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.
The two most significant differences between a deck and a patio are material and height. Patios are ground-level made from hardscape material often constructed of concrete, brick pavers or stone. Decks are raised platforms constructed from wood or composite material.
Similar in use but with several important differences in material, cost, maintenance and depreciation.
To decide which is best for your family and backyard, let’s consider a few aspects.
Weighing the pros and cons of each to discover which option works best for your house, yard, and family.
But before we get into the nitty gritty of comparing decks and patios lets start with a clear definition of each.
Definition of Decks and Patios
Decks and patios are both popular outdoor features that can add value to any home, coming in many shapes and sizes.
But to be clear, they are not the same.
A Deck by Definition
A deck is an outside structure usually traditionally made from wood. Popular wood types for decking include treated pine, cedar, and redwood.
However, decks are also commonly made from composite materials that include a mixture of wood fibres and plastics. Popular composite decking brands include Trex, Fiberon, TimberTech/Azek, Deckoroators and Armadillo.
In many cases, a deck is built to be raised. Raised areas enhance and take advantage of the views around a building. A deck can also be attached to your home or be completely freestanding in a separate location.
Raised decks create a transition space and height between the door, main floor level and the yard. Often including stairs leading down to the yard while providing an area for relaxing or grilling near the back door.
Patio by Definition
“Patio” is a Spanish word meaning a “court open to the sky.” Even though a court or courtyard tends to be enclosed or surrounded by walls, a patio does not.
Patios are open spaces outside built at ground level, unlike the raised structure of a deck. As a result, patios don’t tend to have any railings around them.
Like a deck, you can build a patio beside your home or as a standalone structure.
When it comes to patio materials, there are multiple choices, but patios are commonly hardscape surfaces. Usually, you will decide which material to use depending on what best suits the landscape you’re building on.
Popular patio materials include concrete, paving slabs, tile, brick, gravel, or rock.
Pros and Cons of a Deck
Pros of a Deck
- It can be easier to build a deck on top of hilly and sloped terrain. Decking is the perfect way to make a hilly or sloped garden more functional.
- It could be a DIY project, which means cutting out on professional labor costs if you have the required time and equipment.
- You can use composite materials to reduce maintenance needs and ensure the deck lasts longer than traditional lumber decking.
- They can add a good amount of value to your home in terms of ROI from your initial building costs.
Cons of a Deck
- As mentioned many times already, maintenance is a key difference between a deck and a patio. Natural wood decks are very susceptible to damage from the weather and wildlife.
- The raised height of a deck usually makes it necessary to build safety railings. The potential for injury from a higher deck is also increased compared to ground-level patios.
- The initial expense of decking materials is high.
Pros and Cons of a Patio
Pros of a Patio
- There are a wide variety of materials available to build your patio.
- In terms of upfront costs, patios are cheaper to build than decks on average.
- Common patio materials like concrete and paving are very resistant to weathering. As a result, ongoing maintenance is simple and low-cost.
Cons of a Patio
- The ground must be flat before you build a patio, which will mean extra work and expense if your yard isn’t naturally even.
- In most cases, building a patio requires more specialist skills and equipment than building a deck, so it probably means you will need to get professionals to construct it for you.
- Patio materials are heavier and more permanent than decking. If you ever wish to remove your patio, it is going to take much more effort.
Let’s now turn to material of a patio vs deck.
Difference in Material between a Deck and a Patio
Different material affects the feel of your outdoor space.
A patio built from Brick pavers, Concrete or Stone, is a hard surface. Less forgiving when things are dropped than wood. Plates and glasses, smash on the hard patio surface.
Decks made from wood or composite material will immediately have a different feel underfoot.
Walking over a deck will feel softer on your feet. Both the material’s texture and the oh-so-slight give as the decking bends and springs under your feet.
Decking also absorbs and retains less heat, a real advantage during a mid-summer heatwave. A wood deck will be cooler to the touch in the sun. But they will heat up quicker compared to hardscape material of patios like concrete or pavers.
On the other hand, a patio’s heat retention will make the space warmer on a cool fall evening.
Where decking will cool down quickly as the temperature drops. For PVC material as soon as a shadow moves over it.
What about money?
Cost Difference between Deck and Patio
Cost can be hard to judge since both a deck and patio can vary wildly depending on the materials used, size, additional features, and the area you are building on. With that being said, patios are generally cheaper to build than decks.
Costs of a Deck
All deckings will require decking, which ranges in cost.
Pressure-treated decking can be as little as $2 a square foot. But the price goes up and down depending on the season and the overall price of lumber.
Upgrade the decking to exotic wood like cedar, redwood or ipe. Easily can double the price to $7 – 15 a square foot.
But just like wood, the range of price for composite decking material is big.
On the lower composite is priced close to pressure-treated decking. As slow as $3.50 a square foot.
But you can also expect to pay as much as $18 a square foot. Especially for quality PVC decking.
And remember, regardless of the decking you buy, they will all need to be supported by a pressure-treated substructure. Along with paying someone to build it or the time it takes for you to DIY it.
This brings us to a total price of between $15 and $60 for a deck for a basic deck.
A pressure-treated deck will cost an average of $15-$20 per square foot.
For low maintenance deck made of composite decking will cost, on average, between $30 and $60 per square foot.
Adding a pergola, privacy walls and other upgrades to make your deck more enjoyable will only increase the cost.
Cost of a Patio
Patio building materials also vary by the finish (Stamped, broom, stone) but will typically be cheaper than a deck.
A broom concrete patio will cost between $10 to $20 a square foot on the lower end. But at this price, you are not getting any of the beauty of curved design, stamped or coloured concrete. Expect a grey broomed finished place to grill or set up a few chairs.
For a slightly better look, stamped concrete costs $25+ a square foot.
Pavers will often cost around $30+ a square foot. Being more labour-intensive to install.
But the advantage of pavers if you have the skills, you can install them yourself. Significantly reducing cost but increasing sweat.
In addition to lower upfront costs, most patios are lower maintenance than traditional wood decks, so they will be cheaper over the long term.
For example, decking needs to be restained periodically for protection from the elements. Restaining an average deck will cost in the region of $700.
If you opt for a composite deck, the maintenance costs will reduce dramatically compared to wood.
Another pricing factor to consider is the value that adding a deck or patio can add to your home. In terms of ROI, a deck beats a patio quite considerably. According to most data, homeowners that build a deck see an average ROI of between 60 and 75%, while patios return below 50%.
Of course, the statistics differ depending on the country’s area, with decks reaching higher returns in warmer places where people spend more time outdoors.
Additionally, the building materials impact your ROI because you need to factor in ongoing maintenance costs.
For example, cheap patios might initially seem to have a higher ROI, but this can soon be reduced when you account for maintenance costs over time.
Difference In Life Expectancy between a Deck or 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 deck.
Differences in View and Privacy of Patios and Decks
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.
Unlike patios, decks are elevated and provide a more unobstructed view of the horizon, which can allow for stunning sunsets or an excellent vantage point of the surrounding landscape. Like valleys, mountains or rivers beyond your yard.
If you want more isolation, patio often is a better choice.
If its a view, a raise deck will be better.
Or both, a patio under walk out deck.
Difference in Maintenance between a 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 deck 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.
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 kids 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.
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.
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 around 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 grill 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.