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Wooden backyard deck

As the summer season draws near, and you’re considering a yard renovation, there’s a big question to ask – is it better to enjoy the outdoors on a wood deck or concrete patio? Or how about a flagstone patio? There are several choices to consider, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks. Let’s break it down!

The Difference Between Decks and Patios

The differences between decks and patios include the level at which they’re built and the materials used to build them.

Patios can be thought of as the courtyard of a house, constructed on the ground level for a cozy backyard setting. Usually patios are created with various types of foundations, including concrete, stone, tile, brick or rock. Wood, although an option, isn’t widely used for patios.

Unlike patios, decks are built at a higher level, or, if near the ground, not directly on the ground. Decks are typically built with wood or composite, so you don’t have as many choices as you would with a patio. Decks also need to be sealed and cleaned to protect against rot and mold.

An Important Similarity

For both patios and decks, water can cause major damage. Tanya Klein, CEO of Anta Plumbing, advises, “Keep water far from decks if possible. Decks are supported by a structure, and even slow drips could destroy the foundation of the deck. If you have a kitchenette, make sure you winterize it.”

Charles Thayer, founder of All Around and host of a weekly home improvement radio show, echoes this, saying, “Installing a patio on uneven ground could create water drainage issues around your home. If done correctly, a patio should help water drain away from your house.”

Types of Patios and Decks

There’s not one clear-cut option that surpasses another when it comes to patios and decks. The biggest factors to consider are personal preference and what you’re looking for in prices, aesthetics and maintenance.

Flagstone Patios

If you live in a part of the country with drastic changes in weather and you want a unique design, think about a flagstone patio. Flagstone is one of the best materials out there; it’ll last a long time and there’s little maintenance involved, so you won’t have to worry about constant upkeep.

As with anything, there are a couple drawbacks to consider with a flagstone patio.

Your patio can be slippery when wet, and hot under your feet on a summery day. Thayer adds, “The downside of flagstone is that it’s more expensive. It can also be harder to work with, so it’s really important that you are selecting a contractor who is seasoned in working with flagstone to make sure the job is done right.”

Brick Patios

While you might be sold on a flagstone patio, a brick patio is another style to consider. Brick is timeless and traditional with a modern feel.

Brick patios have a few more positives:

  • The colors never fade
  • Easy to repair
  • Versatile designs
  • Quality, authentic material

On the other hand, brick is costly, and the design is difficult to change once the construction is finished. Another factor to keep in mind – cracks!

According to J.B. Sassano, President of Mr. Handyman, “Stone, brick or even the cement slabs all have the same enemy – cracks. Cracks provide a place for weeds to grow, a place for ants to go, as well as a place for water and moisture to get in and slowly wash away the base that holds them up. This, in turn, can make an unsightly, uneven surface.”

Concrete Patios

Now, concrete is a little different from flagstone and brick, but it offers just as many wonderful attributes. Concrete patios are low maintenance and inexpensive. And like brick and flagstone patios, you can stamp or color the concrete to fit many different styles.

Here’s some downsides of concrete to consider:

  • Expand and contract which eventually leads to cracks
  • Necessary to reseal repeatedly over time
  • Very slippery when wet
  • Extremely hot on bare feet

Composite Decks

Composite is a mix between wood fiber and plastic, with a few other ingredients. It has the appearance of wood, but it won’t rot, splinter or twist like wood.

On the plus side, you won’t have to worry about keeping up a composite deck, because there’s very little maintenance involved. The good news, too, is that composites are made from waste, like shopping bags and sawdust, which helps the environment.

Before you jump to the conclusion that a composite deck is exactly what you’re looking for, keep in mind a few more factors:

  • Under shade or in a damp area, color can change
  • Chilly for bare feet on cold days
  • Composite can be costly

If you live in the Midwest, Thayer advises against composite. “In the Midwest, temperatures and humidity fluctuate a lot. With those changes, composite decks will expand and contract. If it’s not installed perfectly, you will start to see warping, cupping or twisting and turning.”

Wood Decks

Before you start building, determine whether a treated or untreated deck is right for you.

Treated wood has some benefits:

  • Resistant to the weather, rotting and insects
  • Its unnatural color is easily noticeable and the material doesn’t warp or bend easily

“Pressure-treated wood decks are perfect for locations with high moisture. Not only will these decks resist splitting or warping if treated properly, they are also less prone to rot and insect damage,” says Sassano. “Decks made with pressure-treated wood only need to be washed once a year and finished with a preservative sealer. With proper care, they can last up to 30 years!”

Untreated wood has its own benefits:

  • Holds a natural, authentic look
  • Depending on the type of wood used, price can be inexpensive

When it comes to choosing a wood material, Klein suggests cedar. “It’s a great material and can be protected from rainwater because it doesn’t absorb moisture. To retain the color of cedar, you’ll just need to clean and reseal every year or two.”

Whew. So many choices between decks and patios and their materials – in the end, it really just depends on the look you’re going for.

Which style and materials do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below!

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