Porch vs. Patio: What Is the Difference Between the Two?

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The words are sometimes used interchangeably, but a patio and a porch are not the same by definition. At their core, they both provide a spot to enjoy the outdoors close to home, and that's almost where the similarities end. Understanding the differences, however, can broaden your architectural horizons, help you decide which works better for your home, and prepare you for how much you need to spend on either for a fabulous outdoor oasis. Let's break down the porch vs. patio debate to help you decide which is best for your home.

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Porches and Patios Are Often Defined by Their Design

A porch is typically constructed at any entryway and is attached to the home. It may or may not be covered and screened. A patio, on the other hand, is constructed in or on the ground directly beside or slightly away from the home, such as around an in-ground swimming pool. It may be made from practically any hard material, including poured concrete, paving blocks, flat rocks, bricks, or gravel set in the earth. Wood decks, even those constructed on the ground, are not patios. Depending on building codes, decks and porches that are 2 feet or higher typically must have a railing.

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What Is a Porch?

While a porch (or lanai) is built near any entryway and can be screened in or not, there's more to it than that. Porches are usually part of a home's design, and as a result, are a continuation of the architectural style. Porches are often located at the front of a house, and if you're lucky enough, some even wrap around to the back. Sides are left open more often than not, or a least provide a space where people can enter and exit from outside. And they are oftentimes referred to as open-air living rooms.

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They're constructed using various materials like brick, tile, and stone laid over concrete supports, and can even be made of wood. A lot of times, if homeowners have wood floors inside their home, they will try to match the pattern and finish on their porch for a more seamless look that connects the interior and exterior design. Ideally, a porch would be built during the initial construction or remodel of a home for consistency, but it can be added on at any time.

What Is a Patio?

Image Credit: Hunker in Partnership With Acme Real Estate

Patios, on the other hand, are not attached to the house. They tend to be on the ground level in the front or backyard. They're typically made of brick, stone, or concrete, or you can even use decomposed granite in some cases. Even though you can opt for a covered patio — by investing in a structure such as a pergola or gazebo — you'll still want to use materials that can withstand the elements, as they tend to be more exposed than porches.

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Patios can be fairly easy to create and can even be a DIY project. First, you'll want to make sure you have a level piece of ground that's prepped well for the patio surface.

What to Know Before You Install a Porch vs. a Patio

If your home doesn't have a porch or a patio, and you're trying to decide which one would be best, you'll need to consider the kind of space that you have first. The architecture of your home might just work better with one over the other. You may even be lucky enough that either would work, which could make the decision a bit harder. Or perhaps you'll just throw caution to the wind and do both. Your porch vs. patio debate could end in a draw.

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The next consideration is the price tag. Typically, a porch requires a professional to install it and may even involve subcontractors if you want to add things like an outdoor kitchen, ceiling fans, built-in lighting, speakers, or custom millwork. And if you're adding a porch onto an existing home, you might need to get a permit in some areas — which will add on an additional cost. At the low end, with materials and labor, an average 6 x 12-foot porch will cost about $21,000. Although a pricey addition, porches bring years of enjoyment and add square footage to your living space. Plus, who doesn't want to watch the sunset while sitting on a porch swing? Which, by the way, is an additional cost to keep in mind: outdoor furniture.

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Patios are way less expensive, depending again on the size and how elaborate you want to get with your design. If you're going with a DIY option, it could be as low as $700 to build a simple 6 x 12-foot patio with cement pavers. If you're hiring a professional, for the same size patio using poured concrete, you're looking at anywhere from $2,000 - $4,000 all in. This, of course, doesn't include any decorative elements such as landscaping, a fire pit, or seating. But even with all of the bells and whistles, you can see a patio is still a much smaller investment than a porch, and will provide lots of space to entertain or just soak in some fresh air day and night.

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How to Decide Which One Will Work Best for You

So, we've broken down the differences between a porch and a patio. You've learned how much it would cost for either and what to keep in mind. But before you make your final decision, money aside, it's important to look at what you want for your home. When it comes to your outdoor living spaces, how much or how little do you see yourself and your household making use of it? The answer to this question often determines which option would work best for you. Both options will add a lot of style ​and​ increase the value of your home.

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Sometimes a patio can provide more space to entertain and a porch can be more intimate. But that's not always the case — sometimes a porch is like adding another room to your home. Whatever option you decide, take your time and use materials that will last for years to come, because enjoying the exterior of your home can be just as important as the time you spend on the inside.

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As an Emmy Award winning creative director, writer and producer I have worked on content for brands like Disney, BravoTV, TBS, Universal, E! and MTV. But I mostly love rearranging furniture and repotting plants at home.