If you are reading this, I think we can take it for granted that you have an interest in pop up gazebos and that you are probably thinking about investing in one.
In recent years there has been an explosion in companies offering pop up gazebos. I speak to a broad spectrum of people who come to us looking to purchase a pop up gazebo. They generally all have one thing in common – confusion. This is an unfortunate side effect of the way our competitors and ourselves push our products. We approach the strategy of product description from a technical perspective and with so many different specifications on the market, how can the buyer truly know what product is going to fulfil their needs?
With this Buyer’s Guide, I am going to arm you with as much knowledge as possible to enable you to make an informed decision.
When you decide to commit your hard-earned money, I want the choice you make to be the right choice for you.
That final choice may see you choosing not to buy from us, but this guide is crammed with the reality behind the technical jargon and I will use my years of manufacturing and retail experience to help you along the purchasing path.
Definition of a Pop Up Gazebo
There are many phrases that encapsulate the term pop up gazebo. Some of the more popular ones are:
Pop Up Marquees
And many more…
Although the term “pop up” is defined as to appear suddenly or unexpectedly, in reality the pop up gazebo should perhaps be referred to as a folding canopy. The frame and roof cover need to be opened up – with some effort required – rather than perhaps a structure that pops into shape by itself.
The structure consists of a one piece framework that is manufactured from a concertina of metal in the roof, held together with either metal or plastic joints and ending in 4 or more telescopic legs depending on the size – more about this later. In essence though, the framework should not require the user to assemble any parts and does not require any tools to use.
The framework then requires the placement of a fitted roof sheet to provide shelter and in some cases a set of sides, if the structure is to be used outdoors and in inclement weather.
There are many applications for the pop up gazebo. Some of the more popular are as follows:
Promotional Marketing Tool
Camping and Caravanning
We have many enquiries from people who want to know if the application they have in mind for their canopy is achievable. From theatre productions, furniture storage, first aid tents, ski huts and a cover for the garden BBQ, you are only limited by space, budget and imagination!
The Purchasing Path – Where To Start
We have established what a pop up gazebo is and what you can use it for.
Now to the nitty gritty.
You have decided that you are interested in obtaining a pop up gazebo. It might be for the garden, it might be for a business venture. You will approach the purchase with an idea in mind and then you will start to search the internet for appropriate companies from whom to purchase.
The majority of pop up gazebos are purchased over the internet through mail order. Unless the customer has come from a referral or they have seen the pop up gazebo in use, it is very likely that the majority of prospective buyers will never have seen the gazebo until it is delivered to their door.
As you surf through the various definitions of pop up gazebos and the various companies that supply them, you will rapidly discover that one picture of a pop up gazebo looks very much like another. This makes it very easy for the customer to fall foul of some companies, who like to trade on the customers’ confusion.
In an attempt to differentiate between the pop up gazebos, you then research the individual specifications.
You will then be overwhelmed by facts and figures. From the size and type of metal used in the framework, the manufacturing process of joints, the way the structure is fitted together – including the size of nuts and bolts, the Denier or weight of the cloth used in the roof and sides, the various certificates applicable to that material and that is before you even consider size, colour and whether or not printing would be an option.
It is easy to become confused, but let me explain, in easy steps, what you need to consider. I will also explain a little about the manufacturing and design decisions.
Firstly I will start with a breakdown of each of the components of a pop up gazebo – framework, roof and sides and we will look at the different specification types and the pros and cons of each.
I will then go on to investigate what questions you need to ask and point you in the right direction when you are ready to make a purchase. Once we have clarified all of that and you are confident in what you have learned I will go on to discuss the personalisation of the canopy for those who wish to use the pop up gazebo as a marketing tool.
Specifications – Framework
The framework of a pop up gazebo is the single most important part of the whole structure and should be given the most consideration. Like your own skeleton, the framework supports the “skin” and it needs to be strong enough to provide strength and stability and to fulfil your requirements, light enough to be portable and it should be easy to fix – without the need for major surgery – if it suffers a breakage!
A pop up gazebo is manufactured from two main metals – steel and aluminium. This metal is used for the legs and for the roof struts.
