So what exactly is the difference between a deck and a patio? And if you’re on the fence about which one to choose, what should you take into consideration?
Each structure has its benefits, both structurally and functionally. But understanding what goes into the installation, as well as what you’ll get out of it, will help you make an informed decision that works best for you and your family.
Deck vs Patio: The Difference
A deck is a raised structure, typically made from wood or composite decking. It sits at least a few inches off the ground. On the other hand, patios are typically made from concrete poured directly onto the ground. Patios can be placed anywhere in your yard, whereas the deck is typically built right up against an external wall of your home.
The ROI, or return on investment, is generally much higher for a deck. That is to say, while they are more expensive to install, they increase your home’s value more so than a patio.
Depending on the size, materials, and other specifications, installing a deck can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 dollars. This can feel like a pretty steep investment for homeowners on a budget.
On the other hand, if you aren’t planning to sell your home anytime soon, a patio may be more financially feasible. Concrete runs at about $5 per square foot, making patios a more immediately affordable option.
The truth is, the upkeep on a patio is minimal- certainly less than what you face with the upkeep of a deck. It will need to be swept and hosed, with a good power-washing once or twice per year.
Any furniture or flowerpots will need to be moved fairly regularly, to avoid stains. This is especially true for metal furniture, as rust stains can set it fairly easily after a hard rain.
When it comes to decking, the amount of upkeep involved largely depends on the material you’ve chosen. All decks need the same cleaning as a cement patio, but there may be a few extra steps involved as well.
Composite decking is made from a mix of wood and plastic, making it wonderfully weather-hardy and largely waterproof. This means you won’t need to refinish it every year or two to keep it sealed. But with all-wood decks, it’s important to wash and reseal them fairly often to prevent warping and other moisture-related damage.
While this can seem costly, it is a chore you can save money on by completing on your own. Refinishing your deck every one or two years is a one-day job you can complete on a sunny weekend in late spring or early summer.
If you’ve got a perfectly flat backyard, or at least a good stretch of even surface, then laying a cement patio will be an easy job. Some light digging to be sure the foundation is level, and you will be all set.
However, here in North Texas, it’s fairly common to see dips and slopes in the terrain. If you’re wanting an outdoor living space that’s adjacent to your home, but the ground is uneven, then you should probably opt for a deck.
Because they create a platform, decks are easily installed on uneven terrain. The layout of the supporting structure compensates for dips and bumps, making decks a superior option for uneven yards. They can even be built to avoid standing water buildup beneath them, which is important for avoiding flies and mosquitoes in our North Texas region.
A sturdy concrete patio will last you for decades to come….so long as it doesn’t crack. This is why it’s important to build it on a level stretch of ground, so that you can avoid subterranean water buildup that can stress the integrity of the concrete slab.
Aside from this concern, your patio will be a permanent fixture in your yard, with minimal maintenance. If you wish to avoid the strain of shifting ground, you may consider using bricks or stone slabs instead of a single block of concrete. Smaller pieces can more easily absorb slight swells and dips in the ground level.
As for decks, the material may wear out eventually, because few things are as sturdy as concrete or brick. But when it comes to a well-tended wooden or composite deck, we’re looking at a good 30 years or more of life before you need to replace a few slabs here or there.
All-wood decks will eventually fade to a greyish hue, no matter how diligently you’ve re-stained them. Most people enjoy the look of naturally aged wood, but this is certainly something to keep in mind when choosing your materials. You can either opt for composite decking, or choose to paint your deck- so long as you know you’ll need to repaint it every few years.
Both decks and patios can be built with an overhang of some sort, to provide a bit of shade. Large umbrellas, canopies, and awnings can be put to good use here. This is especially true if you’re building the structure adjacent to an outer wall of your home, allowing for a retractable awning to be affixed to the side of the house.
But when it comes to comfy feet, decking may truly be the superior option. Light colored wood and heat-resistant composite decking both provide a surface that’s friendlier to bare feet than concrete or bricks.
Planning to build a full-sun deck? Read more here about the best composite decking for full sun.