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Deck vs patio
One of our most frequent customer requests is for a deck. It's no surprise. Decks are as common in Canadian backyards as grass and barbecues. They're versatile, relatively affordable and allow for easy transitions between levels in a yard. People grew up with decks. Their friends have decks. They may already have a deck that needs to be replaced. But sometimes a deck isn't the best choice.
A patio is a better choice if your deck will be built on the ground, because wood and moisture don't mix. A deck has defined edges, while a patio is more forgiving if you need to add extra chairs for a gathering (a chair leg can slip off the edge of a patio with zero embarrassment to the guest!) Patios don't require a permit and aren't subject to setbacks. Plus, the materials used in most patios last forever.
A deck is definite first choice when there's any elevation involved in your design, such as when you need to connect an above-grade exterior door to the yard below. A deck allows you to take advantage of beautiful views. If your yard is uneven, a deck can handle grade changes without requiring a retaining wall.
Decks and patios go head-to-head in this deck vs patio article, which compares the two on 10 criteria.
How a landscape architect can help
We often think of a deck as something to build in a weekend with the buddies and a couple of cases of beer. But who's taking a step back to consider the big picture? And how will you know your project is built properly?
When you work with a landscape architect, you get expert advice from someone who thinks first about the overall design and whether a deck or patio will get you closer to your end goal. Someone who knows building codes and bylaws, will ensure your property is graded properly and will bring in a structural engineer to confirm your deck can support a hot tub. If you want a creative thinker who will make sure you don't blow your budget or end up with deck regret, you'll want to work with a landscape architect on your patio or deck project.
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Deck and patio dos and don'ts
The best decks and patios look great and are built to last. They're well laid out, consider traffic flow and provide adequate space for the activity (or activities) they're designed to accommodate. The site is professionally prepared, the structure complies with local building codes and bylaws, and the materials are appropriate for the climate, use and budget.
No-nos include choosing dark coloured composite decking (it will get very hot in the summer sun); not grading the property properly before the deck is installed; using flagstone in an area that needs to be shovelled or where furniture needs to sit level; putting a glass rail next to a barbecue (unless you like cleaning); and scrimping on your patio size.