Home renovations made simple
Looking to make the most of your outdoor space? Now more than ever, utilizing the maximum square footage available on your property will improve your quality of life. The only question is, deck or patio? Whether you’re looking to expand your entertaining possibilities or to create more privacy for yourself and your family, building an outdoor addition will help you achieve your vision.
Sturdy, stamped concrete or wooden deck with a view of the whole neighbourhood? The answer depends on your budget, the characteristics of your backyard, and your design goals. Learn about the pros and cons of wood decks and hardscape patios below.
Wood decks: pros, cons, and costs
Cottage life isn’t complete without a wood deck—or is it? The warm look of wood evokes memories of summers at the lake, family celebrations, and gatherings with friends under the sun. If high lumber prices are causing you to consider alternative materials or a more affordable hardscaped patio, you should still understand the pros and cons of a wood deck.
Elevated or ground level?
A wooden deck “floats” above the ground rather than resting flush against it. There are two main types of raised wooden decks:
Elevated decks are continuous between indoor and outdoor spaces. This is the go-to deck design for hosting dinner parties that transition seamlessly to outdoor barbecues. If you’re looking to have more separation between living areas and gathering zones, this will not be the best choice for you.
Ground-level decks or wood patios are still slightly raised, though often placed a few steps down from the main living area. This offers increased privacy and draws a clear line between indoor and outdoor spaces. You also have the option of incorporating a paved, concrete area into your wood patio to reduce the overall cost of your renovation. Choose the design that best suits your lifestyle and preferences.
All-terrain. No matter the rocks, soil type, or slope of your backyard, you can build a floating deck over it. The versatility of wooden decking makes it a popular choice for larger constructions on uneven terrain.
75% return on investment. The ROI of your wooden deck can reach up to 75% of the installation cost when you sell your home. If you’re looking to improve an investment property, the short-term affordability of a concrete patio doesn’t compare to the long-term value of a wooden deck.
Create the illusion of space. If you already have hardwood floors, adding a deck tricks the eye into seeing extra square footage—even though the added space is on the other side of the sliding door.
Building permit. Constructing a deck will usually require a permit. Check with your local construction authority about the paperwork and inspections required for your proposed outdoor extension. If you are working with a qualified and experienced contractor, they may be able to obtain the permit for you prior to starting work.
Weight capacity. If your deck will play host to an outdoor kitchen or a home spa, it will require additional supports. Bulky joists or scaffolding can detract from the visual appeal of your deck. If conditions allow, consider a patio instead of a deck as the foundation for your home sauna.
Maintenance. You’ll have to power wash your wooden deck annually if you want it to last. Re-painting and re-sealing may also be required every two or three years. If decreasing maintenance requirements is your primary concern, you don’t necessarily have to opt for a patio over a deck—simply choose a lower-maintenance material like vinyl for your outdoor decking.
What’s the cheapest way to build a deck?
The cost of building a wooden deck has been climbing steadily since 2020, and now runs between $23 and $57 per square foot. Low supply of and high demand for lumber is the culprit for your expensive outdoor decking. Cut costs by using alternative materials like bamboo or Trex or invest in a composite patio—a smaller wood deck with a concrete patio extension to add extra square footage at a lower cost.
Is decking or paving cheaper?
In the current market, paving is usually cheaper than decking due to the lower cost of materials and labour. If the ground requires extensive preparation before pouring concrete or installing your composite patio slabs, the cost becomes comparable. Ask your contractor for an estimate based on your yard’s terrain considerations.
Hardscape patios: pros, cons, and costs
Stone and concrete are the more affordable options for constructing an outdoor space. Even homeowners who prefer the look of wood may gravitate towards the lower cost of a stone deck. Remember to look beyond the price tag and to take the unique characteristics of your property into account before choosing a patio over a floating deck.
Aesthetics. Natural stone brings understated elegance to any outdoor decking. A floating stone deck will cost even more to install than a wooden one, while placing the same pavers flush to the ground in a patio provides the same look for a lower price.
Price. A concrete patio is cheaper than a wood deck. In most cases, labour and materials costs are lower for paving than decking. However, the cost of paving rises if special ground preparation is required or if a more expensive type of natural stone is being used.
Privacy. Located on the ground floor and often enclosed by plants or screens, a hardscaped patio affords more privacy than an elevated deck. Make the best of both worlds by installing a wood deck that leads to a concrete patio. Entertain your guests while enjoying the view from on high and continue the festivities at the ground-level fire pit when night falls.
Durable. For a patio that stands the test of time, you can’t beat concrete, brick, or natural stone. When installed on level ground, a hardscaped patio will last for decades. Note that cracking may occur when your patio is installed over poorly drained soil. Ask your outdoor renovation contractor about any soil preparation that may be required to ensure a successful patio installation.
Low maintenance. Unlike wooden outdoor decking, stone and concrete don’t need regular repainting and power washing to prevent rot and decay. Lay down bricks and leave them be—set and forget stamped concrete. Wooden decks require time and attention after installation.
Lower return on investment. Hardscaped patios will net you an ROI of 30-60% when selling your home. While still adding to resale value, it doesn’t compare to a 75% return from a wooden deck.
Slope matters. Because a hardscaped patio lies flush with the ground, even terrain is required for successful installation. On grade patios can still be installed on a slope if the change in elevation is constant—but do you want to grill on an incline? If you have a hilly backyard and plan to entertain, you may prefer a wood deck to a patio.
What’s the cheapest way to build a patio?
A DIY on grade patio made from poured concrete can cost as little as $700 to install. Sandstone and flagstone are slightly more expensive, running you $11-$30 per square foot of hardscaped patio. Paving your yard in granite cobblestone, at up to $50 per square foot, is certainly not the cheapest way to build a patio. The deciding factors in your budget will be your chosen materials and the cost of labour.
Is a floating deck or a patio right for you?
Your budget, your property’s terrain, and your personal design preferences will all contribute to your decision. Even in today’s renovation market, with lumber prices higher than they have ever been, an elevated wooden deck may be the right choice for your backyard. Concrete patios are more affordable than wood only when installed over level ground and well-drained soil.
No matter your decision, hiring a vetted contractor to manage your project will help your outdoor renovation run smoothly. Guarantee the successful installation of your deck or patio by enlisting top home renovation professionals in your area.
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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.