comparing a patio to a deck

If you are planning some outdoor upgrades to your property this year, you might consider whether you want a deck and patio. How do you know which one to pick? This comparison guide will walk through the differences, costs, returns, pros and cons of both.

On This Page:

  1. Types of Decks vs. Patios
    1. Ground-Level Deck
    2. Floating Deck
    3. Raised Patio
  2. Full Comparison
    1. Materials
    2. Costs
    3. Resale Value & ROI
    4. DIY Building
    5. Weatherproofing
    6. Landscape and Climate
    7. Sustainability
    8. Size & Placement
    9. Privacy & Enclosures
    10. Maintenance, Cleaning & Repairs
    11. Accessibility for the Disabled
    12. Additional Features: Hot Tubs, Fire Pits, etc.
  3. Patio-Deck Combos
  4. Which is Best?
  5. vs Porches
  6. Replacing a Deck with a Patio

Types of Decks and Patios

They may or may not attach to your home or other buildings on your land. Decks rest at least a little above your property. Patios rest directly on the ground.

Ground-Level Decks

A perspective view of a contemporary Pacific Northwest home with a deck bridging a pond that leads to a pair of modern yellow loungers in a landscaped yard.

  • What It Is: Many people are familiar with this common feature that rests a few feet above land, but they also can sit very close on the ground. Ground-level ones may only have joists underneath.
  • Why People Like It: Elevated decks need added support and maintenance. Ground-level models allow homeowners to protect the ground underneath, without having to add stairs or other components.

Floating Deck

floating deck in yard by water

  • What It Is: Floating units are sturdy and supportive, but not immobile. It does not attach to the property or buildings in any way.
  • Why People Like It: If the perfect placement on your property is not near a building, you can still build a floating unit almost anywhere.

Raised Patio

stone paver patio raised with stairs

  • What It Is: This sits on the ground, but you can raise the ground to suit your preferred position. Raised patios may use pavers or other structures to give added support on one or more sides.
  • Why People Like It: People who own properties with a notable grade can shore up one side to make a patio flat enough for furniture and entertainment.

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What Are the Differences Between Decks and Patios?

Each has their own benefits and disadvantages, including ground level or floating decks and raised patios. Let’s start digging into all the considerations and see how they compare.

Material Varieties: Wood vs. Concrete vs. Stone/Brick Pavers

Part of your decision-making process involves a discussion of the materials you might use. Learn more about material lifespans and which decking is right for your home.

Deck

  • Wood: Most popular and looks natural, but also demands the most maintenance.
  • Composite: Made to look like wood but can cost more.
  • Plastic: Costs as much as composite but lasts longer with less upkeep.
  • Aluminum: May cost the most but has the longest lifespan.

Patio

  • Concrete: Most prevalent but also plain.
  • Stamped Concrete: Adds a little personality but needs more maintenance.
  • Gravel: Most affordable and easy to install.
  • Stone & Flagstone: Upscale appearance, with a higher price.
  • Brick Pavers: Less costly than stone but could look just as nice.
  • Wood: Looks natural but may need regular replacement.

The Biggest Material Selection: Patio

Costs

The overall cost to build one of these features depends largely on its size and materials used.

Deck

  • National Average: About $7,000
  • Installation: Around $35/square foot
  • Materials: $3-$25/square foot

Patio

  • National Average: About $3,200
  • Installation: $10-$20/square foot
  • Materials: $1.50-$30/square foot

The Easiest on Your Budget: Patio

Resale Value & ROI

Any home improvement you make has the potential to increase your resale value. Which one is more likely to pay you back for your efforts?

Deck

  • Pros: Has a higher return on investment, at around 60-80%.
  • Cons: Usually costs more to install.

Patio

  • Pros: Typically, paving a patio costs less.
  • Cons: With a ROI less than 50%, most of its value is in your enjoyment.

The Best Overall Investment: Deck

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DIY Building

man installs stone paver patio

Once you realize the installation costs, you might wonder if you can build it yourself. Here’s how they stack up against each other.

Deck

  • Pros: Building your own deck could save you the most money on installation.
  • Cons: You need the correct tools for the job, plus the knowledge and patience to get it right.

Patio

  • Pros: If you choose a simpler material like gravel, you could make a patio for a couple hundred dollars.
  • Cons: It’s often hard to tell if you have installed it correctly, and all patio materials are heavy.

The Most Reasonable to DIY: Patio

Weatherproofing

Making your outdoor space weather-resistant takes some care every year or two. Waterproofing, sealing and coating are common services you will need to protect the surface.

Deck

  • Pros: More expensive materials might just need regular cleaning.
  • Cons: Wood may need sealer and waterproofing every couple of years. Sealing a deck averages $800.

Patio

  • Pros: Most materials do not need as much treatment, except cleaning and coating.
  • Cons: If the material gets too wet, it may crack and need resurfacing.

The Easiest to Protect: Patio

Landscape & Climate

The right choice for you concerns your overall landscape and the climate of the region.

