Decking or patio – which one is better?

Decking or patio can be an ideal way to extend your usable outdoor space. Having that additional flat space is perfect for summer barbecues, eating outdoors, and is somewhere to place outdoor furniture relax. But which one is right for you?

When weighing up decking vs patio, several factors including your budget and space available will influence your choice. We’ve compared the two below to help you choose the perfect material for your space.

What is the difference between a patio and a deck?

A patio is an outdoor area that’s paved with stone to create a courtyard, typically used as dining and recreational areas containing outdoor furniture. They can be either attached or detached to a building, making it a flexible and versatile choice.

Decks, or decking, is similar to patios in that it can also be either detached or attached to a building. Decking is manufactured from wood or a composite of wood and plastic, but regardless of the material is usually raised above the ground to create a flat, even surface.

Common wood types used for building decking are pressure treated types of wood made from a variety of species, including cedar and redwood, as they are all insect and rot resistant which makes them retain their value over a longer time period.

Decking vs patio – how well do they perform?

Return on investment

According to a study by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a new wooden deck will return 106% of its value once a house is sold. With standard decking costing approximately between £50 – 75 per square metre, a deck can be a considerable investment for any homeowner. A recent UK survey found that home values rise by 2% when decking is installed to extend the outdoor living space. Patios can last up to 10 years, whereas decking tends to have a lifespan of 15-30 depending on quality.

In 2019, the price of a patio can vary considerably. Homeowners can pay between £12 – £32, per square metre, but this will depend on the material, shape, and size of the paved area. According to the NAR study, purchasers of a patio will recoup around 85% of its value.

Therefore, using these statistics as a guide, wooden decking would be a better return on investment, depending on the size, timber quality, and initial cost of the project.

However, a patio can work out cheaper, so depending on your landscape it could be more cost-effective. Patios will last at least 25 years and upwards, depending on the chosen material, how well it’s maintained and it’s environment (e.g tree roots growing up from underneath). Decking can last from 10 to 40 years and how long it lasts is down to whether you choose wood or composite, and also what type of wood. Not to forget if not maintained well it can half the life of your decking. Regardless, it is important you weigh your options and consider what you want to get out of your garden when receiving quotes.

Ease of Installation

Decking doesn’t need to be built on a flat surface. In fact, large tree roots and uneven surfaces can be easily overcome, since decking is built above the ground. If your home is built on uneven ground, or you have a dynamic landscape in your garden, a deck would be a better option. For a flatter surface, a patio is ideal. Depending on the complexity of the project, a decking can be built within two a few days.

Fitting decking does, however, require more tools compared to laying a patio. You’ll need measuring tools like levels, digging and excavation tools, tools for cutting including saws, fastening tools including drills and decking screws, and finally shaping and smoothing tools once finished. Depending on the type of garden you have, it could require a lot more tools e.g an excavator (digger) if your land

Installation of decking can be more complex than a patio and it is recommended that you get a professional to install it. As you don’t need level ground, it’s a perfect choice for uneven or sloping landscapes. Bear in mind that any deck higher than 300mm above ground level you will need planning permission. However, decking needs a good sub-base which includes your outer frame and joists. You should always use structural timber and structural screws to create the sub-base.

There are a few methods to securing your sub base support posts. The most common method would be to dig deep holes, put in a base layer like a half a concrete block for example, add the post and use postcrete to secure the post. Making sure the postcrete comes above the ground and slopes from the post. You can also paint the post which is below ground to give added protection. Another method is to dig deep holes then fill them with cement to give you a solid base to drill into. Post supports or post bases are recommended at this point to hold the posts in place to the concrete. No matter if your decking is above or below 300mm it is recommended to use landscape fabric and gravel underneath, however if you have a 1000mm high deck for example and you want to use underneath as storage, then you might want something a bit more substantial as base like concrete or paving blocks. Within the sub base you may need to look at building a step or steps depending on how high off the ground your deck is.

After the sub base you are onto securing your deck boards to the sub base. Now you have the choice of pressure treated boards, hardwood like cedar and composite boards and then you want to look at the types of screws that you might want to secure your boards with. Do you want it to match your deck? Do you need stainless steel? Do you want it to go into the face or side of the deck board? There are quite a few options out there. There is even custom colour head painting and edge deck fasting systems available. Final step, the finishing touches this would include finishing off the stairs and adding the fascia boards to the sides to hide your sub base. If you have a small relatively square deck, then it could potentially be fitted in a few days but all depends on size, height and shape of the deck you are looking to build.

A different set of tools are needed when installing a patio, including a trowel, a wheelbarrow, smoothing tools like a rake, measuring tools such as a spirit level and the patio materials like the cement, paving slabs and sub-aggregate.

