One of the first considerations when planning an outdoor living space is whether to build a deck or create a patio. While decks and patios come in all forms, decks generally feel like extensions of homes while patios seem to be more integrated with the surrounding landscape because they reside directly on the ground.

In some situations, the site or location of the proposed outdoor living space will determine the choice. However, with careful planning and intelligent design work, it is possible to incorporate either one. The important thing is to locate your final choice in the ideal place. Then it’s simply a matter of establishing your wants and needs in terms of budget, shape, material, and size.

Patios are much more versatile with regard to design and budget since a broader variety of materials can be used. Patios, in general, do not require railings as a deck would which allows even more flexibility in the design process. Weatherwise, patios are able to tolerate much more water from sources such as snow, rain, and pools than decks and therefore need less maintenance.

Decks are considered structures with regard to the building codes. They require building permits and inspections by building department personnel. Patios are ground-hugging landscape elements that do not require building permits. Decks and patios are both required to comply with local zoning codes in terms of setbacks and coverage.


A number of factors must be evaluated before making a final decision to build a deck or create a patio

  1. Topography – Soil conditions and changes in elevation in relation to the home are some of the landscape characteristics that will impact the decision.
  2. Views – The need to make a spectacular view a part of the completed design will affect the choice.
  3. Cost of materials – Budgetary concerns will play a large part in the decision-making process.
  4. Cost of labor – A do-it-yourself approach can lessen the impact of a costly design project.
  5. Ease of delivering materials to the proposed site – Being able to transport large-scale or heavier construction elements onto the site will factor into the final choice.
  6. Availability of materials – Inability to secure certain materials that will be a major feature of either the deck or the patio will affect the outcome.
  7. Climate – Patios are affected by temperature changes especially the cycle of freezing and thawing.

The ultimate choice as to building a deck or creating a patio will come down to how well a homeowner sees the chosen outdoor living space being aesthetically pleasing, providing opportunities for maximum enjoyment of the backyard, being a safe environment for family and friends and also adding to the real estate value of the home and its property.

Of course, if making a choice between a deck or a patio is so difficult – why not add both to the backyard and enjoy both in the process!

About the Author: Richard Vande Sompel is a professional deck builder. He is also working as a freelance writer.