Deck

  • Pros: Does not rely on a specific ground environment to support the structure.
  • Cons: Materials may need more maintenance in exceptionally dry or humid climates.

Patio

  • Pros: Materials can keep their appearance and condition, even in very hot or very cold places.
  • Cons: It’s harder to protect from ground moisture or flooding.

The Most Versatile Option: Deck

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Sustainability

Green home improvements help to reduce waste and energy consumption.

Deck

  • Pros: Composite units use little wood and don’t need harmful chemical treatments.
  • Cons: Good-looking materials often come from irresponsible sourcing methods.

Patio

  • Pros: Patios made of brick or stone may last decades longer.
  • Cons: Some materials, like concrete, have high carbon emissions.

The Best for Your Carbon Footprint: Deck

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Size & Placement

outdoor patio with fire pit

Deck

  • Pros: Floating decks can go almost anywhere, on water features or uneven surfaces.
  • Cons: Need to be a certain size to support weight.

Patio

  • Pros: Come in any size imaginable.
  • Cons: You must grade the land appropriately before you can install to avoid flooding your house.

The Most Choices for Size and Position: Patio

Privacy & Enclosures

Making an extension of your living space may call for a little more privacy. How much do you need?

Deck

  • Pros: You can place a screen anywhere on your deck, and it may look like a part of the scenery.
  • Cons: Protection from the elements may be more difficult to achieve.

Patio

  • Pros: Patio enclosures cost anywhere from $3,000 to $38,000 and can make outdoor space more comfortable year round.
  • Cons: Everything you set on the floor could be susceptible to ground moisture damage.

The Best Protection from Prying Eyes: Deck

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Maintenance, Cleaning & Repairs

How often will you have to take care of your deck or patio?

Deck

Patio

  • Pros: Patio materials may call for less maintenance over the lifespan of the patio.
  • Cons: Low-maintenance, but this could make it easy to ignore long-term problems with the structure, which cost around $1,300 to fix.

The Simplest to Manage: Patio

Accessibility for Disabled People

It’s important everyone can enjoy the space.

Deck

  • Pros: It is easy to build a smooth transition from the home interior, no steps needed.
  • Cons: Ground-level structures may need a railing to prevent falls.

Patio

  • Pros: Concrete patios come in any size, to minimize trouble with transitions.
  • Cons: Land may need special grading to make it accessible to those with limited mobility. Carefully maintain stones or pavers must to avoid a stumbling hazard.

The Widest Possible Accessibility: Deck

Additional Features

House Exterior with swimming pool and hot tub and patio

With this new square footage, you can add other outdoor upgrades like a hot tub or pool, seating, heating or cooling, outdoor kitchens, water features, fire pits, storage and roofing.

Deck

  • Pros: Can sustain a few improvements once it’s complete.
  • Cons: May limit the kinds of upgrades you can choose, to avoid fire damage.

Patio

  • Pros: Present few concerns about fire hazards or water damage.
  • Cons: You may have to pick the added features you want before you build.

The Most Possible Upgrades: Patio

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Patio-Deck Combo

Can’t decide between the two? A combo that places a higher, attached deck above a patio, might be an effective solution.

  • Pros: A combo means you don’t have to choose and could quickly double your outdoor entertaining space.
  • Cons: You must make the deck high enough to keep the space underneath useful, which may be difficult with a rambler or split-entry home.

Which Is Better for Your Home?

The best choice comes down to what matters most for you and your home.

Decks Are Best For… Patios Are Best For…
Resale Value Simple Materials
Landscape & Climate Low Costs
Sustainability DIY Projects
Privacy Weatherproofing
Accessibility Size & Placement
Maintenance
Adding Other Features

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Deck vs. Patio vs. Porch

Grey house porch with red door and white railings.

Although many porches are made with common deck or patio materials, it is neither. Unlike a deck or patio, which may attach to a building, a porch is a part of the home’s structure.

Deck

  • Pros: A deck could replace a porch, because you can build a deck right up to the front or back door.
  • Cons: These usually do not offer protection from weather or pests, particularly floating or ground-level ones.

Patio

  • Pros: Flat areas are the best place to install whether it’s near the house or not.
  • Cons: Raising a patio to the height of a porch requires a lot of work to move dirt and give adequate support for the patio material.

Porch

  • Pros: A covered porch naturally adds protection from the elements.
  • Cons: Extending a porch to the size of a deck or patio could be far more expensive.

Replacing a Deck with a Patio

There are reasons that you might decide that your deck really ought to be a patio. Patios can safely support or surround larger features, such as an in-ground pool or outdoor kitchen. If you have a deck that you struggle to maintain, or is past its prime, you may need to consider replacing it. In these cases, some people choose to replace a deck with a patio. The average cost to install a patio is a little over $3,000, compared to the $7,000 average cost to build a new deck. If you are considering other major improvements for your property, a new patio would give you more flexibility and lower your total expenses.

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