Patios can take considerably longer to install than decking as flat ground is required. This involves lengthy construction work by laying the concrete rather than just building on existing terrain like decks. Great care and attention is needed when laying concrete in areas where ground moves considerably, to prevent the patio from cracking.

Installation of a patio is easier but requires a lot more preparation work. As they need to be laid on flat ground because you are installing your stones, paving block or concrete slabs etc directly onto the ground. If you don’t have a good flat base to start with then your patio isn’t going to be level and therefore not going to look good. A few things to note when building a patio, one typically if you are building right up against your house then you will need to make sure it is 150mm below your damp proof course (DPC). Two if it adjoins your lawn then you need to make sure the patio is 10mm below ground level so you can still mow your lawn easily.

You will need to dig out the area in which you want the patio to go, and usually you would want to allow for 100mm of MOT Type 1 or hardcore, 25mm of slablayer and then add on the thickness of your chosen slab. Not forgetting the extra 10mm if your lawn is adjoining. The subbase (hardcore or MOT type 1) will need to be done half at a time so 50mm and 50mm using a wacker plate or tamper to give an even and stable base to lay on. After that you are onto your slablayer and raking out to a level 25mm. Usually using a spray gun or water can apply water and rake level.

Now you’re onto laying the slabs. Dampen the underside of your slabs as you lay, once you have laid one gently tap down the surface to bed it down. The first slab is the most important as this is the one you work from; therefore, it must be level and square. When laying the slabs make sure you leave a consistent gap, you can use an off cut of wood for this. Just as long as your using the same thing/piece throughout. Don’t forget to use a level to check it is exactly level as you lay. It will take a few days to dry so if it’s due to rain cover it up with the plastic sheeting. Once dry use slablayer or dry mortar to fill in the joints/gaps with a trowel. To note mix in enough water to make the mixture damp but not wet. Then brush away the excess mixture before it can set and stain your paving slabs.


Decking opens up several opportunities if you’d like to customise your garden’s appearance. For instance, you can choose your deck stain colour and use coloured screws to match the wood. You could even opt for unusual colours such as bright yellow or pink if you’d prefer. You also get to select whether you use conventional wood or a wood composite. This will also affect your deck’s aesthetic.

Although there are more limited options when it comes to stone paving, there are a few choices when it comes to colour schemes. Brown, cream, grey & tan colours are common and are most likely the cheapest. As colours become more diverse, the costs of the project will increase.

How your deck or patio looks is entirely down to you. There are many variations out there for both decking and patios for all budgets. However, what material you end up choosing will also affect your costs and length in which your deck or patio will last.


Although decking has a longer lifespan, it decking requires a lot more maintenance to remain safe and to keep its longevity. As a necessity, decking needs to be washed regularly to prevent weathering and slipping, and also must be treated and stained at least every 2 years.

Patios are far easier to maintain compared to decking. They’re extremely durable and hardwearing, and aside from the occasional jetwash, there’s nothing that needs doing during their lifespan. but can benefit from a sealer to keep the colour and sheen every few years if desired but aside from that jet washing occasionally will keep the patio looking it’s best.

So should I buy a decking or a patio?

Pros of Decking

  • Has a higher return on investment on average
  • Quicker to install for simpler designs
  • Can be built on uneven surfaces
  • Can customise with unusual colours Easy to customise
  • Can have a better view
  • Comfortable under the foot in heat

Cons of Decking

  • Can be expensive
  • Requires more maintenance
  • Can require planning permission
  • Can have a shorter lifespan
  • Weight restrictions especially if you’re considering a hot tub.

Pros of Patio

  • Can be cheaper
  • Needs less equipment to build
  • Minimal maintenance
  • Provide more privacy as they are lower to the ground
  • Generally, have a longer lifespan
  • Doesn’t usually require planning permission

Cons of Patio

  • Lower return on investment
  • Longer installation time
  • Requires a flat surface
  • Has limited colours when on a budget
  • More risk of cracking especially in extreme temperatures
  • Slipping risk in colder temperatures
  • Susceptible to staining from food and drink

We looked at some basic steps needed to install both decking and patios. There are other ways to install decking and patios however we just wanted to give you an idea of what kind of labour and tools might be needed. They both have their pros and cons. In general, decking is more likely to need a professional whereas, with a patio, most DIYers can do it. Not forgetting a deck can be put up on any slope or uneven surface but a patio needs an even flat surface. Time wise a simple deck can take as little as a few days whereas it takes a few days just for paving slabs to dry. It all comes down to you and your preferences on time, cost and type of landscape you are working with.

Ultimately, it’s your choice as to whether you install decking or patio and depends heavily on your requirements and type of garden you have. Either way, ensure you shop around for the highest value deal to get your dream patio or deck.