Decks vs Patios in Madison WI: What is the Difference?

Decks and patios are two great outdoor options, but which is right for you? If you’re thinking about upgrading your outdoor space, you should carefully consider the differences between them. 

Before starting any project, you should check with your local zoning laws. Some counties have requirements including blueprints, official planning commission approval, and periodic inspections while building. These requirements can influence whether you would prefer to add a deck or patio to your home. 


Patios are paved areas that are flat with the ground and can be attached to or detached from your home. Patios are typically designed around the intended landscape and are very versatile. They can take any shape and be built with materials like pavers, stone, concrete, brick, pebbles, tile, rock, pea gravel, or pebbles. Most patios are built with a sand and pebble base or concrete slab. They don’t require safety railings because they are on the ground level. 

Decks are open outdoor platforms or porches that extend out from the house and don’t have a roof. They can be freestanding or attached to the house, and they’re usually built to take advantage of an area with a view. Decks can be constructed with multiple levels and often have a railing for safety. They are usually made with wood, a composite wood material like Trex. 


Both patios and decks are located outdoors and can separate spaces. They can feature a pergola or cover for shade, and either can accommodate an outdoor kitchen. Both are also used with outdoor fire pits, although decks with fire pits need to have fireproof material like concrete, porcelain, or ceramic to separate the fire from the wood deck. 


Installing a patio is much less expensive than installing a deck because a patio is flush with the ground. Patios don’t require a lot of maintenance, since pavers and stone patios are extremely durable. A quality patio can last over 25 years without requiring much upkeep. 

Because patios are lower to the ground, they can provide you with more flexibility in your landscaping and design choices, potentially giving your home more privacy. Also, installing a patio usually doesn’t require a building permit or inspections. 


Patios might not be the best if you have uneven terrain in the ground near your home, as they are best suited for even ground. If you have uneven ground, you can still have a patio, but the costs for making the foundation more level will be high. The soil under the patio will also have to be properly prepared to reduce risk of cracking. These risks are higher if you live in an area that is prone to extreme hot and cold temperatures. 

In cold areas where it snows, ice can form on the patio and create a risk for falling. When exposed to harsh weather, leaves, mud, and mildew, patios can stain and require cleaning. 


Although decking is initially more expensive than a patio, the return on investment is 76% on average, which is higher than for patios and for all home renovations that occur indoors. Decks can be installed on any terrain, even if the ground outside your house is not level. When properly cared for, they can provide unparalleled warmth to your home. You can sit or lie down on a deck without a cushion and still be comfortable. 

Since decking can be built raised off the ground, it can give you a better view of the surroundings. This improves your home’s resale value. 

Wooden decks are also easily customizable, as they can be stained or painted to the color of your choice. You can choose to do this in the same color of your house exterior or in a complementary color. 

Decks are also comfortable in hot climates. In areas that experience a lot of sunlight, wooden decks absorb and retain less heat. 


Decks may have to be power washed, stained, sealed every few years to maintain their appearance, depending on the material that was used. Wood is more susceptible to the weather and can rot over time, giving decking a shorter lifespan. Wood can also fade and become discolored without proper treatment. 

Many areas require permits before beginning deck construction, so this might add a fee and a waiting period before you can start. You should also consider how much weight your design can handle, especially if you are planning on adding an outdoor kitchen or hot tub when the deck is complete. 

Decks can be built with certain types of wood or composite decking that are resistant to insects and weather, so you should carefully consider what materials your budget allows for. Unlike natural wood, decking that is made of composite and vinyl doesn’t splinter and usually doesn’t warp. 


More than 75% of American homes have a deck, and it’s estimated that over 40 million of them are 20 years old or older. Because building experts say the average lifespan of a deck is between 10 and 15 years, this can be problematic. 

If you already have a deck, you should check for signs of corrosion, cracks, or rotted wood. Rust on metal connectors, nails, and screws can weaken your deck. Cracks can also make your deck susceptible to collapse, as can wood that has decayed after exposure to water. You should also look for loose connections that have degraded over time, such as wobbly railings and loose stairs. 


Whether you’re trying to find Madison deck builders or patio builders for your house, Prairie Exteriors can help you do it! We can answer any questions you may have or provide recommendations based on our more than 60 years of combined experience. Call 608-370-2528 or fill out our contact us to request a quote! We’re looking forward to hearing from you. 

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