The purpose of this RenoCompare comparison post is to clarify the main differences between porches and decks, to highlight the pros and cons of each and give homeowners a full understanding of how much they are likely to pay for the professional installation of these two home remodeling projects. We also cover what you can expect in terms of ongoing maintenance, how to get the best out of your deck or porch and whether either will benefit your home’s resale value.
Main Differences | Location | Construction/Materials | Costs | Maintenance | Practical | ROI
The porch versus deck debate focuses on two home improvements that serve similar functions but are quite different in many ways.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PORCH AND A DECK?
While a deck is a free-standing structure attached to your home, a porch is fully integrated into the main structure of the home since its roof ties into the roofing of your house. A porch is like an open-air home addition rather than a simple add-on deck.
Decks are usually raised, while porches can be raised or be built at ground level. For either option, the structure is most often level with the ground floor of your home.
Further Reading: Patios Vs Decks – Differences, Pros/Cons & Cost
Porches typically have a solid knee wall around their perimeter while decks must have railing when more than 30 inches high. The wall provides a little more privacy and is much better for containing children and small pets than deck balusters.
Further reading: Patios Vs Porches – Differences, Pros/Cons & Cost
Weather plays an important role in answering which one is best for you. A deck is open to the elements, and if you enjoy getting a lot of sun and growing plants where you can see them bloom, a deck is ideal.
On the other hand, if your weather is volatile or often rainy, then a covered porch makes better use of your outdoor living space. Screening the porch keeps insects away, and adding removable framed glass or plexiglass panels turns your porch into a 3-season or 4-season room depending on your climate.
Those are the key differences between a porch and deck, but there is more to explore.
LOCATION OF A PORCH OR DECK
Traditionally, a porch is built onto the front of a home, an extension of the entrance. And decks are often found in the back of a home, the place most people prefer for recreation. But you’ve got flexibility in where to build these outdoor structures.
A back porch is an option to consider, since most homeowners favor their backyard landscape along with privacy for themselves and guests in contrast to the street-side view and traffic.
And where space permits, a deck can be added on the side of a home, but rarely in front. Your home’s design is the best guide for where to place a deck. Decks are also an option for adjoining an upper floor bedroom, something not generally possible with porches.
CONSTRUCTION – MATERIALS AND DESIGN
Wood framing is at the heart of both decks and porches. For decks, the material is often treated lumber because of exposure to the elements. Treated wood or standard timber is used to frame a porch, with the choice dependent on whether the framing might become wet.
Deck framing is covered with a platform of planks, gapped slightly to allow for drainage. While treated wood and cedar are common plank materials, PVC vinyl and wood composite decking are popular too. Exotic woods like teak and ipe come in at the high end of the cost of wood decks. Aluminum planks are less common, but a midrange option in terms of cost.
Porches with a roof but no walls, which you might call a covered patio, covered deck or an open air porch, offer the same plank material options. When the porch is more enclosed from the weather, floor construction is similar to the rest of the home – the framing is covered with a plywood or OSB subfloor with your choice of flooring on top of that.
We should note that some porches are formed out of concrete and have concrete slab floors which can be painted or covered with material suitable to climate conditions.
There are two additional construction elements to mention for porches.
This is the single design element that most separates porches from decks: Porches are covered. Sure, a deck might have a pergola over it, but that structure offers no protection from the weather.
The porch roof ties into the home’s roof. The two roofing sections might have the same design and slope or be slightly different – with the slope on a porch usually less steep than the slope of the home’s roofing. The roofing material is usually the same for the porch and house, but it can be different. Asphalt shingles and metal roofing are common porch options.
Asphalt Shingles Versus Asphalt Rolled Roofing
Asphalt Shingles Vs Composite Shingles
WALLS, ENCLOSURES AND DOORS
You have options from fully open porches to those that are partially enclosed with a knee wall and screens. Some porches are built with walls and windows too and are called enclosed porches. Most include a screen door that can double as a storm door in cool or inclement weather.
Often the screening or windows are built in removable frames, giving you the most options for matching the level of enclosure to the weather for that period of the year.
