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Gazebos add flair and function

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Gazebos, such as the one at the Westhampton Beach Village Green,  are a popular congregating spot.  NEIL SALVAGGIO

Gazebos, such as the one at the Westhampton Beach Village Green, are a popular congregating spot. NEIL SALVAGGIO

author on May 13, 2009

Now that the warmer weather has finally arrived, it’s time to start thinking about outdoor living. One elegant and social way to beat the heat is by sitting in a gazebo.

Freestanding, roofed, open-sided gazebos can be used for shade on a hot summer afternoon, or just as an aesthetic touch to a garden.

As Sue Donahue, director of marketing for Walpole Woodworkers in Water Mill notes, gazebos come in a wide variety of styles and price ranges that can suit most purposes and budgets.

“You can make them as big as you want,” she said. “Some people have lighting installed, and screens put up and they have their own indoor barbecue. I even have one customer who is thinking about installing a fireplace with a chimney and kind of making it a more mountainous feeling ... The possibilities are endless.”

Strictly speaking, a gazebo is any structure placed in a garden or yard that provides shelter or encloses a sitting area where the surrounding scenery can be viewed in reasonable comfort. But a true garden gazebo is an attractive feature that can be decorative in its own right or can be incorporated within a planted or landscaped setting.

“People can put a lot of time and energy into a garden and it looks good,” said Richard Kaufold, owner of Kaufold’s Country Sheds & Gazebos in Ridge, whose gazebos can be seen throughout the East End. “But a gazebo will just finish off a garden, and really make it stand out.”

In terms of price range, the most inexpensive gazebos start at around $200, but this type of temporary structure typically consists of a metal framework with weatherproof fabric for a roof. These types of gazebos can be found in most home improvement stores such as Lowe’s or Home Depot. Large department stores such as Wal-Mart and Target also have varieties of these types of gazebos, but are available only during the spring and summer seasons.

The two main advantages of fabric gazebos are affordability and lightweight design. These types of gazebos are manufactured for easy assembly using simple tools. Fabric gazebos usually come with all fixtures and fittings to make the task simple and portable fabric gazebos can easily be dismantled. They are also easy to clean, dry rapidly and fold away for storage.

Permanent gazebos often come with building restrictions and may need permits. Gated communities often frown upon permanent structures being built on grounds maintained by a homeowners association.

But for the diehard gardener who has the space, money, and freedom there are permanent gazebos. These airy structures are typically made of timber, metal or vinyl. Such gazebos start at around $2,500, and can cost tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size, type of material used and other amenities such as lighting and seating options.

Some models are made from environmentally-friendly timber, which is pressure-treated to give all-weather protection against rot, and come in a natural finish that can be either painted or stained.

Mr. Kaufold said that vinyl gazebos are usually more expensive than their wooden counterparts. However, synthetic gazebos are more popular for one reason: Vinyl is far easier to maintain.

“Both a wooden or a vinyl gazebo can last a lifetime,” he said, “but there is a lot of work involved to maintain a wood gazebo ... Sanding, painting, oiling, varnish, whatever. But with vinyl, its like vinyl siding on your house, there’s no real maintenance, just an occasional pressure wash will keep it looking like new.”

Permanent gazebos can incorporate a plethora of decorative features to suit every design sensibility, from traditional to modern. At the highest end, there is a wide choice of brick, reconstituted stone, or natural stone garden gazebos from which to choose.

Most gazebos also come in larger pavilion designs, which can be partially or entirely closed in with walls or screens. Windows and cutouts can be added, along with seats and storage options.

Some larger versions are often favorites as pool houses, in which half of the pavilion is a walled structure with windows. The closed portion provides a private changing area, while the other half of the pavilion is a shaded open or screened-in space for relaxing after a swim.

Many high end designer gazebos feature metal, timber and stone materials, some with canvas or fabric sails to suit the more avant-garde architectural style.

“Many people choose to make their gazebo a showcase for outdoor entertaining,” Ms. Donahue added. “They screen it off so mosquitoes can’t get in, and have a door with one access in and out.”

Gazebos may also provide a framework for the imaginative gardener. Some come with trellis panels that can display climbing vine plants, such as roses, clematis or jasmine. Such gazebos are mostly constructed from powder-coated metal framework, which is light, durable and easy to assemble and can last for many years.

Some gardeners may also choose black vinyl for a gazebo to generally mimic the look of wrought iron.

Flowering plants can also be hung on or around the gazebo to add natural accenting. Wood or basket weave furniture can make a vinyl gazebo seem more organic.

All gazebos come with various roof styles and different construction layouts. Wooden roof shingles can be used on gazebos, but, again, even the best-treated wood is vulnerable to the elements and must be constantly maintained. Vinyl gazebos are typically built with construction-grade asphalt roof shingles, the same type of shingles used on houses.

Mr. Kaufold noted that the ardent “do-it-yourselfer” with the right skills, could construct their own permanent gazebo. But the seasoned woodworker, who has been in business building gazebos and other wooden structures since 1985, said there is little cost savings in terms of building a gazebo from scratch. He also said that having a pre-made gazebo delivered is a time saver.

“The customer just has to prepare the site,” Mr. Kaufold said, “and we can deliver the gazebo, already made, sit it down, and you’re enjoying your gazebo the same day.”

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