Are Decks or Patios Cheaper? Cost and Compare Guide


A great way to increase the usage of your outdoor space is to install a patio or deck. It creates separation from your garden space and can be used on hot summer nights to barbecue. But which one is cheaper to install?

Patios are cheaper than a deck simply due to the cost of materials and time to construct. It’s easier for a DIY’er and can be customized for less. While the patio is more cost-effective, it may not be the best choice for your home or give you the best return on investment.

Certain scenarios exist where a deck will be better than a patio, and you will need to decide which features are more important. This article will give a cost and comparison guide for both the deck and patio in prices today.

Deck vs. Patio: What’s the Difference?

These terms are interchanged commonly, but the terms deck and patio refer to different structures. They are used for the same purposes, even though they look drastically different. Here are the definitions for both outdoor features.

Deck

A deck is pretty recognizable today. They are extensions of the house in an open outdoor space elevated from the ground. A deck is made up of wood materials, but can also be composite materials. A deck doesn’t have a roof but has added features like railings.

Decks have different variations:

  • Ground Level: A low sitting deck 1 to 2 feet off the ground and held up by joists. It’s close to a patio but made from wood or composite materials. This deck sits level with the exit door and doesn’t need steps down from the house. It will save you from having to dig up the ground of your yard for a patio.
  • Detached: This deck can be anywhere on your property and not connected to the house. It requires steps or a ramp to get onto but makes for a nice feature over land that is hard to navigate otherwise.
  • Wrap Around: These decks hail from the wrap around porch. They tend to be larger and irregular, meaning the front (and sides) can be 6 feet deep but 10 feet deep in the back. A wrap around deck is great for circulating the air of your house, and for those who enjoy sitting outside no matter the time of day.
  • Multi-Tier: A deck with levels or stories that creates different areas of enjoyment in your yard. This deck works for those with large outdoor spaces. Steps will connect the different tiers and will work around the landscape of your yard. These decks are recommended for people with a sloped outdoor space.

Patio

A patio is a paved space directly on the ground and varies in thickness. You can have a patio with concrete, brick, pavers, or a combination. Patios tend to have some sort of awning or extension of the roof covering it from weather, and/or small walls instead of railings.

Patio variations include:

  • Flagstone: Flattened sheets of rock that work as outdoor tiles for your patio. They come in different colors based on the region they are harvested. This is a pricey choice, and not recommended for DIY’ers. If it’s the choice you are looking for, then the payout is a beautiful patio.
  • Clay Brick: A classic building material, and no different in patios. The aesthetic of brick compliments modern and vintage style homes. Bricks are individually lightweight and can be arranged in beautiful designs. They are great for installing yourself as they can be mortared or laid in sand.
  • Pavers: A paver is the most versatile and customized choice for a patio. They come in various materials, like concrete, brick, natural stone, and plastic. Pavers are constructed in a multitude of colors to fit any home design.
  • Concrete: The most popular choice for a patio as it’s also the least expensive. Poor concrete takes the form of the shape it’s poured into, so these patios range in size and shape. Today, concrete can be stamped or tiled for more interesting textures.

Pros and Cons

Now you know what a deck versus a patio is in materials and design. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of each in a home setting. Besides cost, you should consider sustainability, landscaping, weatherproofing, and longevity in deciding between a deck and patio.

Some pros of a deck like sustainable materials might not have been a factor you considered before. Or you might be looking for a fire-safe choice, in which the patio will be better. Take each feature into consideration when deciding between the deck and patio, because these features will affect your budget.

The following tables list out features to consider for both the deck and patio.

Deck

FEATUREPROSCONS
Resale ValueGood. The return on investment is 60-80%Will cost more to install if you are selling your house
DIYMost cost-efficient way to build a deckIt is time-consuming and requires specific tools
WeatherproofingBuilt with good materials and regular cleaning is sufficientWill need to be sealed every 1-2 years and can be expensive
LandscapeCan be built over any landscapeLandscape may require a more elevated deck and more materials
ClimateWorks in any climateMore maintenance needed in dry or humid areas
SustainabilityComposite materials cut down on tree and chemical usageGood quality woods are irresponsibly sourced
SizeVaries based on your yard sizeHave weight restrictions
PrivacyCan use foliage or screen to create privacyDon’t have roofs, so UV protection is harder to get
MaintenanceOnly need to be cleaned once in a whileRepairs can be costly
AccessibilityEasily built without stepsMay need a railing to prevent falling off
Fire RiskCan easily be improved or repairedHigh fire risk
Water DamageWhen sealed regularly can last many yearsSusceptible to water damage and rot

