Decks vs Patios: Cost, Pros, Cons, & Comparisons

Outside living spaces like decks and patios offer a wealth of opportunities for entertaining. From grilling out with family and friends to simply unwinding after work, a patio or deck can create the right atmosphere for many happy memories.

But before you take the plunge on planning an outdoor living space that works for your lifestyle, you might have questions. Is it cheaper to build a deck or a patio? (Hint: a patio is usually cheaper though a deck is a better return on investment.) Which is easier to build? Should you build a deck attached to your home or a free-standing patio? There are many options when it comes to building outdoor living spaces and it can be tough to weigh the pros and cons.

Differences Between Decks & Patios

The primary differences between decks and patios include the way they’re designed, their location at your home, and the building materials used. While both provide you with valuable outdoor living space, there are factors to consider, such as wood vs. concrete and ground-level vs. raised. Understanding the differences between decks and patios can help you make an informed decision about which is right for you. You’ll want to consider the costs, location, the terrain, and your own personal tastes.

Beyond the differences between decks and patios, there are different subcategories for each. Compare them to see which is right for you.

What is a Deck?

Decks are raised platforms made of a variety of materials, including wood, pressure-treated lumber, composite, PVC, and more. Usually, a deck is attached to the home. They can sit high above the ground and be accessed via a staircase or be built low to the ground and raised only by joists.

 

Two Types of Decks

While an elevated deck may be what comes to mind for many, it’s possible to also have a deck at ground level. This type of deck is different from a patio because a patio sits directly on the ground while the deck does not.

Elevated deck with lighting built into stairs, posts, and platform Elevated deck with lighting built into stairs, posts, and platform
Elevated deck with lighting built into stairs, posts, and platform Elevated deck with lighting built into stairs, posts, and platform
  • Elevated Deck - In many neighborhoods, elevated decks extend from the living and dining areas of the main floor. Because they’re elevated, they work well on sloping lots and other uneven ground, which makes them ideal for raised homes or hilly areas.
Ground level deck well lit at dusk
Ground level deck well lit at dusk
  • Ground-Level Deck - Despite the name, a ground-level deck is not completely level with the ground. While these decks are low to the ground, they still require a slightly raised substructure. Ground-level decks often have a few stairs for guests to comfortably access the deck. Additionally, a ground-level deck requires less maintenance than an elevated deck and does not have to be attached to the house in order to be a stable structure.
Stone patio with fountain and lounge chairs White brick patio with fountain and lounge chairs
Stone patio with fountain and lounge chairs White brick patio with fountain and lounge chairs

What is a Patio?

Patios are outdoor seating areas that are flush with the ground and often made of concrete. (Although concrete is considered the most popular building material for a patio, you may also choose stone, gravel, and other materials for a patio.

One of the most important considerations for those weighing installing a patio or deck is whether or not your ground is level. Since patios sit on the ground, a patio needs to sit on a flat surface. Alternatively, you can shore up the ground so it’ll be flat.