Outdoor living has never been more popular, but if all you’ve got is a big patch of lawn you’ll have trouble lounging, cooking, dining and doing a host of other outdoor pastimes. Enter the deck and patio, two practical and often very beautiful additions to the backyard landscape whose primary purpose is to maximize your outdoor living space. In this post, I explore the pros and cons of decks and patios on 10 criteria and determine the winner for each so you can decide which one is best for your yard. Ready to dig into the deck vs patio debate? Let’s go!
#1. You have a steeply sloping yard
Steep slopes are frustrating landscaping challenges. Not only do they often create drainage problems, but they eat up prime backyard real estate. Here’s where decks are a great option, provided the slope is away from your home. A deck is raised and can have support posts of any length, so it can cope with slopes and otherwise uneven ground very effectively. To build a patio on a sloped yard you have to excavate the yard and build a retaining wall. While retaining walls can be beautiful and functional, a wall of any great size isn’t a DIY job and will be expensive.
#2. You want to do it yourself
There’s no clear winner on this point. Simple decks and patios can be quite successfully built by non-professionals, but both require professional construction to ensure safety and longevity when they become more complex. Examples of more complex decks are ones with multiple levels, great heights, soft ground or when they will be bearing significant weight, like a hot tub. Complex patios often involve retaining walls, which need to be built by experienced contractors to prevent premature failure.
WINNER: IT’S A TOSS-UP
#3. You hate maintenance
Unless you’re prepared to shell out for a deck made of composite, plastic or aluminum materials, you’re going to be stuck power washing, staining and sealing it every few years and replacing boards periodically, too. A properly installed patio, on the other hand, can go decades with little-to-no maintenance, provided you’ve chosen appropriate materials for your climate (for example, concrete can crack in southern Ontario’s extreme freeze-thaw cycles) and had them properly installed.
#4. You want it on the ground
One of my pet peeves is wooden decks on the ground. Of course they aren’t actually on the ground—a deck is always built on joists—but they’re darn close. Wood close to the ground will be subject to moisture and will rot prematurely, leading to a shorter life. If you’re building close to the ground or on the ground, build a patio for long-lasting, beautiful results.
#5. You don’t want to rebuild it. Ever.
The average lifespan of a wooden deck is 10 to 15 years. Many patio materials, on the other hand, will last longer than we’ll be around to enjoy them. You may need to periodically re-lay some of your pavers or flagstones, but complete overhauls on properly installed patios are unusual.
#6. You have a limited budget
Decks can be very expensive, particularly if you use wood alternatives to avoid ongoing maintenance. A patio that requires a retaining wall will also be costly. Our landscaping price guide estimates a medium-sized wooden deck will cost $15-30K and a medium-sized paver patio will cost $10-25K. When it comes to cost, I’ll give the win to the patio, but there are so many factors that go into price that it’s hard to give a definitive answer.
#7. You want to maximize your ROI
Decks are often seen as part of a home’s structure and are therefore considered an improvement to the home. A well-built, attractive and properly maintained deck can be expected to give you a 75% return on investment and is commonly thought to increase a home’s resale value. A patio, on the other hand, is considered landscaping and doesn’t add as much to resale.
#8. You have a gorgeous view
Decks, because they’re elevated, are excellent ways to take in the view. Not so much a patio, which is at ground level and doesn’t offer any height advantage. In the deck vs patio debate, we have to give this one to decks.
#9. You want to maximize your privacy
What makes decks the winner when it comes to taking advantage of beautiful views makes them a challenge when it comes to privacy. Yes, you can add privacy screens to your deck design for an added cost. But a patio is the winner when it comes to easily-achieved, natural-feeling privacy, simply because a patio is at ground level and can easily be surrounded by shrubs, grasses and trees.
#10. You want to integrate it with other design elements
Another advantage of a patio is how well it supports other aspects of a more complex backyard design. A deck may be perfect for a barbecue station—particularly if it’s just outside your home’s kitchen—but a patio is best if you’re looking for a full outdoor kitchen or want to integrate a hot tub or pool, fire pit, fountain or garden beds into your landscape design.
Which one was the winner for your situation: a deck or patio? Or maybe you have room for both and you don’t have to choose! If you’d like to see examples of our deck and patio designs, head over to our portfolio. If you’re ready to take your yard from blah to bliss, download our our backyard design checklist and start planning the backyard of your dreams!