Patio

FEATUREPROSCONS
Resale ValueWill cost less to install when selling your houseReturn on investment is below 50%
DIYCan be quick and easy on the budget depending on the materialHeavy materials, and is hard to know if it was installed correctly
WeatherproofingVery little treatment, only cleaning and coatingEasily cracks in continuous wet weather if not coated correctly
LandscapeAre great decorative spaces anywhere in the yardNeed a level surface
ClimateLong-lasting look in hot or cold weatherFall easily to ground moisture and flooding
SustainabilityPatios made with stone or clay brick can last decadesConcrete has high carbon emissions
SizeCan be installed to any size neededYard needs to be graded appropriately to avoid flooding
PrivacyCan be built with roofs or in enclosed spaces to keep out sun and neighborsRoof repair or replacement will be more expensive
MaintenanceLess maintenance per its lifespanEasier to forget to take care of, and repairs could be costly
AccessibilityPatios on the ground are easy to accessMay need a ramp to access with wheelchair, and stones need to be flush to prevent a falling hazard
Fire RiskVery fire safeNone
Water DamageMinimal worry if sealed properlyCan retain water damage over long period of time

Average Costs

Costs of materials are continuously changing, but these numbers should help you get an idea of the current average cost for installing a deck or patio.

You can easily check the average costs in your area by checking out HomeAdvisor DecksOpens in a new tab. and HomeAdvisor PatiosOpens in a new tab. to get in touch with local professionals in your area. I’ve been able to find some good companies on HomeAdvisor for a few different projects.

National Averages

Home AdvisorOpens in a new tab. reports the average cost across the United States to build a deck is $7000 and $3200 to build a patio. These numbers will vary greatly depending on where you live, the materials you want, and how much labor you pay for. In general, a patio will be cheaper than a deck.

Home Guide reports in 2020 the average cost is $25/ square foot, but the range lands between $15/square foot and $35/ square foot. The total cost of the deck will depend on the size you want.

See the table below for the cost of common deck sizes. Keep in mind these are averages for simple square or rectangular decks, but today decks can have curves and work around existing landscapes like trees or boulders.

Deck SizeTotal Sq. FeetAverage Cost
8×1080$1,200 – $2,800
10×10100$1,500 – $3,500
10×12120$1,800 – $4,200
12×12144$2,160 – $5,040
12×20240$3,600 – $8,400
14×20280$4,200 – $9,800
16×16256$3,840 – $8,960
20×20400$6,000 – $14,000

For a patio, Home AdvisorOpens in a new tab. reports the average cost is $5/square foot, and again depends on the size of the patio. The table below shows the average total cost for a patio in three common sizes.

Same as the deck, a patio can be even more creatively designed than a square. But extra features will increase the cost.

Patio SizeTotal Sq. FeetAverage Cost
Sundeck/Bistro Patio100 (10×10)$1,200 – $2,100
Dining Patio168 (12×14)$2,500 – $5,000
Living Room Patio288 (16×18)$4,300 – $8,600

Installation

Labor costs for a deck or patio will cost about the same as the materials, but a deck may be slightly more for the concrete pouring needed for the supports. The labor costs for building a deck can be double the price for a patio. The average cost for professional installation of a deck is $35/ square foot and $10-$20/square foot for a patio.

You can potentially save the most amount of money if you decide to build a deck yourself. A contractor charges on average $6,400 for a 16×16 foot deck, whereas the cost to build yourself is the price of materials for $1,500.

Materials

The materials you choose to build your deck or patio are important for your budget. This is the area where you can splurge or save a good amount of money. You can go with simple materials like concrete (the cheapest) or use high-end materials but in a smaller footprint.

The following tables show the cost per square foot in material options for both a deck and patio.

