Deck or Patio, Which is better for you?


Your backyard is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. Often this can be enhanced with a surface to eat, barbeque or sit and contemplate. There are two main options for this in your backyard, a Patio or Deck.

A Deck is a raised wood or composite outdoor platform for enjoying your yard. A Patio is a hardscape surface at ground level, often constructed of concrete, brick pavers or stone. Similar in use but with several important differences in material, cost, maintenance and depreciation.

Let’s think through these differences to determine which is best for your yard and family — starting with your house and door height. If your back door is higher than two feet from the ground, a deck with stairs will be much more convenient is use.

Privacy or View

If your door threshold is less than two feet from grade, then both a raised deck or patio will work with your house. But the height of your platform will have some implications for you. Patios being ground level allows for more privacy with fences and trees. On the other hand, a raised deck allows for a slightly better view with a raised elevation. The extra foot or two allowing a clear eye-level view over the fence to the park or mountains.

Material Difference between a Deck and Patio

Different material effects the feel of your deck or patio.  A patio’s built from Brick pavers, Concrete or Stone, is a hard surface. Less forgiving when things are dropped then wood. Plates and glasses, smashing on the patio concrete.

Wood also absorbs and retains less heat, a real advantage during a mid-summer heatwave. A wood deck will be cooler both to the touch and the air around you. On the other hand, concretes heat retention will make your patio warmer on cool fall evenings. Where a deck will cool down quickly as the temperature drops.

Cost Difference between Deck and Patio

The cost between a deck or patio varies according to the material. In short, a patio will cost less, with composite decking being the more expensive option. A quick comparison of national averages.

  • Ground Level Wood Deck-$20-25
  • Composite $35-40
  • Paver- $22-27
  • Stamped Concrete- $17-23
  • Broomed Concrete- $10-13

A deck with stairs and railing will also increase the cost. The slope of your yard can also affect the cost by requiring more grading or building up of the yard for a patio. Possibly needing retaining walls to provide a level area for the patio. Grading can also be a bigger challenged with a mature yard as access for skids steers required to move dirt and material for a patio can be a challenge. Only a very small skid steer can fit through a three-foot person gate. If it can’t fit, that’s a lot of shovels and wheelbarrows required to grade for a patio.

Maintenance Difference between Deck and Patio

Patios require the least regular maintenance. Stamped concrete will look better if seal every few years but is not required. Where a wood deck will need to be sanded and stained every three to five years. A well-used wood deck or one highly exposed to direct sunlight needing to be resealed annually. A composite deckOpens in a new tab. will require minimal maintenance but will cost more initially.

Concrete on grade is prone to cracking even when properly installed with a compacted gravel bed. You can’t fix it, but cracking may occur on a concrete patio over time — something you will have to live with.

Depreciation Difference between Deck and Patio

Life expectancy is significantly different between wood, composite and concrete. So how soon will you need to replace it? That depends on the material used.

  • Wood 15-20 years
  • Composite Decking 20-25 years
  • Concrete Pavers 35-40 years
  • Concrete slabs 50+ years

A patio will easily outlast a deck. With a lower construction cost and slower depreciation, a patio will cost less than a deckOpens in a new tab..

Resale Comparison of Decks verse Patio 2019

I hate this question because developing your yard should be for you, not for the mysterious next person who may buy your property. But I understand that we often move for work or upgrading our house. Remodeling provides these American stats for the resale price of wood decks and patios.

  • 75.6% Wood Deck
  • 55.2% Backyard Patio

As one of my realtor friends regularly comments, its about location, location, location. Both within your city and part of the country. Even your house itself will affect the ability to recoup the cost. A deck or patio that doesn’t suit the house will not add value when you sell. Regardless if it’s a raised deck or patio.

Safety Difference between a Deck and Patio

Decks often have a railing, which works well for corralling in your kidsOpens in a new tab. or pets. Opening the backdoor to allow them some fresh air but keeping them safe. Where a patio has no built-in containment to whatever dangers, tools left in the yard.

Patios at ground level are prone to the ice during winter, increasing slipping hazards. A risk uncommon on a deck with gapped decking allowing drainage.

Speaking of slipping, hard surfaces like concrete and pavers skin knees more than a deck will. Concrete is just less forgiving on little knees then a wood deck.

Terrain Difference Between a Deck and Patio

Slope of your yard. If your yard slopes away from your house, a raised deck will be easier as it doesn’t have to follow the ground. Where a patio needs a level yard or significant grading to install.

Trees will impact and be impacted by a patio more than a deck. The previous homeowners at my place build a wonderful paver walkway in my backyard. Works great except, every year the tree roots make bigger and bigger waves in the paver. I am sure it was level when they built it, but it’s a tripping hazard now. Let’s not even talk about sweeping the humps.

Trees also need water and their roots need to breathe. Covering the roots with a concrete patio can affect the health of the tree by preventing moisture and air from getting to the roots.

As an aside note, never attach your deck to a tree. Nailing to the tree is both bad for your tree and your deck. Provide room around the tree for growth. Support the deck with beams supported by footings far enough away from the tree as not to damage large roots while digging.

Window Wells are a challenge with a deck. The Alberta Building Code requires a railing on a deck if its 24” above grade. Your deck may be low to the ground, not require a railing, but with your window well being below grade, railing and a gate, if it’s a bedroom window, will be required. It looks funny and a little awkward where a ground-level patio will not require any special treatment around the window well.

Permits

The question of permits is often asked, but for a patio or deck, less than two feet from the ground does not require any permits in most jurisdictions. Do check for utility right of way. Hate to have you finish your beautiful patio and then being told it will need to be demolished to access your gas line. Always call before you dig, as the saying goes.

Hot Tub?

If your planning on a backyard hot tub, do you want to step down into it or climb up. Hot tubs are heavy, and most decks will not support the weight. Therefore, it is best supported by a concrete pad at ground level. Meaning that if you build a deck, you will need to pour a concrete pad, install the hot tub first and then build a raised deck aroundOpens in a new tab. it. Or build a patio with a place for the hot tub and climb up a few stairs to get into it.

Raising our first question

Which is better a deck or patio?

Well, it depends. A Deck can provide a better view, is more versatile and has a better resale value. A Patio provides more privacy, less maintenance and will cost less to build. A few things to think about, but above all, get out and enjoy the outdoors.

Maybe for your yard and family, a combination is best. A raised deck with railing at the same height as your patio door connecting your barbeque with your kitchen. High enough to stand out by the grillOpens in a new tab. and enjoying the view. With a few steps leading down to your more private ground level patio, with a table set up for eating and enjoying your yard.

Which is better? The one that helps you enjoy your yard the best.

Ryan Nickel

A Red Seal carpenter, passionate about building decks to be enjoyed.

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