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What’s The Difference Between A Patio & A Deck?

Decks, Patios, & Porches
By on Aug 24, 2020
What’s The Difference Between A Patio & A Deck?

While many homeowners might link the two together, make no mistake that patios and decks are very different. They both serve the same purpose, letting you enjoy the outdoors on solid ground, but there are distinct characteristics that are unique to patios and decks. Before you build a deck or hire a pro to install your patio, be sure you review the following distinctions between all decks and patios.

The Basics of Patios & Decks

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Patio means a courtyard of a house or building. Unlike a courtyard, a patio doesn’t need surrounding walls. Patios are often attached to a house, but can also be detached. Patios can take on any shape and be built with a variety of materials, which I will expand on below. Patios are almost always built at ground level and do not need railings.

Decks are almost always made of wood or composite. Decks are usually not at ground level and made to take advantage of their great view. It’s a challenging, yet common DIY project many Americans take on in the summer. Because they’re not at ground level, railings are needed. Unlike patios, you will have to seal and clean decks regularly to prevent rot and mold.

The Materials of Patios & Decks

The easiest way to distinguish patios and decks is by the material. Patios are generally made of concrete, pavers, stone, tile, brick, pebbles, rock or pea gravel. As you can see, you will have plenty of options to choose from before installing your patio.

Decks, on the other hand, are almost always made of wood or a composite material. You have plenty of wood types to choose from, but redwood and cedar are the most common. All have their own benefits as we outlined on the bottom of our decking cost estimators.

Deck Price

Price to Install Patios & Decks

Despite popular opinion, patios are cheaper to install. Wood, in general, is less expensive than concrete or tile, but the time commitment and manpower needed to build a deck outweigh the cheaper costs

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According to our patio installation cost estimator, the average cost to install a patio and a walkway is $2,637. If your project will be a DIY endeavor, planning costs are minimal. You may want to invest in landscaping software, which can help you organize different material choices and effects. Permits may be required for some patio and walkway projects in your community, making it important to verify these issues before proceeding with any manual work. Additionally, if you live in a community governed by a homeowner's association, you may be required to submit landscaping plans for review.

Decks, which are a common DIY project compared to patio installation, cost an average of $6,148. A simple deck design, such as a square or rectangle deck, will be cheaper than a customized design. Some custom decks that are built by professionals can cost as much as $5,000 or higher, while pre-selected decks may be as low as $1,500. When thinking about a deck design, you'll also want to consider your long-term plans to stay in your current home. While a deck addition can increase the value of your home, it can also become a financial burden if repairs are needed down the road.

Deck Materials

Cleaning Patios & Decks

Believe it or not, you can get mold on both your deck and patio. Deck mold is quite common and many deck owners realize this before installation, but patio owners need to realize that if you don’t regularly clean and maintain your patio, mold will appear.

Removing deck mold largely depends on the location. Deck mold can appear under, on or next to your deck. Remember, just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. If it is present, don’t worry, as I have outlined three easy steps to removing deck mold.

Bonus Tip: Remember to seal your deck once a year. This is part of the annual cleaning process for all decks.

Patios will not need to be cleaned as often as decks, but if mold occurs, head to your nearest hardware store and purchase some biodegradable patio washing products. Or, if you want to really get into it, just take out your pressure washer and hit the patio with plain water. Both should do the trick.

How To Build Green Patios & Decks

Preserving earth should never take a back seat and building a patio or deck is no different. Our good friends at HomeAdvisor point out three easy steps for building a green patio and deck.

Green Deck

  • Use composite decking, composed from recycled materials that never need to be sealed, treated or painted like wood decking.
  • Avoid irresponsibly harvested and high-priced luxury decking materials such as ipe.
  • Go with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood so you know that it's been harvested in a responsible manner.

Green Patio

  • Build a brick, stone or ceramic tile patio. They have a longer lifespan and require less maintenance than wood decks and porches.
  • Take advantage of natural shading provided by trees and shrubbery.
  • Make sure the grade slopes away from the home when your project is finished. Doing so ensures that water will run away from your foundation, preventing mold and foundation problems.


As you can see, decks and patios are quite different. While they both let you enjoy the great outdoors, patios and decks offer unique features that need to be considered before installation. To further differentiate the two, please check out our decks and patios cost estimators.

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