Deck MaterialCost Per Sq. Foot
Bamboo$3 – $4
Cedar$4 – $8
Pressure-Treated WoodOpens in a new tab.$5 – $8
Redwood$7 – $8
Tigerwood$6 – $15
Ipe$10 – $15
Composite Decking$10 – $15
Trex DeckingOpens in a new tab.$8 – $20
Patio MaterialCost Per Sq. Foot (Installed)
Concrete$2 – $7
Brick$7 – $8
Pavers$5 – $10
Limestone$13 – $20
Flagstone$13 – $30
Rubber Pavers$16 – $48
Granite$18 – $22
Marble$23 – $78
Sandstone$34 – $43

As you can see, the cost of materials for a patio is as expensive as installing a deck yourself. Within each patio material choice, there are a variety of colors and textures. You may get more for your dollar with a patio, but you won’t get as much return on investment as investing in a deck.

Extra Features

Of course, there are extra features to consider when discussing the cost of building your outdoor space. Making any additions to your house isn’t as straightforward as buying materials and installing them.

Patio

For a patio, the extras come in the form of color or texture customization and privacy measures. While plain gray concrete is the easiest on the budget, it’s also boring. Today, you can stain concrete, stamp textures into concrete, and etch different shapes to make concrete look like stone.

This table lists potential finish options and extra costs for your patio. Concrete may be the most cost-effective, but it doesn’t have to be boring. These finishes will spruce up your patio without adding a large amount to the cost per square foot.

Patio Designs for ConcreteAverage Cost Per Sq. Foot
Stained$2 – $4
StampedOpens in a new tab.$1.50 – $1.70
Painted or Coated$2 – $6
Broom Finished$0.40 – $1
Decorative Stencil Masking$1 – $10
Engraved$1 – $2
Exposed AggregateOpens in a new tab.$0.90 – $1.90

Deck

Building a deck requires safety measures (if it’s more than a foot off the ground) to prevent falling or tripping. The extra features to consider in the cost of a deck include stairs and railings.

The average cost to add stairs to your deck is $150, but will depend on the number of steps. Needing 2 steps can cost as little as an extra $110, whereas 4 steps can cost up to $190 on average.

The cost of railings on a deck depends on materials and height on the handrail. Average costs are $20 per linear foot for 3 sides (the fourth is the house). Higher end materials can put the cost up to $36 per linear foot on average.

Which Is Better?

It’s a hard battle deciding on a deck or patio. With all the features that go into building either choice, the decision could take some time. If you want to make your decision based solely on which is cheaper, a deck or patio, then the patio wins.

If it were an easy decision, you would’ve stopped reading in the second paragraph. You have invested in reading this article because it isn’t an easy choice.

To make the final decision, you may need to see which is the most versatile. Using the pros and cons from earlier in this article, check out the best features of both the deck and patio in one final table.

Decks Best FeaturesPatios Best Features
Return on InvestmentSimple Materials
Landscape and ClimateLow Costs
SustainabilityDIY Project
PrivacyWeatherproofing
AccessibilitySize & Placement
 Maintenance
 Additional Features

Are you still having a hard time deciding? Does the resale value and sustainability of the deck compete with the lower pricing of the patio? Well consider a third choice:

Patio and Deck Combo

It may not be the easiest on your budget, but if you can confidently do the patio yourself, then a crew can install a small deck for less than a large deck. A patio and deck comboOpens in a new tab. requires you to plan the placement of each and install the patio first. The deck will be attached to the house, and lead into the patio.

This choice is great for outdoor spaces where you want a raised eating space, but also have a fire pit or jacuzzi that requires a more stable foundation. Having a deck may be necessary in places that snow to keep your barbecue off the ground, but a patio works well in the rest of the space.

Having a deck, even a small one, can help improve the resale value of your house, and the patio extension from the deck will give you more usable outdoor space.

Watch this great transformation video from Premier Outdoor Living, as they install a deck and patio combination:

Conclusion

The patio does win in areas like cost, maintenance, simple materials, and extra features. Even though the patio is the cheapest choice, you might be convinced the deck is right for your home. Ways to save on a deck exist, even if it will cost more than a patio. Choose the choice best for your wallet and for your home.

Robert Sampson

I'm Robert Sampson and I live in Colorado where I spend a lot of time in the backyard with my family either grilling, playing games and sports, or working on a project to make our backyard a better place to be.

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