Compare Home Remodeling Projects, Materials and Costs
  • composite vs patio

    The Great Debate, deck versus patio, has long raged among homeowners who want to create a dynamic living space for relaxing, entertaining and enjoying the great outdoors.

    In this home renovation guide, we tackle the debate by pitting decks against patios – specifically composite decking vs patios crafted from brick, pavers and concrete.

    • Which type will look best with your home?
    • What material lasts the longest?
    • How much does a new deck or patio cost?

    These are just a few of the important questions we’ll consider as we look at the pros and cons of decks and patios in head-to-head comparison.

    What is Composite Decking?

    Composite decking has been in production since the 1990s and is now a home improvement industry with sales of more than $1 billion annually! Once something of a novelty, it now presents a real and competitive alternative to natural wood decking and pressure-treated lumber.

    The makeup of composite decking is 50 percent wood from sawdust, ground wood waste or recycled paper and 50 percent plastic from recycled jugs or shopping bags. It’s estimated that each foot of composite decking contains 1.5 pounds of material removed from the waste stream. Industry leader Trex claims to divert 400 million pounds of used plastic and wood per year from landfills into its products each year.

    Pigments are added to produce a spectrum of colors mainly in muted tones of brown, grey, off-white, taupe etc which lends itself to a more formal, almost stately style; quite different from most patios options as you will see below. Ultraviolet inhibitors slow or prevent fading. The mixture is heated to melt the plastic and bind the entire blend, and then boards are extruded. While still hot, the boards may be embossed with texture to give them the appearance of genuine wood.

    Composite Decking Costs

    As with most building products, there are various grades available, with composite decking prices increasing with quality and style. Composite material with higher quality, premium color and texturing to look like cedar or tropical woods costs significantly more.

    Composite Decking Material Cost: $4 to $10 per square foot.
    Composite Decking Installation Cost: $2 per square foot for simple decks up to $10 per square foot for complex decks.

    Composite Decking Pros and Cons

    There are many reasons to consider composite decking for your project, and there are a few cautions too.
    Here are the benefits of composite decking:

    • Low maintenance—warm, soapy water and a soft-bristled brush clean the surface nicely
    • No sealing or staining is required
    • Excellent durability—the decking won’t rot, warp, splinter or crack like wood can
    • Warranties of 20 years to lifetime cover the material’s structural integrity
    • Limited fading—the color typically holds quite well after some initial fading
    • Composite decking is eco-friendly with its high percentage of recycled content
    • Boards are longer than wood—up to 20 feet
    • All the accessories needed to complete a deck are made for most styles of decking. These include railings, treads, posts, fascia and more
    • Composite decking is made in a range of choices to work well with home styles including rustic, country, traditional and contemporary.

    Here are the disadvantages of composite decking:

    • Aesthetically, composite decking doesn’t give you a “real wood” look despite the wood-grain texturing
    • The material costs more than wood—but keep in mind that you’ll save on yearly maintenance expenses, and the deck will likely last much longer than a wood deck
    • It will be scratched fairly easily by dragged furniture, dog claws and grit under foot, and scratches are not covered by the warranty
    • The darker the color of the decking, the more heat it will absorb, so it might feel hot to bare feet and pets on sunny days
    • Boards may sag if supporting joists are more than 16 inches apart
    • Susceptible to stains, since the decking contains wood fibers that will absorb oil, juice, wine, meat juice, etc.

    Composite Deck Photos for Style Ideas and Comparisons

    Take a look at these deck images to get an idea of the look you can expect to create with this kind of decking and then compare them with the patio photos below.

    Composite deck 1

    composite deck 2

    Composite deck 3

    Composite deck

    Comparing Composite Decking to Patio Options

    So, what’s it going to be for your home, a raised deck or a ground-level patio? Let’s compare a composite wood deck to the three most popular types of patios – those made with brick, pavers and concrete.

    Brick Patios Versus Composite Decks

    Brick patios have been popular for centuries, and they’re an attractive addition to many styles including traditional, colonial, Victorian, rustic, country, Cape Cod, Mediterranean, contemporary, modern and dozens more.

