This RenoCompare comparison post is written for homeowners who are considering a renovation or remodel for their existing outside space and want to know more about the two most popular outdoor living spaces…patios and decks. In this report you will learn the main differences between a deck and a patio, the most popular materials used for construction and typical designs and building costs. Finally we give you an idea of future maintenance work and answer some of your most frequently asked questions. Feel free to use our quick links to zip back and forth to the content that is most useful to you.
Unless you’re planning to do the work yourself, you’ll need to find yourself reliable and experienced landscaping professionals to do the work. RenoCompare can help match you with qualified contractors in your local area. After you’ve read through this post click here for free, no obligation quotes and quality home improvement services.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A PATIO AND A DECK?
The biggest difference between decks and patios is that a patio is at ground-level, and a deck is raised.
If your home’s foundation is raised a few feet from the ground, which is common, then a deck allows you to access it from indoors without having to step down. Stepping down would be your only option with a patio.
Of course, if the top of your foundation is at ground-level, then a patio will have to be your choice for an outdoor living space. And it might be worth noting that decks can be built onto upper-story parts of the home or even be tiered, which obviously aren’t options for patios.
If you build a deck, make sure to use heavy-gauge landscaping material beneath it. And consider a skirt around the deck. Otherwise, you’ll have weed growth, which is unsightly and attracts insects, rodents and other pests. You surely don’t want skunks living beneath your deck!
Further Reading: Differences Between Deck and Porch – Cost Comparison
Patios are more durable, lasting from 30 to more than 50 years with maintenance. Most decks have to be replaced after 15 to 25 years.
Does your entertaining include large groups? Wood decks have weight restrictions, which translates into a limit on how many people can use the deck at one time. The restriction might also limit the size of a hot tub you can use on the deck. Patios have no weight restriction.
Further Reading: Patios Vs Porches – Differences, Pros/Cons & Cost
Here are some other important considerations when choosing between a deck or a patio.
Decks are usually natural wood or are composite decking planks embossed with woodgrain texture to make them look like wood. PVC or plastic is available too, but it can look cheap and plasticky, as you might expect. Aluminum has an industrial look, but it resists stains and holds up very well.
Patio materials are harder – concrete pavers or poured concrete slabs are the most common. Pea gravel is a cheap alternative, but the stone tends to get into the yard and has to be replenished occasionally. And if you choose a slab patio, consider having it acid stained to look like genuine granite or marble or ceramic tile. Stamping concrete for the appearance of brick or flagstone is also popular.
Brick patios are another popular option if you can afford the materials and installation cost. One advantage of using brick is a greater variety of design and patterns to choose from. Get inspired on our brick patio ideas page.
While patios do not need railings, any deck over 30 inches off the ground must have them. And railings can be quite expensive, especially when you choose cable ($$), aluminum ($$-$$$) or glass ($$$$).
DECK AND PATIO DESIGNS
Decks are mostly rectangular, though you’ll find some with six or eight sides. If the terrain is flowing, a multi-tiered deck adds a lot of character and utility to the backyard landscape.
While patios are often rectangular too, it is easier to be creative with the design including round patios and spiral paver patterns. Patios can flow seamlessly into walkways of the same material that lead to the garage, driveway or front of the house.
Do you have a pool? Patios are the choice for surrounding an in-ground pool while a deck is a nice feature adjoining an above-ground pool.
There are lots of imaginative ways to make your patio or deck more visually appealing. If plain wooden or composite decking seems a bit bland then take a look at these deck painting ideas.
DECK VERSUS PATIO COST
Decks cost more per square foot due to higher material and labor cost. Plus, they tend to be harder to build, so more homeowners choose pro installation vs DIY. A building permit is required for a deck with a railing, but permits are typically less than $150 per deck and contractors usually obtain them and include them in the cost. The permit includes at least two inspections to ensure the deck is properly built and is safe.
With all costs included deck price ranges from about $24 to almost $70 per square foot. High-price decks have expensive railing types including cable and glass.
A pro-installed patio starts at about $8.00 per square foot. This includes leveling the ground, laying weed barrier and installing the pavers or square patio stones. A concrete slab with minimal treatments costs about the same.
Paver patios with an intricate design, or concrete patios that have been stamped and/or stained run as much as $24.00 per square foot.
Average price for a cedar, redwood or pressure treated pine deck with wood railings is $28 to $40 per square foot. Other types of wood like teak or ipe cost more. Most homeowners pay in the range of $12 to $14 per square foot for a patio.
With either a deck or patio, the more square feet the installation is, generally the lower the cost per square foot.
There’s no doubt that a patio requires less upkeep than a deck, and the maintenance is cheaper when needed.
Patios: Your paver stone or concrete patio will need almost no maintenance for 5-7 years. After that, it might need a deep-clean power washing to remove grime and possible algae, mold or mildew, especially if the patio is shaded.
Further Reading: Driveway Paving Maintenance
As dirt accumulates in the cracks, weeds will grow. A sharp tool can be used to clear the cracks, and the cracks can be sprayed with herbicide or filled with stone slag to inhibit future growth. In time, pavers might crack and require replacement. That’s why it is a good idea to buy 10% more material than you need for future repairs.
If the based wasn’t properly prepped, or where water falls heavily onto the patio surface, the base might wash away and sink. This requires removing the pavers, adding and compacting fill, and re-installing the pavers. Concrete will eventually crack, and the crack will need filling with elastomeric caulk. When the crack leads to a part of the concrete slab sinking, it will have to be raised with material added beneath to prevent future sinking.
Decks: Your deck, whatever material you choose, will need to be power washed every few years. A wooden deck will need fresh staining every 3-5 years depending on your climate and the quality of the stain used. Over time, some planks, steps or railing spindles on a wood deck might warp or crack and will have to be replaced. Nails will “pop” and require nailing down. Eventually, entire railing sections might become loose and unstable and will need repair or replacement.
If the fabric beneath the deck deteriorates or doesn’t cover the entire space, weed control beneath the deck becomes a necessary hassle.
Further Reading: How to Tackle Slippery Decking
Is it better to have a deck or a patio?
A patio is better if your budget is tight or if your home’s foundation is at ground level. Patios are more durable, easier DIY projects and they are more durable.
A deck is preferred for average resale value and if your home’s foundation is raised above ground level.
What is the difference between a deck and a patio?
The differences involve cost, material options, height of the surface, maintenance requirements and longevity.
Is it cheaper to build a deck or a patio?
Patios are less expensive.
How much is a 200 sq ft patio?
$1,600 to $4,800, or about $8 to $24 per square foot.