When nice weather comes around, no one likes being cooped up indoors. Decks and patios can introduce a whole new dimension to your home by extending your living space outside. If you decide to install a new deck or patio, there are many routes you can take and a local landscape professional can help you get the job done.

Before you decide on any course of action, you'll want to ask yourself a few key questions: How will I use this space? How do I want it to look? Do I want this area to be part of the yard, or separate from it? Does it need to be kid-friendly? Will this be a social entertainment area, or a quiet retreat?

The answers to these questions will help determine whether a deck or a patio is a better choice. The responses will also guide your decisions regarding the layout, size, and the materials you will use. Your plan starts with a vision.

Basic Considerations: Patios vs. Decks

Patios are flush with the ground and generally made from paver stones, bricks or concrete. Being at an even level to the rest of your lawn creates a connection between your living space and your landscape. Surrounding shrubs, trees, and flower beds become key elements of the area. The stonework in patios makes it easy to incorporate other stone features such as fire pits, birdbaths, fountains, or other water features.  Patios are also excellent foundations for outdoor kitchens; however, the materials used in their construction are generally more prone to staining.

Decks, on the other hand, are typically made of wood and are raised off of the ground. Their elevation creates a separation from the rest of your landscaping, but also provides a vantage point from which to view your yard. To ensure safety, decks need to have some sort of boundary around their perimeter. This is often a railing or fence, but it could also be a built-in bench to provide ample seating area.  Decks generally have a softer surface and are generally more baby and toddler friendly.

In broad based comparisons, decks are generally more costly to install than patios.  Of course, material selection, size, features, and installation issues will be the final determinants in price considerations. It is also worth noting that many cities and towns require permits for decks and many assess taxes on them as outdoor living space.

Land disorders?

There are also several practical considerations to take into account when planning a new patio or deck. First of all, a patio requires level ground. While minor unevenness can be corrected before the stonework is laid, the long-term integrity of the patio is dependent on the consistency of the ground beneath it. Since raised decks already require an underneath support structure, this structure can compensate for sloped or uneven ground.  

Material Considerations

If you decide on a deck, the material you use can vary. Traditionally, decks have been made out of wood. Even treated wood must be stained and washed periodically. It is also inevitable that splinters will appear over time, decreasing its safety and appeal. A recent alternative to wooden decks are synthetic composite decks. This material is a blend of plastic and sawdust molded into the shape of standard lumber. While more expensive than wood, composite decking is just as attractive as wood while requiring no maintenance.

The most common materials for patios are brick, cement, and stone.  Each has its advantages and a few potentials for concern.  Brick and stone offer some of the most attractive looks for patios yet, not surprisingly, are some of the most expensive materials.  Another concern with brick is that, over time, its surface can become uneven.  There are a variety of attractive finishes that can be created with cement these days so versatility is a huge advantage; though it can be difficult to install and has limitations in colder regions.

Whatever option you choose – a deck or a patio - endless hours of outdoor enjoyment await as you and your family enjoy your new outdoor living space.

Photo courtesy of GoldGlo Landscapes, Millersville, PA. 

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