As a general rule, and at the time of writing, steel is cheaper than aluminium, whilst aluminium is lighter when compared like for like.
Originally pop up gazebos were manufactured from steel. Over the last few years, aluminium has become the raw material of choice.
Steel framework is usually square or rectangular in shape. It can be as small as 25mm in diameter and as large as 32mm. It is not normally larger than this as the framework would be too heavy. The inside wall measurement is 1mm or less.
Aluminium can be manufactured into square, rectangular or hexagonal shapes. Technically, a hexagon is stronger than other shapes. Again the diameter of the legs varies from 30mm to 50mm. For example, if the diameter of the hexagonal leg is classed as 50mm, then this is from flat face to flat face. Some state a 60mm diameter, but this is a measurement taken from the point of a hexagon shape to the opposite point. In effect, they are both the same size leg. Again the wall thickness varies from 1mm to 2.5mm.
So to the pros and cons of each framework.
Steel– generally used on leisure or budget range pop up gazebos
Cheaper to buy because of the price of the raw material.
It is heavier.
Degrades over time with rust.
Coated with a galvanised or powder coat finish which can mark with use.
The square and rectangle shape is considered less stable.
Aluminium– generally used on commercial grade pop up gazebos
More expensive to buy
Although on a like for like basis aluminium is lighter, a pop up gazebo that has 50mm diameter legs will be a heavy piece of kit. Many people think that it will be lightweight, but unfortunately, you cannot have an extremely strong frame that will stand up to the British weather without compromise and that compromise is usually the weight!
Framework is stronger with a thicker wall thickness
Finish on the metal maintains its’ appearance longer
Other Framework Considerations
The other points to think about with the frame are:
Transportation– Most potential buyers need to consider how they are going to transport the pop up gazebo. Unless the gazebo is going to be stored on-site, a vehicle will need to be used to get the structure to where it needs to be. Therefore, you need to ask how large the gazebo is when it is packed and check to ensure that you can fit this dimension into your vehicle.
Height– Many people use a pop up gazebo to cover another object. Whether this is a hot tub, display shelving or people, you need to ask what the minimum and maximum heights of the pop up gazebo are when it is erected. Most frames are telescopic, in that there is an inner leg and a larger outer leg. The inner leg slides in and out of the outer leg and can be fixed into various positions by a push or pull button principle. From the minimum height there are usually several increments to increase the height.
Portability– As the larger frame sizes can be quite weighty, you need to think about how you will move the canopy into position. Many come complete with a wheeled carry bag in which you can pull the frame and roof cover around. Alternatively, you will need at least a couple of people to manually handle it.
Practically speaking, you also need to consider your own physical strength. If you are in reasonable health and can exert yourself physically, then moving the structure around and erecting it should not be too much of a problem. A minimum of two people helps in most cases. However, if you are on your own at a commercial venue such as a show or market, it may be necessary to enlist the help of fellow traders, in exchange for a cup of tea. Alternatively you may need to purchase a lighter framework e.g. a 40mm frame instead of a 50mm frame and compromise on strength for independence.
Framework Fixings– All pop up gazebos are put together in different ways. They all have different shaped bars, different heights and lengths and also different fixings. Throughout the framework, the various components will be joined together with either nuts and bolts, pop rivets or pins and caps.
The best fixing, which allows easy replacement of parts, is the nut and bolt system. There is a technical trademarked term which is Nylock Nut. This is a nut, which when tightened creates a thread in a nylon insert. This prevents the nut from “vibrating” away from the bolt during movement. The frame moves in the wind and the Nylock system prevents the loosening of the frame fixings. This is something that you should look for when purchasing.
One last point is the pole that creates the peak in the roof. This can be solidly built into the structure of the roof truss, which means that it does not move when erected. Alternatively, the peak pole can be built around a spring mechanism, which means that when the wind blows around the roof structure, there is a certain amount of give in the roof. This prevents ripping of covers and makes the structure more stable in windier conditions.
Framework – Summary and Questions You Need To Ask
As a general rule, aluminium is used on commercial pop up canopies and steel on budget ranges.
