Patio vs Deck

an outdoor patio space with varnished wood floors and small furniture next to sliding glass doors

The patio versus deck question has been around since homeowners have had yards. There are so many variables at play, that sometimes there is no right or wrong answer. Your outdoor space should dictate what works best, and at the end of the day, it can come down to a matter of taste. To help get you started, this article will go over the different factors involved in deciding on a patio versus a deck.

Topography

The first thing you need to consider is how well a patio or a deck will fit within the location in question. Think about how each will interact with your house and the surrounding environment. If the space is directly off your home you can probably get away with either, however, some space restrictions may make one choice better than the other.

If your exit door is right at ground level, a patio may make more sense since a deck is always raised, even just a little. If there are a lot of steps to get to the yard, then a deck may help alleviate some of that space, and a tiered deck may work even better. Any hills or uneven ground will make a patio more difficult to install, whereas a deck can be built around these aspects. If there are trees or central air conditioners make sure they are planned for, as well.

patio deck area with wood surfaces, plants, and natural furniture

The View

If you live on a hill, or have a view you want to maximize, a deck is going to be your best bet. Patios need to be built on level ground, so unless you want to spend money building up the land, a deck is much easier to lift or extend for a prime view of the landscape in front of you. Building tiers with a deck will also be more cost-effective since you don’t have to manipulate the ground as much as you would have to with patio stones.

Land-moving machinery and excavating is extremely expensive and will add a lot of time to the project. If you prefer more privacy and would like to be hidden, patios are better for sunken areas where you'd rather not be seen by neighbors.

wet circular flagstone patio with metal furniture surrounded by low hedges and lawn

Cost

Generally speaking, a basic deck is going to start at $30 per square foot, whereas a patio starts at $6. This is a substantial difference, but, of course, it also depends on many factors like the materials you are going to use, and whether the ground needs any major excavation. Deck material costs consist mainly of the pressure-treated wood you need for the posts, frame, and deck boards, and composite decking is even more expensive. The time and labor involved is generally 50% of the expense.

If you are dealing with a flat, ground-level area, then the cost of labor for laying stones will be a lot less than building a deck, however, it depends on the type of stones you get, and the intricacy of the work involved. Square, gray 12 x 12 pavers laid in unison are the cheapest to buy and install, at around $2-3 each, but if you want something fancier, the price goes up. Other costs include limestone screening and weed barriers that are laid underneath to keep stones protected and in place.

stone patio with brick walls, wood furniture, and potted plants

Maintenance

When done properly, paved patios will need the least amount of maintenance going forward. Depending on the bricks or stones used, you may have to do some weeding from time to time, and some cleaning of the surface, but proper screening, weed barriers, and level stonework should make this minimal. A deck will need to be re-stained or sealed every few years to keep it looking its best.

It should also be cleaned with a pressure washer once a year, and any rotten boards need to be replaced, as well. Composite decks, however, eliminate the need for staining and last longer, but are more expensive upfront. In the end a patio is the least amount of upkeep, and will generally last longer.

exterior patio deck space with chair next to garden

Resale Value

On average, a deck brings about a 75% return on investment, or “R.O.I.”, meaning it's worth the money you spend since it will increase the value of your home. Again, this depends on what kind of materials you use, and how well the design integrates with your home. A basic deck won't bring as much resale value as an upscale patio with intricate stonework and high-end pavers. Basic pavers laid flat in a regular design, however, will have a lower return on investment than a basic deck. If you aren’t planning on doing anything fancy, the wooden deck will have a higher R.O.I., in the long-run, as potential buyers often prefer a deck over a patio.

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Preference and Design

If there aren’t any major topography concerns, and the budget allows for either project, then it really comes down to preference. Your space may look better with one or the other, depending on the vegetation and environmental features surrounding your outdoor space. If you already have a wooden fence, then a wooden deck may fit in nicely with the existing style. If you’d like to improve or incorporate your driveway space, then a hardscape may make more sense to integrate everything together.

Think about how you entertain, or how you will spend your time outdoors. While both a patio or a deck can be built to similar dimensions, the placement of barbecues, patio furniture, and planters should be considered in the overall design. Also, any features like a garage or pool area should integrate smoothly, so things like stairs versus a flat walking surface may be a deal-breaker when deciding what works best.

wood floor deck with furniture next to pool

Best for DIY

This depends on your skill level. If you already have basic carpentry skills and won’t be scratching your head about how to frame a deck, then it's a great project to DIY. A patio is much more straightforward for beginners, and needs the least amount of math skills—it’s mostly a lot of heavy labor combined with some basic planning. You need to level the ground, add the screening and barrier, and then lay the stones. It’s fairly straightforward unless you're doing a fancy layout. Pouring concrete, major ground leveling, or topography work is generally something a professional should be called in for.

The decision to go with a patio or deck isn’t always that simple. Do some research and get a few quotes from professionals before you go ahead with any plans. Most of them will be happy to share their ideas, or concerns. It may be a little overwhelming, so talk to friends, and consider how you enjoy outdoor spaces, in general. If you still can't decide, why not do both? Perhaps you can have your deck, and patio space, too.

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