Decks vs Patios: Yard, Costs, Advantages and Disadvantages

A patio or a deck can bring added functionality and beauty to the space outside your home, but how do you know which one will suit you best?

The two most significant differences between a deck and patio are material and height. Patios are ground-level made from hardscape material. Decks are raised platforms constructed from wood or composite material.

Continue reading this better to understand the differences between a deck and patio so you can decide which you will enjoy the most for your home.

Definition: A Deck

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 brandsOpens in a new tab. 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 grillingOpens in a new tab. near the back door.  

It is common for decking areas to include a safety railing. By building code, in Canada, a deck over 24” (0.6m) or 30” (0.76m) in the United States requires a safety railing to prevent falls. But even at a lower height, a deck railing can enhance the appearance and functionality of the deck.

Definition: A Patio

“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. If you decide to enclose a patio with walls, it will then be considered a courtyard. Often a single privacy wall screening one side of a patio will enhance the space by providing privacy and sheltering the space from the windOpens in a new tab..

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.

Should you Build a Deck or Patio?

Even though much of your decision will come down to personal preference and taste, there are other crucial elements to consider when weighing up the difference between a deck and a patio.

The type of backyard you have and how it is laid out needs to be a significant consideration. Your yard’s size, shape, and topography are all factors.

Backyards Suited to a Deck

A deck could be ideal for your garden if:

  • Your ground is uneven.
    You will construct your decking on posts, which means the surface sits above the ground. As a result, decks can be easily built over the top of slopes and hills to give you a flat, functional surface.
  • You want to maximize your views.
    A garden that overlooks an area with beautiful views could be perfect for a deck. A raised decking area can improve your vantage point and make the most of your yard’s views.

Two places where a raised decks are ideals for views are yards facing golf courses or nature reserves. Or even a view of the mountain. The additional deck height allows you to see further and appreciate more the world around you.

Backyards Suited to a Patio

A patio could be ideal for your garden if:

  • You don’t have time for ongoing maintenance.
    Patios are more resistant to the elements, so they require less upkeep than a deck. Ongoing maintenance for wooden decking is a must if you want to keep it looking healthy.
  • Your yard is flat, and you don’t need a raised structure.
    Patio areas are always built at ground level so having a relatively flat surface to start with makes the job much more straightforward. Building patios on uneven ground can require costly prep work, like building a foundation before laying the patio.
  • Backyards requiring privacy. Often in cities, there are restrictions on fence heights. In Calgary, for example, 6’6” (2m) is the maximum height. A patio allows you to use the full height of the fence for privacy.

This summer I was quoting a deck for a homeowner who had neighbours tightly on both sides with decks. It soon became clear that building a deck would raise their outdoor living space, removing any sense of privacy. That a patio would allow them to enjoy their backyard regardless if their neighbours were outdoors.

A deck on the other hand could not be enjoyed at the same time as their neighbours. A patio was their only good option.

The Cost Difference Between a 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.

Decking materials cost an average of $23-$42 per square foot for natural timber. Composite materials can cost, on average, between $30 and $60 per square foot. The costs listed are simply for the materials; you still need to pay a builder to install them on top of that.

The cost of composite decking varies a lot by brandOpens in a new tab.. But just for the decking along, expect to pay $5 a square foot on the low end. On the higher end, PVC decking will cost around $18 a square foot. This is on top of the cost of the joists, footing, railings and all the other materials required to build a composite deck.

Patio building materials also vary by a large degree but will typically be cheaper. On average, you can expect to pay up to $30 per square foot for the materials for your new patio.

A concrete patio will costOpens in a new tab. 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.  

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 natural wood.

Another pricing factor to consider is the value that adding a deckOpens in a new tab. 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.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Building a Deck

Advantages 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.

Disadvantages 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.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Building a Patio

Advantages 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.

Disadvantages 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.

Ryan Nickel

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

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