You need to consider the weight of the framework as this impacts on its’ usability, portability and strength.
If you are a trader, do you have someone that can help you to move, erect and dismantle the structure if required?
What is the overall length of the gazebo when packed?
What is the minimum and maximum height of the pop up gazebo when erected?
How is the framework joined together?
Does the gazebo supplier offer a warranty and under what circumstances does the warranty become invalid?
Does the supplier have a full range of spare parts if the worse should happen?
Is the roof peak pole static or is it built on a spring mechanism which allows for movement of the roof with the wind?
Specifications – Roof Cover
The roof cover is the second most important part of the assembled structure. It is this cover that will protect you from the elements.
There are several types of material used to manufacture the roof covers, but the main ones are polyester and PVC.
Polyester is a synthetic fabric, which is graded by Denier or by weight. Denier is a unit of measure for the linear mass density of fibers or the measure of density of weave. The higher the Denier rating – the thicker the material. It can also be described in gsm or grams per square metre which is the weight of the material. The heavier the cloth, the denser and thicker the fibres.
Polyester material is not waterproof, so when used as a roof cover it needs to be coated to increase the water resistancy. This is done by coating the back of the fabric with either a PU or a PVC coating. The PVC coating is a better quality covering as it generally thicker and longer lasting. Care also has to be taken in the seam work of the roof. As the material is sewn into shape, there will be areas where water ingress can occur. To minimise this the seams can be double stitched over each other and then underneath the seam, a tape can be placed which “sticks” the seam together. With care and effort the roof can become 99% waterproof. If the roof cover is not waterproof, it will be classed as water-resistant or shower proof.
Another problem area can be where the framework touches the roof. This is normally where the top of the legs meet the corner of the roof and rubbing can occur. Again by stitching in a an extra layer of material or a “Rub Zone Marker” any problems caused by friction can be virtually eliminated.
PVC or Poly Vinyl Chloride is a thick plastic material which is usually graded in gsm. Again, the higher the gsm, the thicker and heavier the material. In comparison to the Polyester material it is, by nature, waterproof and it maintains a clean appearance much longer. It is, however, cumbersome when used as a roof fabric and does not fold into the framework as easily as Polyester when the structure is dismantled. It is bulky and can become caught between the cross members of the roof which leads to small “nip” marks in the plastic.
In the majority of cases, PVC roofs will be plastic welded instead of stitched. This is where two pieces of plastic are effectively melted together which forms an impenetrable bond where water cannot pass. Overtime though, PVC can breakdown and become brittle. This is due to exposure to the elements on a regular basis and it will take several years for this to occur.
Another consideration for the roof cover is fire retardancy. Increasingly many show/market organisers and local authorities are insistant that a structure meets as many fire retardancy regulations as possible. The main one to look for, if this is applicable, is that the material used meets British Standard BS7837:1996. This does not mean that the material is fireproof. It simply means that it will burn slowly enough to meet stringent standards. This type of material will also always be more expensive than a non fire-retardant fabric.
The last main thought is how is the roof sewn together. If we look at a roof cover that is made to fit a 3M x 3M framework, the roof has usually been cut into several pieces that are then sewn together. The roof is made up of two main parts – the roof face and the roof valance.
The roof face and valance can be made out of the same piece of material. When a roof is manufactured in this way there is no seam running between the two, alternatively the valance can be sewn onto the roof face as an additional piece.
Where the roof has been manufactured with the face and valance in one continuous piece, rain water can collect at the lower roof face. This is because the roof face is not pulled taut by the extra weight of the sewn on valance. This is much more of a problem on thinner fabrics. The water reservoir will stretch the fabric allowing the water to penetrate the fabric, it will create weight on sewn seams around the roof, which can cause splitting and it will also allow dirt to settle on the roof which can rub against the fabric causing pin holes.
Cleaning the roof material will always be an issue and as a supplier it is a very difficult one to answer. With a polyester material, obviously the lighter the colour chosen, the quicker the material will show the dirt. A pressure washer can be used to “blow” the ingrained dirt away, but we would suggest using the lowest setting first and stubborn stains should be treated with a detergent or washing up liquid and a brush.
