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A gazebo is simply a roofed structure with open sides or perimeter railings. It typically has six or eight sides, but also can be square, rectangular or round. The floor is often raised off the ground at least one or two steps. To withstand the elements, gazebos must be built of a decay-resistant wood, such as Western red cedar, redwood or pressure-treated lumber. Traditional gazebos are freestanding structures. However, many gazebos built today are integrated into decks and patios to provide convenient shade from the sun and shelter from rain. Some are screened-in or are equipped with removable glass panels, which means they can be used in cooler weather. There are three approaches to building a gazebo: Hire a contractor to custom-build it; order a set of plans and construct it yourself or hire a carpenter; or buy a prefabricated kit and assemble it yourself. Custom-built option. Going with a custom gazebo usually is the most expensive method. It's also the easiest—your contractor does all the work. Plus, you get the greatest design flexibility because the contractor can custom-build the gazebo to suit your site, desires and personal taste. Expect to pay $2,000 to $3,000 for a 9-ft.-dia. gazebo built of pressure-treated wood; a redwood or cedar structure will nearly double that price. Building from plans. The most affordable—and time-consuming and difficult—way to put a gazebo in your yard is to buy a set of plans and build it yourself. Constructing any size gazebo is rather complicated. The roof framing alone can take a novice builder several days to complete. This hands-on approach is only recommended for experienced do-it-yourselfers. Mail-order gazebo plans are available from most companies that sell blueprints. HomeStyles, for example, offers five gazebo plans, including unique saltbox and contemporary designs. Two sets of plans cost $39.95. Outdoor-building-project books often include gazebo plans or sell them separately by mail order. Some landscape architects, shed contractors and fence builders also sell plans, and free plans are available from manufacturers like Georgia-Pacific and Simpson Strong-Tie and at lumberyards and home centers. Assembling a Kit. A prefab kit provides the quickest way to build a gazebo. All major components—floor, railings and roof—come in large, preassembled panels. The remaining parts are cut to size with the joints milled and the bolt holes bored out for fast, foolproof assembly. "Most of our gazebos can be assembled in less than a day by two people," explains Christopher Peeples, owner of Vixen Hill, an Elverson, Pennsylvania based manufacturer. "There's no sawing or hammering required; all you need is a ratchet wrench and set of sockets." Kits aren't cheap—they cost about the same as custom-built models, but the quality is often higher because they're built in the controlled environment of a factory. Prices vary widely depending on size, materials and options. For example, 9-ft. cedar gazebo kits from Vixen Hill range from $3,200 to $6,100; a 21-ft. model can cost over $20,000. Heritage Gazebos from Cox Industries are made of pressure-treated lumber and start at about $2,500 for a 8-ft. model. A deluxe 12-ft. kit costs $4,300. If you don't have the time or inclination to assemble a kit, hire a contractor to do it for you. You'll pay $500 to $700 for labor, plus the cost of the foundation.
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