When spring rolls around in the Midwest, most of us turn immediately to our outdoor spaces. There’s nothing better than enjoying coffee on the patio or dinner on the deck after a long, cold winter. But if your home doesn’t have an outdoor living space yet, and you’re planning to build one, how do you decide between a deck or a patio? 

In this article, we’re going to define the differences between a deck and a patio, and offer some suggestions to help you determine whether a deck or a patio is best for your home. 

Deck vs. Patio: What’s the Difference?

In general, a deck is defined as an outdoor platform built from wood or composite boards. A deck is capable of bearing weight, may or may not be attached to the house, and is typically uncovered. Decks are supported by structural elements like beams and posts. 

A patio, on the other hand, is a paved area that sits directly on the ground. A patio also may or may not be attached to the house. Most patios are made from some sort of stone, pavers, concrete, or similar material. 

Both a patio and a deck are outdoor spaces, but that’s about where the similarity ends. Let’s help you determine whether a deck or a patio is the best option for your home, starting of course with cost. 

Deck vs. Patio Costs

This is what everyone wants to know — how much do I need to invest to bring this outdoor space to life? 

The cost of any patio or deck will vary greatly depending on the size, placement, and materials you use. That said, when all things are equal, a patio is likely to cost less than a deck. 

With a deck, you need to pay for the materials for the deck itself, as well as all of the support features like joists and posts. (Calculate the decking cost for your home here.)

With a patio, you only need to pay for the pavers or concrete you need to lay that flat foundation. 

But in addition to cost, it’s important to also consider ROI and resale value. Here, a deck wins, providing much greater resale value to your home than a patio. 

Now that we have the cost equation out of the way, let’s talk about the pros and cons of each deck and a patio, so you can determine which option is best for your home. 

The Deck vs. Patio Breakdown: Pros and Cons of Each

Like any home improvement project, both decks and patios come with their pros and cons. There’s always some sort of maintenance to do, and either option will impact the style of your home in some way. Here’s a look at the most important features of a deck and a patio, and what they mean for you. 

Great Views vs. Privacy

In this home improvement project, are you looking to embrace a million-dollar view that’s right outside your home, or are you hoping to create a private, cozy entertainment space for cool fall nights? 

A deck is going to offer better views. Because a deck is a raised platform, it gives you that little extra height you need to take in the great view beyond your home. 

A patio will offer more privacy. If you live in a smaller neighborhood or in an open area, a patio is likely to offer a more private outdoor space. While a deck is great, in smaller neighborhoods it can elevate you over the fence, right into view from your neighbors’ backyard. 

Level vs. Uneven Ground

Another important consideration to make when choosing a deck or a patio is where you plan to put that outdoor living space. 

A deck can adjust to uneven ground with ease. Because a deck is built on a platform, you don’t need the ground to be perfectly level to build it. You can adjust the support structure to account for the natural grade of the land where you’re building. 

A patio needs level ground. A patio, on the other hand, requires a level space for proper installation. Uneven surfaces mean bricks and pavers sticking up everywhere, which doesn’t make for a very nice (or safe) outdoor space. If you don’t already have a level spot for a patio, you may have to pay to have the land leveled, which can add another big cost to your home improvement price tag. 

Permits vs. Weekend DIY Project

Some home construction projects require permits while others do not. While permits can feel like a troublesome extra step, they’re important to ensure that the work you’re completing is safe for you and your family. 

Deck projects often require a permit because you’re changing the structure of your home. Most decks are built off the house, and because decks must be weight-bearing, they require proper oversight to ensure they’re safe for your family to walk and gather on. 

Patio projects do not require a permit because you’re not adding to the structure of your home. You’re laying bricks or pavers directly on the ground, which means there’s no concern for foundation or support. 

With that in mind, it’s good to remember that a deck project is likely to take a bit more time. You’ll need to pull the appropriate permits for your area before you can get too far along with that build. A patio, on the other hand, is a DIY project you can likely knock out in a weekend. 

Low Maintenance vs. Some Maintenance

Any outdoor space is going to require some general maintenance and upkeep. 

In general, a wood deck will need the most care with yearly washing and staining. A composite deck, on the other hand, will require little to no maintenance, with just a good soap and water washing every now and then. (Here’s more info on the difference between wood and composite decking.)

A patio requires little to no maintenance. As long as your patio was installed properly, you can expect it to last decades with no upkeep. Some homeowners do opt to powerwash their patio every so often to keep pavers and concrete looking fresh, but that’s not a necessary maintenance task. 

Forever Home vs. Fix & Flip

As we mentioned earlier, patios and decks offer different resale values. 

If you’re looking to build an outdoor space for your forever home, the resale value of your project doesn’t matter quite as much. In this case, you can invest in a patio without worrying about what you’re going to get back from that investment. 

But, if you’re living in a home you plan to sell at some point, a deck is likely the better investment. A deck can provide a much greater return, which means that any money you put into it, you’re likely to recoup from the sale price of your home. 

How Long Do You Expect Your Deck or Patio to Last?

The final consideration to make before you decide on a deck or a patio is how long you plan for that outdoor space to last. 

A deck can last around 15-20 years and even more if your deck is made from a premium composite material like Trex decking. To ensure the longest lifespan from a wood deck, regular washing and staining are necessary. 

A patio can last for 25 years or more when maintained properly with regular cleaning. 

Is a Deck or a Patio Best for My Home? 

With all of those considerations in mind, is a deck or a patio best for you? 

A deck might be best for your home if: 

  • You’re willing to spend a little more upfront to complete an entire deck project from start to finish. 
  • You’re looking for an elevated platform that offers stunning views of the world beyond your home. 
  • You want to get the best possible resale value for your home
  • You don’t mind a little yearly maintenance
  • You want that true, luxury outdoor experience

A patio might be best for your home if:

  • You’re looking for a DIY project you can complete in a weekend
  • You’re hoping to keep your budget small
  • You don’t want to spend much time maintaining your outdoor space
  • You appreciate a cozy, private space over an expansive view
  • You want an outdoor space that’s ready and waiting for you whenever you want to go outside — no work required!

Whether you’ve decided to add a deck or a patio to your home, you’ve made a great decision! Adding an outdoor living space is one of the best ways to boost your home’s resale value. Contact the team at Zeeland Lumber & Supply to learn how we can help your project come to life. Don’t forget to check out our robust line of decking tools and materials, including Trex decking

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