If the roof is a PVC material it will simply wipe clean and will stand a much higher setting on the pressure washer.
Whether the material is Polyester or PVC, wherever possible it should not be packed away wet or damp. I know that this is difficult when you come to the end of a wet day trading and it is still raining as you put your equipment away. However, as soon as it is possible the roof cover should be dried either bu hand or stood out on a pleasant day. This will prevent mildew and mould growth.
There is a hearty debate about whether a roof cover should be left on the framework once it has been fitted. It is much faster to erect the structure if the roof cover has been left on and it prevents pulling on seams and corners as well. However, unless you are transporting the frame and roof in a secure bag, I would strongly recommend removing the cover. When dismantled, the frame can rub against the roof cover, especially during transportation and this will result in holes.
Roof Cover – Summary and Questions You Need To Ask
Check the type and grade of material the roof cover is manufactured from.
Is the fabric shower resistant, water-resistant or waterproof?
If required does it come with a fire retardancy certificate?
How are the sewn seams sealed?
Does it have Velcro double stitched all the way around the valance and if so what thickness – this is relevant for the fitting of the sides?
Are the roof face and the roof valance separate pieces of material sewn together?
Does it have reinforced areas where the frame rubs against the roof?
Can replacement roofs be purchased at a later date to “refresh” the appearance of the stand?
Specifications – Side Sheets
The sides will, in most cases, be offered in the same material as the roof cover, i.e. Polyester or PVC.
Some companies offer thinner grades of side sheet material than the roof cover. This can be both beneficial and disadvantageous. It is useful because the sides must be lifted into place and if they are thinner they do not weigh as much. They will also be cheaper and replacement cost will be less. However, if they are too thin, they will tear easily and if they are too cheap, they will not have many of the features found in the more expensive sides, which can be of huge importance when using the pop up gazebo for commercial purposes.
Sides can be purchased individually or as a complete set. They come in different specifications.
Zipper doorway panel
Half side panel
Most are self-explanatory.
The plain panel is a side made from a plain piece of material.
The windowed side can range from a large rectangular clear area to a small “mock paned” affair. Some of the larger windowed panels have an interior blind or blanking piece which can be rolled down to cover the see through area.
The zipper doorway panel has either a single or a dual zip. If there is a single zip then the two halves created are pulled back and held in place with ties. If a dual zip, the whole doorway area rolls up and is again held in place with either ties, Velcro or buckles.
The half side panel can be used as a skirt or front for a table. It is simply a panel of material, which sits at half height from the floor. It is attached to the gazebo legs with a bar and clamp system.
A panoramic side is the same as a windowed side except that the window can be either half or two thirds of the side area. A mesh side is the same as a panoramic side except that instead of using clear PVC, a mesh or netting is used instead. These are more common in garden gazebos to prevent the entrance of insects or in hotter climates to allow the passage of a breeze whilst keeping out bugs.
Most sides are interchangeable in that they can be placed anywhere on the structure. Some people would use the zipper doorway as the front panel so that it can be zipped closed if the structure is up over a few days. Others use it as a side or back panel so that they can enter and exit the structure to obtain stock from a nearby holding area such as a van.
Sides are attached to the roof and framework in a number of ways. Good quality gazebos will have a minimum of a 5cm deep area of Velcro sewn onto the valance part of the roof and this will run around the whole roof area. The sides will then have a corresponding amount of Velcro sewn onto the top edge which, when joined together will be the main area for the attachment of the sides. There can then be velcro ties to thread through the side roof bars, Velcro to wrap around the legs and in most commercial quality canopies, each side attaches to its neighbour panel with a corner zip. The more areas of attachment, the more secure the sides will be.
Each side, regardless of type, can then have a series of features to improve functionality.
A PU or PVC coating on the inside for waterproofing.
