Deck, patio, or porch: Which is best for your outdoor space?

By Michele Lerner

We asked three experts to provide some advice on how to choose between a deck, patio, or porch. Luke Olson, a senior associate with GTM Architects in Bethesda, Gary Lofdahl, an architect at Wilder Design/Build in Cabin John, Md., and Greg Marks, partner, and director of business development at Marks-Woods Construction Services in Alexandria, Va. replied.

How do you decide which makes the most sense for your home — a deck, patio, or porch?

Olson: Budget, the location of the house on the lot and the location of the existing grade, and the intended use of the space are all important considerations when looking at adding outdoor features. Decks and patios are great for grilling in the summer and using fire pits in the winter provided you aren’t putting your fire pit directly on a wood deck, while covered or screened porches can be more of an extension of the living space of the house.

Most people want to go directly from the kitchen or family room out to the deck or patio, which is fine if the lot is relatively flat, but sloping lots require additional thought on the best location for a deck/porch and how to provide access up/ down to grade. Construction costs will also vary depending on which option you choose, so it’s a good idea to have a budget in mind.

Lofdahl: The largest factor in determining the addition of outdoor living spaces is the height of the grade relative to the main floor of the house. If the main level is more than five feet lower, then adding a deck is the obvious choice. Decks are typically not in keeping with any residential style. Most architects would try to not have a deck on a custom house for that reason. Decks also add living space at the main floor level at the expense of the ground area underneath them, which is usually an unused area. Porches will have roofs and materials that help them blend in with the home’s style and massing. They typically have stone or solid wood porch floors, which look more in keeping with traditional house design. Porches inherently provide shade for the users, whereas shade on a deck has to come from nearby trees, which take a while to grow, or umbrellas or awnings that also appear “foreign” to the house style and are an unfortunate fix to shade issues.

Marks: The home’s location and surrounding environment are key to consider. Decks provide less privacy in a city environment vs. a patio that is below fence lines or a covered or enclosed porch. Decks, however, provide a better view if you are looking for something with elevation. The other key things to consider besides privacy and view include budget and space. Also, note that a south-facing backyard is going to get more direct sun. It is better to have a covered structure to increase longevity and decrease maintenance of your backyard structure.

(Courtesy: The Washington Post)

Image courtesy of (Image Courtesy: Impressive Interior Design)

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