COST OF A PORCH VS DECKING
Let’s discuss the cost of a deck vs the cost of a porch with some of the key variables.
Deck cost ranges from around $24 per sq/ft for wood decks using pressure treated lumber with no rails to $68per sq/ft for a composite deck with railings and steps. If you want glass or some of the high-end cable railings, they can push the project cost above $75 per square foot. Average cost of a deck is about $44 per square foot.
For a 160 square foot deck, pricing translates to $3,850 to $10,800 with an average cost around $7,000.
Porches start at about $40 per square foot mainly because of the roof structure. From there, your choice of flooring, knee wall material such as bricks or wood, rails, screens, windows and other accessories take the cost to as high as $90 per square foot. Average cost of a porch is about $68 per square foot.
These prices give us a cost range for a 160 square foot porch of $6,400 to $14,400 with an average cost of $10,900.
Note on cost – You can always spend more on either a deck or porch than the numbers we’ve included, but we keep costs within the range that 90% of homeowners spend.
Labor cost for either structure ranges from $10 to $20 per square foot based on who you hire for the work. That’s what you save with a successful DIY project.
Decks need more regular maintenance than a porch, especially wood decks. The decking and railings should be power washed every few years as needed. And wood decks require staining or painting every 3-6 years based on your climate and how heavily the deck is used. Washing and staining or painting the deck are good DIY, money-saving options.
Occasionally split or warped wood planks or balustrades must be replaced. Composite decks and other non-wood materials need less regular maintenance – usually pressure washing as needed and the occasional replacement of a damaged plank or step.
Regular upkeep for a porch is similar to a deck when the decking material is open to the weather – washing the deck and staining wood as needed. The costliest maintenance issue is replacing the roofing material every 15 to 40 years depending on what you choose. Porch screens need their share of patching and replacing too.
HOW BEST TO USE YOUR OUTDOOR LIVING AREAS
Porch advantages include giving you more flexibility because the space is covered and often screened or enclosed. This makes your time relaxing, entertaining guests, dining or sitting in a hot tub less dependent on weather or the number of mosquitoes and flies around. In most climates, this also means that you can use a porch for more of the year than you could use a deck or patio.
Further Reading: Thanksgiving Porch Decor Ideas
By contrast, if you’re a sun lover and your climate is accommodating, you might find you enjoy your time on a sunny deck more than you would being in a covered outdoor living space. A sunny deck is also ideal for growing flowers and vegetables in pots. And you can always put up an affordable canopy when you prefer shade.
If you want heat, a propane heater is the best choice for a porch. Just be sure you have some ventilation if the porch is enclosed. Propane heaters are available for deck use, but the heat quickly dissipates. One advantage of a deck is the option to install a fire pit or chiminea for heat and the ambience it provides.
For staying cool, a ceiling fan is a good choice for a porch while floor fans can be used either place. And if you have your heart set on a porch swing, then your design choices are limited to a porch or a deck with a pergola.
Outdoor furniture is a good choice for either structure, because even if your porch is enclosed but not climate controlled, excessive humidity can damage quality wood furniture.
RESALE VALUE AND RETURN ON INVESTMENT
The current cost to value, or ROI, of a deck is 62% to 68%. That means if you spend $10,000 on a deck, it will raise the potential resale value of your home by $6,200 to $6,800.
Resource: Cost vs. Value 2022 | National | Remodeling (hw.net)
ROI isn’t tracked for porches, but our professional opinion is that it is lower, probably around 50% to 55%. Part of the reason for the lower return on investment is the higher cost of a porch.
The general rule for home improvements is that the more you spend on a project, the lower the ROI you’ll receive from it. So regardless of which of these outdoor structures you choose, having a modest budget vs choosing high-end materials and accessories will give you a better return on your investment.
CONSULT YOUR BUILDING DEPARTMENT AND HOA
Your building codes department can let you know what building permits are needed based on your project’s design. And if your home is in an HOA, don’t forget to check its bylaws for potential restrictions on porches and decks.