Difference Between a Patio and a Deck

Although patios and decks serve the same purpose -- a place to relax, barbecue and dine outdoors -- and the terms often get used interchangeably, they are not the same. Both decks and patios generally adjoin the home, but each structure's construction and placement -- in or above ground -- makes one quite different from the other.

Patio Defined

Patios normally are constructed in-ground from materials such as bricks, patio pavers, paving stones or concrete, typically over a level, crushed granite or sand-filled base about 8 inches deep.

Patios do not have or need railings, and therefore allow for a streamlined look within the yard.

Deck Defined

Decks are built up off the ground, and usually constructed from lumber on deck blocks or footings, and attached to the home by a ledger.

A deck's height determines whether it needs a railing -- depending on building codes, a deck that stands as little as 18 inches up may require a railing.

Choosing Railing Material

The railing material affects the home's overall appearance from the street or yard, so choose it wisely:

  • Glass panels create an attractive open look, from both sides, but the openness makes them a poor choice if you if like to sunbathe or lounge in private.
  • Mixed railing materials, such as a wood frame with aluminum balusters, offer a stylish take, but consider the home's finish -- modern or rustic, for instance -- when finishing the deck.