Will That be a Deck or Patio?

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 homebuyers are looking for less maintenance, make your choice one that requires little or no maintenance.

Here are a few other guidelines to keep in mind.

  • If you choose a wood deck think twice before applying a solid stain because it will show wear marks first.
  • Floors of wood decks built with 5/4 boards look more like an interior floor and are the most popular.
  • Patios built 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 on 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 back yard was somewhere you just occasionally ate at a picnic table on the lawn, todayís homeowners are looking to create their own backyard retreats. These retreats often begin with an area off of the mosquito-infested 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, as you can sink piers into the ground, and then add on a level deck. Also, for those seeking to track as little into the house as possible, decks are often the choice, as even the best-maintained patio can be a place on which stone dust or sand gets trapped in shoes (or pet feet) and tracked into the home.

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

Decks

First, the deck was made of pine, which didnít hold up very well to the elements. Maintenance was an annual event, and that only helped to slow down a pine deckís eventual demise.

Next was pressure-treated lumber, the first generation of which included arsenic as a preservative, raising health concerns. Pressure-treated wood today does not include arsenic, and is the most common type of decking used because of its low cost per square foot.

A variety of manmade decking materials are also available today. These manmade materials often consist of a mixture of recycled plastic and bits of wood or sawdust. These materials are growing in popularity for one simple reason: maintenance. With any type of wood deck, you must maintain it or it will begin to look old, worn, and also become prone to splintering. Depending on the type of preservative you choose and your climate, youíll likely have to maintain a wood deck every year or every other year; manmade materials require no maintenance.

Stains are the most common choice for preservatives because they go on easily and most donít peel. Clear coat preservatives tend to last the shortest amount of time, followed by semi-transparent, and then solid stains.

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 a variety of colors and patterns are available in synthetic products, the choices donít come close to the wide color palette available with stains. Decks built with composite materials often include structures made of pressure-treated wood for strength.

Other choices for 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, available in a variety of colors Ė and maintenance-free.

Patios

Slate and concrete are two of the oldest choices. Slate is a durable choice which 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 become a maintenance issue over time.

There are many different choices when it comes to concrete. While that simple grey look is possible, a variety of colors are also available, as is stamped concrete, which adds a pattern to your patio, looking more like a slate, brick or stone (color can be added as well). Concrete is often a low cost option, although choosing a colored and 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. Thatís not only due to the preparation being similar to that of slate, but also because the individual pieces are smaller and labor costs are much higher (the materials are more costly per square foot as well). 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 deteriorate quickly.

Most stone options do require a bit of maintenance Ė 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.