Patio vs. Deck – Which One Is Best For My Backyard?

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When we design a space in your backyard, we begin by understanding what you’re currently doing outside and where you do it. In landscape design (aside from green space) this means that a deck or patio, in one of a myriad of forms, will serve as the core gathering space where you, family, and friends will spend the bulk of your time outdoors. 

Decks and patios serve many of the same purposes. But, when it comes to what will ultimately become the ‘center stage’ of your particular outdoor living space- it’s wise to look at the differences, the advantages and disadvantages of both options- in respect to the activities, you’ll use the space for most.

Why A Patio?

Patios can be built with a range of materials- with one for just about every price tier. Stone and paver patios are more physically durable than decks. As well, patios are generally a more versatile option in terms of price flexibility.

A patio, especially if it’s built at ground level, is typically easier to landscape around. This is in contrast to a deck, where the structure will be raised to some degree- making planting around it more work. If you are set on creating an especially lush-garden surrounding, opting for a patio could be a better approach for realizing that vision.

When a patio is installed correctly, from foundation to materials, the lifespan and the overall durability will generally exceed that of a deck. Simply put, stone patios will almost certainly cost less to maintain.

It’s also easier to create a patio into unique shapes. This makes the cost of being creative with a patio substantially lower than a deck.

Why Not A Patio?

If you have a steep slope or you’ll need many steps to make a patio practical- it’s likely that opting for a deck can bypass these constraints by effectively lowering the overall cost and difficulty of construction. This, of course, depends greatly on the layout and overall terrain conditions of the existing backyard space. 

Patios can be built into slopes (using retaining walls) and in other tough areas. However, the difficulty of construction is greater (there’s more labor) and patios can be costly compared with a deck in the same area.

Why A Deck?

Decks can be built for a better view of your landscape and are easily built raised off of the ground. Decks also tend to increase home value and curb appeal to a greater degree than patios (depending on the build type and scale). 

So, while a deck will cost more, it will also provide a higher ROI for your home. Higher return on investment is particularly appealing if you’re planning to sell your home at some point in the future.

Why Not A Deck?

Currently, the price of lumber has risen dramatically in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that the cost to build a deck is more expensive than it has been in the past and should be taken into consideration in respect to your project budget for your outdoor space.

Decks have less color and design options than patios. This is because most decks use the same method of framing. Decks are also somewhat restrictive in shape and style due to limitations of what can be accomplished with wood framing.

Although patios do require some maintenance (mainly refilling the joints with polymeric sand), wood decks need more ongoing maintenance like washing and staining/painting. You or your landscape designer will need to watch for signs of mold and rot (some wood is more prone to mold or mildew than others). However, decks constructed with resin-based materials in lieu of wood will need little to no maintenance.

Regardless of whether you choose a deck or patio for your backyard space, look for the options that make your space work best for you and your budget. The best landscape and hardscape designers will be able to help you to decide whether a patio or a deck makes the most sense. By choosing the structure that’s best for your use, your style, your space and your budget- you’ll be well on your way to ending up with a backyard space that you love.

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About JOn Kontz

Jon Kontz is CEO of PLANT Design Group, a landscape design company in Newtown, PA. He has over 25 years of experience designing and building landscapes. He can be reached directly at jon@plantdesigngroup.com. https://loveyourbackyard.com

Outside of business hours, you can find Jon fly fishing, rock climbing and farming with his wife and 3 children.

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