Home Insight - Property Value and Home Price Check
Will That be a Deck or a Patio?
Written by: Lankarge/Nahorney for HomeInsight

Back yard circa 1960: charcoal grill, pine picnic table.

Back yard circa 2006: outdoor kitchen complete with stainless steel, multi-burner gas grill; sink and counter area for preparing foods; glass outdoor dining table; separate sitting area with synthetic wicker couch, rocking chair, reading light, and chair; elaborate deck or patio.
Resale Value
So, will a deck or patio provide you with higher resale value?

There is really no clear-cut answer to this question, but given that many home buyers are looking for less maintenance, make your choice one that requires little or no maintenance.

You may want to read Home Over-Improvement Can Lead to Market Under-Performance.

Here are a few other guidelines to keep in mind.

  • If you choose a wooden deck, think twice before applying a solid stain because it will show wear marks first.

  • Floors of wooden decks built with 5/4 boards look more like an interior floor and are the most popular.

  • Patios build on a deep base (8 to 12 inches) will likely hold up well and look like new for years.


According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau Housing Survey, homeowners across the nation spent more than $40 billion in 2003 improving outdoor living areas, and that number continues to grow as homeowners seek to create outdoor spaces designed for relaxing and entertaining.

While in the past a backyard was somewhere you just occasionally ate sitting on a picnic table in the grass, today homeowners are looking to create their own backyard retreats. These retreats often begin with an area off the grass, most commonly in the form of a deck or patio.

So, what is more popular, a deck or patio? For the homeowner with the uneven back yard, often the most appropriate choice is a deck, because you can sink piers into the ground, and then add on a level deck. Also, decks are often the choice for those who want to track as little into the house as possible, because even the best-maintained patio can collect stone dust or sand that gets trapped in shoes (or pet feet).

For level back yards the choice can come down to personal preference. There are pros and cons to having either a deck or patio. Read on to find out which might be most appropriate for you.

Decks

First was the deck made of pine, which didn't hold up very well to the elements. Maintenance was an annual event that only helped to slow down a pine deck's eventual demise.

Next was pressure treated lumber, the first generation of which included arsenic as a preservative, which raised health concerns. Today pressure treated wood is arsenic free, and it is the most common type of decking used because of its low cost.

Today, a variety of manmade decking materials are available. They often consist of a mixture of recycled plastic mixed with wood bits or sawdust. These materials are growing in popularity for one simple reason: no maintenance. Any type of wooden deck must be maintained or it will begin to look old and worn, and also become prone to splintering. Depending on the type of preservative you choose and your climate, a wooden deck will require maintenance every year or two; manmade materials require no maintenance.

The downside to manmade materials is that because they are more dense than wood they can get quite hot in the sun, making shoes a must for those with tender feet. And while synthetic products come in a variety of colors and patterns, the choices don't come close to the wide color palette available with stains. Decks built with composite materials often include structures built from pressure treated wood for strength.

Stains are the most common choice for preservatives because they apply easily and most don't peel. Clear coat preservatives tend to last the shortest amount of time, followed by semitransparent, and then solid stains.

Other choices for wooden decking include redwood, which requires little to no maintenance, and other exotic woods, including mahogany, ipe, and cedar. Vinyl decking is also growing in popularity, coming in a variety of colors - and it is maintenance free.

Patios

Slate and concrete are two of the oldest choices for patio materials. Slate is durable and can add a finished look to your back yard. Most commonly the base is prepared with processed stone, sometimes followed by stone dust, and finally the stones are set into sand. While slate is a durable choice, weeds can eventually become a maintenance issue.

There are many different choices when it comes to concrete. While that simple gray look is possible, a variety of colors are also available, as is stamped concrete, which adds a pattern to your patio, making it look more like a slate, brick or stone (color can be added as well). Concrete is often a low cost option, although choosing a colored stamped concrete can make the price jump. It is also prone to cracking.

Brick pavers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and finishes, and are often the most costly option. Although setting pavers is similar to setting slate, because the individual pieces are smaller, labor costs are much higher (and the materials are more costly per square foot).

In terms of durability, quality brick pavers can also be used for driveways, and most products are durable enough for plows.

Building bricks are a poor choice because they are not designed for ground contact and will deteriorate.

Most stone options do require some maintenance - every other year you may have to sweep a bag of colored sand into the cracks to fill in the areas that have settled. Because of this pavers are less likely to have weed issues, although grass and weeds still can creep in around the edges.

Once you've decided on your project, find out how to keep costs in line, see 10 Ways to Keep Your Remodeling Project on Budget.