February 2, 2020

Backyard Deck or Patio?

Your backyard is a blank slate. Plain, looking the same as everyone else in the neighborhood. You know you want to add some character, but what? Well that’s what this article is all about. We are here to help you make a decision as to what to do in your backyard. In this article we will give you the available options, building materials, styles and designs. After that your decision should be much easier. Let’s get to it! 

Before we separate into the two categories of decks or patios, first look at your available space. Is there any elevation challenges that may need to be incorporated into the design. What about the amount of sun that strikes that portion of the yard. All these things need to be considered before making your final decision.

Decks

Decks are the best choice if you need space in an elevated position. You could haul in dirt and fill to place a proper patio with minimum steps, but adding an elegant deck is a much more convenient solution.

A deck is perfect if you have uneven ground or a significant slope. Decks are all constructed in a similar way using dimensional treated lumber as their “bones”. What you cover your deck with, along with the railing system you choose is another story. Let's begin with the deck material itself.

***When building a deck, be sure you have your deck posts dug below the frostline. Don’t forget to call before you dig (811)

Pressure Treated

Traditionally you would use 5/4” x 6” pressure treated deck boards. Well in case you have been living under a rock, things have changed dramatically. The introduction of composite decking has changed the deck landscape. 

Pressure treated deck

You could build your deck then stain it the color of your choice. This is probably the most inexpensive option as far as up front costs go. The problem with this is the deck boards will rot eventually and the deck will need to be stained on a semi annual basis. Add this cost in for the life of the deck and you will have paid much more for a pressure treated than you would for a composite one  

Composite Decking

This material will not fade or rot. It will need to be washed from time to time. But that's the extent of the maintenance needed for composite decking. It looks great year after year. 

composite decking

Another advantage of using composite decking is the boards are flexible. If your particular deck design happens to have a curve to it, the composite decking can be heated up and bent to perfectly match those curves.

Most composite decking contains a groove in the side of the board that accepts a clip. Making it possible to lay a deck without any screw holes. 

The downside to using composite decking is the ends of the boards do not always look like the top. This can easily be overcome with proper deck design, but keep this in mind when you are designing and laying out your project.

Deck Railing

This is a feature that is usually required on a deck and not a patio. Especially if the deck is elevated a railing is a must. Using vinyl is a sure way for your railing to stand up to whatever the elements can throw at it.

Materials used for railings can vary drastically. From iron and steel to thick tempered glass panels. Or simply using more pressure treated wood. It all depends on the look you want and how much maintenance you are willing to do in the future. 

Ambient deck lighting is often times used in the railing. This creates an inviting glow that draws people to gather like a moth to a flame.

Patio

A patio is usually a paved area, similar to a courtyard that is located next to a building or structure. It is a gathering place for friends and family, often times for outdoor dining. When it comes to creating a patio there is no shortage of building materials that can be used.

Patios come in all shapes and sizes. The small patio below is perfect for morning coffee!

small patio

Building Materials

A patio could consist of a poured slab of concrete, brick, slate, tile, just about any type of paver you can imagine. Some are a combination of materials adding interest to their design. 

patio under a pergola

If you want to know how to build a patio, check out our post where we build a flagstone patio step by step. A patio is relatively easy to create as it is built on top of the ground. The most important thing is that there is enough stone beneath it to allow for drainage. This will also minimize settling as time goes on.

If you have a brick patio or walkway that needs repair check out the video below or read our blog post on fixing a brick walk.

Maintenance

Unless it is constructed of a solid poured concrete, moss and other plants will grow in the cracks. Nature always finds a way. This is easily remedied with a scraper or some weed killer. Other than that, maintenance is relatively non existent, except for the occasional sweep to remove leaves or other loose debris flying around your backyard.

Don’t let the video above scare you away from placing a brick patio near or under a tree. That was the result of almost 25 years. Yes as I said before, nature finds a way. Place your patio where it makes the most sense for you. Where you will get the most use and enjoyment out of it.

Conclusion

Still can’t make up your mind after reading this? The best designs I have seen incorporate both a deck and a patio. The deck is usually the transition between the home and the patio. Designing your outdoor space in this way creates different and interesting gathering places for you, your family and friends.

A multilevel entertaining area in your backyard is one of the best things you can do to increase the enjoyed space of your home. I hope this article has made it easier for you to decide… deck, patio, or both. Until next time enjoy your backyard water garden.

~Jeff

About the author

Jeff

I love being outdoors and hands on DIY. If you share my passion, you are in the right place. If I can help one person surprise themselves with the success of a project, then this website is a success.

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