The Difference Between a Deck and Patio (and How to Choose Which Is Better for You)


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Any outdoor living space is a big upgrade, especially in warm summer months, when a deck or a patio will be a great spot for cookouts and summer get-togethers. While it might not seem like there’s much of a difference, a deck is different from a patio. For some homes, a deck will be a better fit, while for others, a patio will work best. Here are some helpful ways to figure out which one is right for you.

What’s the difference between a deck and a patio?

The big difference between a deck and a patio is that a deck is raised up off of the ground, while a patio sits at ground level. While they can both be made from lots of different materials, a deck is usually made from lumber, while a patio is often made from stone or brick. The main thing to keep in mind when you’re choosing which one you want is the shape of the ground you plan to put it on. You’ll also want to consider whether you have plans for a fire pit or barbecue, the view you want, and what local ordinances will let you bild.

Your yard matters

If your outdoor space includes a level area at the same height as your house, a patio can be a good option. Adding pavers or stone in a well-drained, flat area should work well. If your yard has a hill or a steep drop-off, then a deck with legs that allow it to rise up over uneven or slanted terrain is your best bet. If you have a gradual slope, you can choose to build a patio with built-in steps or multiple levels for seating. You can also choose to use a deck on a flat surface, of course.

Fire safety considerations

To safely use a fire pit, choose a non-flammable surface and leave lots of space around it. Never put a fire pit directly on a wood or composite deck. Even if you have a metal fire pit with a stand, you’ll need to use it with extreme caution, and keep a fire extinguisher handy. Keeping a screen over top of your fire will help avoid fires caused by sparks that can drift in the wind. )The same reules apply if using a barbecue on a wooden deck.

A fire pit is a better bet for a stone or brick patio, as the surface you’re using isn’t flammable.

Consider the view

Sometimes, the difference between choosing a deck or a patio will come own to the view. If your deck is raised up off the ground, you might get a better look at the sunset or surrounding scenery. However, keep in mind that height can also affect the privacy of your outdoor space, as a raised deck might also give your neighbors a better view of you drinking your coffee in your bathrobe.

A ground-level patio can make it easier to maintain privacy with the help of a fence or some greenery. A patio also might also be a good choice is you want to hide the surrounding view—looking at the side of an office building or a highway might not spell outdoor relaxation to you.

Check rules and building codes before you start planning

Outside of practical considerations like the terrain, choosing between a deck or a patio comes down to your preference—unless local building codes are an issue. A deck might require a permit while a patio probably won’t. Some municipalities have rules about how tall your deck can be off the ground, how many posts it will need per square foot, and the height of handrails. Checking your local regulations help you determine whether building a deck is worth it, especially if it will require a licensed contractor. But even if you choose a patio, you’ll want to call 811 (the national “know before you dig” number) first to make sure you’re clear of any utility lines before you start digging to flatten the ground.



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