A PVC side skirt at the bottom of each side. As the legs of the structure can vary by almost 15 ” in height due to the telescopic nature, a skirt sewn along the bottom of the sides can serve several purposes. Firstly, whilst the legs are on the lowest setting, the skirt can be fixed flat to the ground to prevent the wind from blowing inside the structure. The skirt will have several eyelets to allow the passage of a tent peg to hold the panel in place. Secondly, as the height increases with each change in upward increment, the sides will move upwards as well. Without a skirt, there would be a gap created at the bottom of the side panels. The PVC skirt also helps in keeping the sides cleaner by acting as a mud guard.
Plastic or metal buckles sewn on to the outside of the panel, which a guy rope can be threaded through to pull the sides taut and fix to the ground.
A UV retardant coating to prevent colour fade in sunlight.
If the stand is to be used for commercial purposes, and will include display shelves, racking or tables, thought should be given to how tight the sides are. If the sides are too baggy, then they will move like a sail when the wind blows. This will cause a whiplash effect, which, if display features are near the sides, will result in stock and merchandise being knocked over. Although tight sides will be slightly more difficult to assemble, there will be less strain on seams and they will give a tidier appearance.
Side Sheets – Summary and Questions You Need To Ask
If you are using your pop up gazebo for business purposes, you need to consider the interior layout of the canopy, so that you can determine, what and how many sides are required.
Get as many features as possible for your money, but make sure that you get as many fixing points as possible to ensure that the sides are stable when erected.
Do the sides come in their own carry bag?
Do the sides have a PVC skirt and if not, do the sides reach the floor when the frame is positioned on its highest setting?
When the sides are attached to the frame are they loose or taut?
Can replacement sides be purchased at a later date to “refresh” the appearance of the stand?
The Purchasing Path – Final Considerations
We have investigated the reality behind the jargon and the pros and cons of different raw materials and features.
The other main considerations are as follows:
When someone calls me to discuss the requirements they have for a pop up gazebo, I will always start the conversation with this question. This is the starting point in making any decisions.
There are three main areas of usage
If the prospective buyer says that the pop up gazebo is for the garden, it usually means that they want a pop up canopy as a weather shelter. This will allow them to continue to use the garden when it is very sunny – use as a sun shade – or when it is raining. The structure will be used occasionally and a lightweight steel frame with water-resistant covers would probably suffice.
If you fit into this category, you will probably use the canopy anywhere from a couple of times a year to a couple of times a month. You need it to promote your business and/or to shade you from the elements whilst you work. This could be as a vehicle repair person, a market trader, a promotion company, a sport club or a car booter. You will require a sturdy framework, but one of industrial strength proportions may be too much for this level of use. You will also require waterproof covers.
If you fit into this category, you will be using the canopy day in and day out, in all weathers and all year-round. If you are wanting a pop up canopy to stand up to as much use as possible, then you are going to require the strongest framework and covers that you can purchase.
What is your budget?
It is important to have a realistic budget in mind. For example, if you are looking for a top of the range pop up gazebo for regular use, then it will cost more than one from the garden section of a popular High Street catalogue.
Instant pop up canopies are available in a variety of sizes. The size is determined by the length of the cross bars in the roof structure.
As a general rule the three main sizes that are sold are 3M x 3M, 3M x 4.5M and 3M x 6M. This is for three reasons. Firstly when sold as a trade stand most operators require a 3M (approx. 10′) frontage, so these are multiplied accordingly. Secondly, each of these sizes requires the same size cross bars, which cuts down on manufacturing costs. Thirdly, these are the most popular sizes requested.
If you are looking for a size that differs from these standards, then it is highly likely that you will pay a higher price for it. Increasingly, we are seeing a move towards 2M bars which creates 2M x 2M, 2M x 4M, 4M x 4M, 4M x 6M and 4M x 8M stands, as show organisers change their frontage charges, but anything “out of the ordinary” would require costly tooling and mould fees and unless you are requiring several hundred of a particular size, it would not be commercially viable to produce.
I hope that this brief guide has been both informative and helpful in the decisions that you need to make before purchasing a pop up gazebo.
If you want a pop up gazebo for commercial purposes then be successful. Stand out from all your competitors. Be admired for your choice.