Deck vs. Patio: 3 Questions to Help You Choose What’s Right For You

Ground Level Deck without Railing

Today, we’re talking all about composite decks vs. patios to help you answer that difficult question on your mind: What should I build?

Both decks and patios are great additions to your home. They expand your useable living space and get you out enjoying the outdoors. Both allow for clearly designated zones to create a beautiful gathering place for friends, family, and neighbors to get together.  

So how do you decide what’s best for you? 

We’re here to help! We have three questions and a few key points to consider that will help you make that final decision. 

How High Is Your Door off the Ground?

Many people don’t consider the height of their back door off the ground. But if you’re leaning towards a patio, it’s going to affect how many steps you’ll need to take to access the space from your home. 

Here’s our advice: 

12 Inches or Lower

We recommend a patio when your backdoor is 12 inches off the ground or lower. This height only requires one or two steps which allow easy access to the space.

Between 12-24 Inches

Either a deck or patio works great for homes where the back door is between 12 and 24 inches off the ground.

It comes down to personal preference and how many steps you’re comfortable with having. Keep in mind that the average step is about 7 inches high. And while they may not seem like a big deal at first, too many steps may create a subconscious barrier from you using the space as much as you’d like.

More Than 24 Inches

Considering patios are typically installed level or almost level with the ground, installing one when your door is higher than 24 inches will require a lot of steps. Or, if building a patio at the same height as a door that is this high off the ground, consider the large cost of bringing in that much extra dirt to build a raised patio.

These are the cases where a deck is perfect! You can build them level with your first floor, so it truly becomes an extension of your home into the outdoors. 

How Much Maintenance Are You Comfortable With?

Other than height, another factor to keep in mind is the ongoing maintenance of a deck vs. patio. Most industry experts consider a patio higher maintenance than a composite deck, and we agree. 

Let’s take a closer look:


Over time, paver patios will naturally heave up or sink, creating an uneven surface and potential tripping hazards. Gaps will also form between the pavers from them shifting, which is far from desirable. To remedy this, you’ll need to blow out the old polymeric sand between them and add new sand about every five years or so. 

Poured concrete patios don’t have the same issues as pavers. But they are likely to crack over time, depending on the installation method. And if you don’t properly prepare and pour concrete, the finished patio may be far less durable than it should be. 

When it comes to cleaning, many experts suggest giving your patio a thorough clean at the beginning of the warm season. However, frequent cleaning throughout the year may also be necessary because patios are prone to staining. Natural substances such as mud, mildew, leaves, or other culprits such as grease can leave permanent stains that you can’t remove.


In comparison, one of the best traits about a composite deck is it’s largely considered maintenance-free for 25 years or so. 

Even when it comes to cleaning, it doesn’t get much easier than a composite deck. It’s stain-resistant, so a quick hose down will do the trick in most situations. Or a soft-bristled scrub brush with warm soapy water for the tricky spots.

How Much Do You Want to Spend? 

Initial Cost

While composite may be easier to maintain and clean, the price reflects its durability. Generally, a grade-height patio will be less expensive than a composite deck.

However, if you want to build your patio off the natural grade or on uneven ground, it requires backfilling. This process is quite costly and often becomes more expensive than building a composite deck. 


If you’re thinking beyond initial costs, there’s a significant difference when it comes to the ROI of a deck vs. patio. According to HomeAdvisor, “decks have an ROI of around 60%-80%, while patios tend to have an ROI of under 50%”. 


Additional Benefits

Composite Decks


Most decks have railings, and they come in handy in many different ways:

  • Keeping kids in a defined space
  • Preventing guests from falling who may be older or aren’t familiar with your deck
  • Adds to the aesthetically pleasing design by clearly defining the space
  • They make an excellent spot for outdoor lighting
  • Creates a feeling of comfort and safety

Easy to Build on Uneven Ground
We touched on how it can get expensive to backfill when building up or evening out the ground. Well, if you choose to build a composite deck instead of a patio, you won’t have to worry about it so much. You can install a deck on nearly any terrain, regardless of if your yard is level or not.



Considering patios are lower to the ground, you’ll usually have more privacy than you would up on a deck. Also, you have more flexibility to get creative with your landscaping to provide even more privacy. (Do keep in mind that patios typically don’t have railings, which for some leads to a sense of increased vulnerability.)

Permit Not Always Required
If you decide to build a simple patio, you may not need to obtain a permit as long as it meets these requirements:

  • It’s not physically attached to your house or other structure
  • It’s no higher than 30 inches off the ground
  • It doesn’t have a cover or roof 

Of course, these are just general guidelines. You should always check with your local building department to clarify the laws where you live. 

Deck vs. Patio Conclusion

Both decks and patios are great options for a practical and comfortable outdoor space. But we hope our advice has helped lead you towards the best choice for you and your home.

Take some time to think about your answers to the above questions and our points throughout the post. With all things considered, it comes down to your personal preference, and you should choose what you believe you’ll use the most and enjoy for years to come. 

What Next?

If you’re leaning towards a deck, you’ve made a great decision, and we’d love to chat!

At Custom Deck Creations, we build composite decks for clients all over Southeast Michigan. We’ll work with you to design the space to match your vision and budget. Check out some of our recent deck builds for inspiration, and feel free to get in touch for a free, over-the-phone estimate!

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