open or solid roof.

Keep ground surfaces cool to the touch and prevent that awkward hot-floor run with an attractive patio cover. Attached to the home via a ledgerboard, patio covers are supported by columns or posts mounted onto the concrete or stone below, or dug into the ground and set with concrete.

To build a patio cover use: structural hardware from Simpson Strong-Tie or components from the LINX Simplified Pergola System.

Learn more about the basics of deck framing and building in the Deck Framing Guide and put that building knowledge to good use with Pergola and Porch backyard shade structures for your DIY build!

Browse more ideas to upgrade and enhance your home's usable outdoor living space such as a dry lower-level patio by installing a under deck drainage systems, creating a late-night relaxation spot with deck screen system making a screened-in porch, or a DIY shade structure such as a pergola or pavilion.

More Deck Project Resources