Choosing between installing a deck or a patio involves a fair number of practical, aesthetic, and personal considerations. In order to begin making the decision between a deck, a patio, or both, let’s first look at the practical differences between the two.
While a patio in most cases refers to an outdoor space that is placed directly on the ground, decks are most often elevated off of the ground by supports and can be multiple levels or elevated to accommodate egress from a first or second story level. Patios can be adjacent to the home or separate from the home depending on preference, lot, and usage, but they almost always require a flat surface to keep preparation construction costs more reasonable.
Decks on the other hand can be more easily designed to accommodate uneven landscapes with higher supports as well as different levels and stairs, but they are traditionally connected to the home. While patios do not generally require permits and inspections, decks, which are attached to the home, always require these aspects.
Patios often have concrete bases, but some homeowners use stone, tile, pavers, brick, or other materials to create the foundation. While all of these materials are durable and resistant to the elements, settling of the ground beneath them can cause uneven points in the surface that must be corrected from time to time. Generally, maintenance is low, and with materials like locking pavers, the occasional replacement of individual pavers is accomplished fairly easily.
Since they are always at ground level, patios do not require a rail unless there is an abrupt drop-off directly adjacent to their boundary. Decks are either made of wood, vinyl, or wood composite materials, but the supports are most often made of pressure treated lumber with concrete footings.
The different decking materials will have different levels of durability and maintenance needs. Wood decks need to be periodically resealed while composite decks are lower maintenance. The cost differences between the two are more about whether you will be paying more over time in maintenance (wood deck) or more of an up-front cost with low maintenance and generally longer life (composite).
Since most decks are elevated off of the ground to some degree, they are typically enclosed with some type of railing and often offer an elevated view of the property on which they sit. Decks may be built off of the lower floor of a home, such as the living room or kitchen, or they might be added to an upper level room or even on a rooftop setting.
Amenities and Use
How you intend to use your deck or patio is a major factor in determining amenities for one or the other. There are a wide range of amenities that can be added to either one with some design considerations taken into account for each.
While it is common to have fire pits and/or built-in grills on a patio, these elements can be part of a deck design as well with design and safety considerations taken into account by the professional deck designer and building team. Hot tubs and spas are fair game for either a deck or a patio.
The same can be said for pools with a deck or patio surrounding it, but design and material considerations can affect comfort and safety considerations. Although patios are generally uncovered in terms of roofs, modern designs do often feature trellises, pergolas, and gazebos. Decks can also feature all of these coverings.
Lifespan, Costs, and Other Practical Considerations
When ground preparation, drainage, and construction methods are done properly and to high standards, decks and patios can have comparable lifespans with patios likely having the edge. Depending on the climate and maintenance, decks can last anywhere from 15 to 25 years or more with wood decks on the lower end and high quality composites on the upper end.
Patios can last upwards of 20 to 30 years, but are also affected by climate. Concrete patios can crack and heave as the result of repeated freezing and thawing, just like any other poured concrete, which may require patching. While pavers can also crack the individual places can be more easily replaced.
Depending on the design, patios can be less expensive than decks, but this depends on a number of factors such as materials, size, and the amenities among others. Both decks and patios provide a good ROI for homeowners in terms of added value and appeal to buyers.
As you can see, the choice between a deck and patio is based on a number of important considerations. Today, many homeowners choose a combination of both to accommodate the way they want to entertain and use their outdoor space to its fullest. The goal is to have an outdoor environment that matches the way you want to live and enjoy the outdoors.