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.
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.
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.
|Resale Value||Good. The return on investment is 60-80%||Will cost more to install if you are selling your house|
|DIY||Most cost-efficient way to build a deck||It is time-consuming and requires specific tools|
|Weatherproofing||Built with good materials and regular cleaning is sufficient||Will need to be sealed every 1-2 years and can be expensive|
|Landscape||Can be built over any landscape||Landscape may require a more elevated deck and more materials|
|Climate||Works in any climate||More maintenance needed in dry or humid areas|
|Sustainability||Composite materials cut down on tree and chemical usage||Good quality woods are irresponsibly sourced|
|Size||Varies based on your yard size||Have weight restrictions|
|Privacy||Can use foliage or screen to create privacy||Don’t have roofs, so UV protection is harder to get|
|Maintenance||Only need to be cleaned once in a while||Repairs can be costly|
|Accessibility||Easily built without steps||May need a railing to prevent falling off|
|Fire Risk||Can easily be improved or repaired||High fire risk|
|Water Damage||When sealed regularly can last many years||Susceptible to water damage and rot|
|Resale Value||Will cost less to install when selling your house||Return on investment is below 50%|
|DIY||Can be quick and easy on the budget depending on the material||Heavy materials, and is hard to know if it was installed correctly|
|Weatherproofing||Very little treatment, only cleaning and coating||Easily cracks in continuous wet weather if not coated correctly|
|Landscape||Are great decorative spaces anywhere in the yard||Need a level surface|
|Climate||Long-lasting look in hot or cold weather||Fall easily to ground moisture and flooding|
|Sustainability||Patios made with stone or clay brick can last decades||Concrete has high carbon emissions|
|Size||Can be installed to any size needed||Yard needs to be graded appropriately to avoid flooding|
|Privacy||Can be built with roofs or in enclosed spaces to keep out sun and neighbors||Roof repair or replacement will be more expensive|
|Maintenance||Less maintenance per its lifespan||Easier to forget to take care of, and repairs could be costly|
|Accessibility||Patios on the ground are easy to access||May need a ramp to access with wheelchair, and stones need to be flush to prevent a falling hazard|
|Fire Risk||Very fire safe||None|
|Water Damage||Minimal worry if sealed properly||Can retain water damage over long period of time|
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 Decks and HomeAdvisor Patios 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.
Home Advisor 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 Size||Total Sq. Feet||Average Cost|
|8×10||80||$1,200 – $2,800|
|10×10||100||$1,500 – $3,500|
|10×12||120||$1,800 – $4,200|
|12×12||144||$2,160 – $5,040|
|12×20||240||$3,600 – $8,400|
|14×20||280||$4,200 – $9,800|
|16×16||256||$3,840 – $8,960|
|20×20||400||$6,000 – $14,000|
For a patio, Home Advisor 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 Size||Total Sq. Feet||Average Cost|
|Sundeck/Bistro Patio||100 (10×10)||$1,200 – $2,100|
|Dining Patio||168 (12×14)||$2,500 – $5,000|
|Living Room Patio||288 (16×18)||$4,300 – $8,600|
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.
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 Material||Cost Per Sq. Foot|
|Bamboo||$3 – $4|
|Cedar||$4 – $8|
|Pressure-Treated Wood||$5 – $8|
|Redwood||$7 – $8|
|Tigerwood||$6 – $15|
|Ipe||$10 – $15|
|Composite Decking||$10 – $15|
|Trex Decking||$8 – $20|
|Patio Material||Cost 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.
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.
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 Concrete||Average Cost Per Sq. Foot|
|Stained||$2 – $4|
|Stamped||$1.50 – $1.70|
|Painted or Coated||$2 – $6|
|Broom Finished||$0.40 – $1|
|Decorative Stencil Masking||$1 – $10|
|Engraved||$1 – $2|
|Exposed Aggregate||$0.90 – $1.90|
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 Features||Patios Best Features|
|Return on Investment||Simple Materials|
|Landscape and Climate||Low Costs|
|Accessibility||Size & Placement|
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 combo 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:
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.