    Pros of Brick Patios: Here are the pros and cons of brick patios which you can compare with what’s been said about composite decking above.

    • The nice range of color options from dark to light make brick more versatile than composite for matching your home’s architectural style
    • DIY brick patio installation, while more labor-intensive than building a deck, takes fewer tools and less expertise
    • Reclaimed bricks are available for patios for those who want an environmentally friendly option
    • Broken bricks are more easily replaced than composite boards
    • Brick patios are more affordable than most composite decks
    • Brick doesn’t fade and requires very little cleaning

    Cons of Brick Patios: There are just a few caveats when considering brick as the material for your patio

    • Since brick can chip under duress, you’ll need to replace bricks from time to time, and matching them might be difficult if you don’t have extras on hand
    • If care isn’t taken to compact and level the bed before installation, you might end up with sunken areas or uneven bricks
    • If you hire a pro to install your brick patio, labor costs will be higher than installation costs for a composite deck

    Brick Patio Material Cost: $2.50 to $4.50 per square foot.
    Brick Patio Installation Cost: $3 to $11 per square foot depending on the complexity of the job, and possibly more when extensive site excavation is required.

    Brick Patio Photos for Style Ideas and Comparisons

    Compare these images of brick patios with the composite deck photos above and the paver/concrete patios below.

     linden hills

    flora avenue

    rustic refined

    brooklyn heights2

    Paver Stone Patios Versus Composite Decks

    Pavers give you plenty of options for creating just the look you want to go with your home’s design and your personal style. Most have a contemporary feel, but some look good with traditional styles.

    Pros of Patio Paver Stones: Here are the reasons most often given for choosing pavers

    • Many styles, colors and sizes from which to choose
    • Pavers are very hard, so they rarely break
    • Little ongoing maintenance or cleaning is required
    • They won’t fade or become discolored with age
    • Patio pavers are easy to install, and since labor costs more than the stones, you can save a lot of money by doing the job yourself

    Cons of Patio Paver Stones: Keep these potential drawbacks in mind as you plan your project

    • Installation is labor-intensive, so if you hire a professional, your costs will be greater than the cost of composite deck installation
    • The stones will spread apart from one another in some locations, so you might need to install an edge made of concrete or pressure-treated lumber around the patio

    Patio Paver Material Cost: $3 to $5.50 per square foot.
    Patio Paver Installation Cost: $4 to $11 per square foot depending on the complexity of the job and the experience of the installer, and prices can be even higher when extensive site excavation is required.

    Paver Patio Photos for Style Ideas and Comparisons

    Take a look at these four completed patios to get a sense of what can be achieved with pavers.


    clinton hill

    urban retreat

    bauer project

    Concrete Patios Versus Composite Decks

    Using poured concrete is a quick and easy way to produce a patio. If you want something more than basic concrete, consider stamping, staining or coloring it to create a fantastic look.

    Pros of Poured Concrete Patios: Here’s what concrete offers

    • The price of concrete is significantly less than composite decking and cheaper than paver bricks or stones too, both for material and installation
    • Concrete can be stamped to look like pavers, field stone and other styles
    • Acid staining and polishing the concrete creates looks similar to granite and marble
    • Pigment can be added to the wet concrete to produce a spectrum of colors

    Cons of Poured Concrete Patios: Here is what turns off some homeowners to using concrete

    • Plain concrete lacks visual appeal
    • Concrete eventually cracks, and cracks are unsightly
    • DIY concrete installation isn’t a good choice for those without experience

    Concrete Patio Material Cost: $1.25 to $2.50 per square foot.
    Concrete Patio Installation Cost: $1.50 to $4 per square foot for plain concrete; up to $7 per square foot for stamping or staining.

    Concrete Patio Photos for Style Ideas and Comparisons

    Finally take a look at these four concrete patio photos for inspiration.

    retro ranch1

    logan canyon


    san francisco

    Summary: For many homeowners, choosing between a deck and a patio begins with the budget. Decks typically cost more than patios. Once you’ve decided what to spend, this information will help you choose between a deck and patio and how extensive you want your project to be.