Although it’s not a common trivia question, the difference between a patio and a deck is important if you’re a homeowner trying to decide which is best. Or, maybe you’re just trying to settle a bet. Either way, you need to have a clear definition of each. And what better way to do that than by quickly detailing the common traits, average costs, and structural details for each. But first, let’s talk in broad terms by answering the question: what’s the difference between a patio and a deck?
The difference between a patio and a deck is twofold; structure and height. Decks are typically built with wood or composite materials off of the ground. Patios sit on the ground and are usually made of stone, concrete, tile, or some kind of crushed rock. For the most part, decks are attached to the house and have no roof, whereas patios can be attached or not, and may or may not have an awning.
So those are the differences between a patio and a deck, at a glance. But there are still many other differences (and some similarities) to consider before settling on one or the other. These include cost, local building codes, care, maintenance, longevity, safety, landscape, house design, and personal preference. Read on to discover the deeper differences between patios and decks.
Patio and Deck Similarities
Let’s talk about similarities because there are a few. Then we’ll dig into other factors, like value, maintenance, and safety.
Both options are designed as outdoor areas to help you enjoy fresh air, nice weather, and time outside. They can both be built around a pool or hot tub, and they can also provide great areas for grills, fire pits, outdoor kitchens, and patio (or deck) furniture. Some of these options (like a fire pit) may require additional products or precautions to protect the surface. They can also be covered by an awning or a pergola if you so desire.
That’s about it for similarities, now let’s talk details. We’ll start with the best places for patios and decks.
Patio and Deck Placement
Where you want your patio or deck is a major factor in deciding which to choose. These days, you can get a ground-level deck built, or a raised patio. If you like the look of wood but don’t want a raised deck, you can simply get a ground-level deck installed. If you want a patio built away from the house, you can do that too.
Another thing you may consider when deciding on a patio or a deck is the landscape. Uneven ground usually calls for a deck, since it can be built up off the ground. Leveling uneven ground for a patio can be a very costly and involved process.
A View or Privacy
Another factor to consider is whether you want privacy or a view. Since decks are elevated, they are ideal for commanding views of the area. This is a good option if you don’t have any direct neighbors or if you don’t mind being visible while you’re lounging on the deck.
Patios, on the other hand, are ideal for creating privacy. Since they’re on the ground, they can easily be hidden by fencing or trees, giving you privacy in your backyard or outdoor space.
Cost and Resale Value
There’s a wide difference in cost between patios and decks. There’s also a wide variety of materials to choose from, which will affect the cost, as well.
Decks are the more expensive option, ranging from $16 per square foot for basic wood, to $36 for high-end exotic wood or composite materials. However, decks can increase the resale value of the home significantly, as long as they are well maintained. Meaning you may make up to 75% of your money back if you sell your home.
Patios, on the other hand, don’t do as much to increase the resale value of a home. Estimates put the recoup percentage at around 50%. Patio materials range from $3 per square foot for gravel, $6 for concrete, all the way up to $30 per square foot for granite or other expensive stone. Sticking with mid-range materials is your best bet for making some of your money back when you sell your home.
Maintenance and Lifespan
As you can probably guess, patios tend to last longer than decks. However, this is not always the case. Patios made with certain materials, like concrete, can crack in areas that experience extreme temperatures. Also, composite decks are becoming tougher and more weather-resistant, although they will probably never last as long as a patio made out of gravel or pavers.
Decks also require more maintenance than patios. They need to be stained every few years to protect them from the elements. A deck’s structure and hardware should be inspected every few years, as well, to look for signs of wear that could cause safety issues.
One of the nice things about decks is your ability to customize them. This is one way they add value to a home. If you sell the house, the new owners can refinish the deck to their liking, or to match the house if they repaint it.
Although you can add a sealant to your patio, there’s not much you can do to change its color, aside from replacing it.
Patios and decks each have different safety risks. Patios can become slippery with rain or ice, while decks have weight limits and can begin to rot after several years. Wooden decks can also pose a fire risk, especially if you live in a drought-prone area.
To sum up the differences between patios and decks, take a look at the tables below. Mainly, it comes down to expense, personal preference, type of house, and type of landscape you’re working with. Do you want a raised area with a view or a more private area that may not add much value to your home? Do you want wood or composite? Stone or concrete? These main factors should help you decide between the two.