Garden with patio and composite decking

Composite decking vs patio: Which should you choose?

If you’re thinking about renovating your outdoor living space, you may be considering a patio or a composite decked area for entertaining and relaxation. But which – patio or composite decking – is the best choice for you? In this blog we’ll look at the pros and cons of each option.

How does a patio and composite decking differ?

First, let’s be sure we understand the difference between composite decking and a patio.

A patio is usually constructed from slabs, made from a variety of materials such as natural stone, brick, or porcelain. These slabs are secured to the ground using concrete to create a flat, paved area.

In comparison, composite decking consists of long boards which are fitted on to structural beams (joists) that form a substructure that is secured into the ground with posts. Decking frames can also sit on top of a concrete base, using pedestals.

Both composite decking and patios are robust options for your garden, and as long as you choose quality materials and follow correct installation and maintenance guidelines, they should both look great for many years to come. However, it’s important to review the key differences between the two and understand their advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll explore in more detail below.

The advantages and disadvantages of composite decking

Advantages of composite decking

  • Can be used at ground level, on a balcony, or on a raised decked area.
  • Extremely durable and long lasting and will often come with a lengthy warranty.
  • Very low maintenance, requiring no treatments or paints to protect it from the elements. It also only needs an occasional sweep and wash down to keep it looking like new.
  • Available in many colours and designs, such as woodgrain or ribbed finishes, to blend beautifully with your home and outside space.
  • Composite boards will not splinter, split, or warp over time, unlike real timber (see our post on timber v composite decking). They are designed to look like wood, but have none of the drawbacks.
  • Being slip and splinter resistant, they are both safe and comfortable underfoot in any weather.
  • Composite boards are a sustainable and eco-friendly option, especially if you choose Ecodek boards. Our composite boards are made from a combination of 95% sustainably sourced and recycled materials.
  • Very easy to install – you can even fit them yourself.
Composite decking in the sunshine

Disadvantages of composite decking

  • Composite decking cannot hold very heavy loads and may come with weight restrictions. For tough decking, choose a heavy duty board, such as our Signature HD collection.
  • Composite decking could require planning permission, particularly if it is a raised decked area.
  • Composite decking boards can be more expensive than many patio slabs (though porcelain tiles are equally costly!), but it’s important to consider installation, maintenance and lifetime costs (see below), rather than just the material price.

The advantages and disadvantages of patios

Advantages of patios

  • Patios, depending the material you choose, can withhold heavy loads, so are ideal if you’re planning on installing a hot tub. They are also ideal for fire pits, as they’re fire resistant.
  • Patios can be quite hardwearing, but you need to ensure you do not drop or drag items on or across the surface.
  • They are available in a wide range of different colours and styles.
  • Patios have a relatively long life span if they are looked after and maintained on a regular basis.
Natural stone paving patio

Disadvantages of patios

  • Patios need to be installed on a very flat and even surface and the cost of levelling your land could mean a deck is cheaper.
  • They can only be installed at ground level, so cannot be used to create different heights in your garden.
  • Patios are susceptible to weeds and other plants growing in between the slabs, making them look unsightly.
  • Patios require a lot more maintenance than composite decking. They will need to be treated regularly for weeds and will need a regular jet wash to keep them looking at their best.
  • Patios are vulnerable to stains, chips, cracks and breakages.
  • Patios are not easy to install, and we would always recommend using a professional. This, of course, adds an additional cost on to your new installation.

What to consider when choosing between composite decking and a patio

Here’s four further points to consider when choosing between a patio or composite decking:  

Cost

In general, composite deck boards are more expensive than patio slabs. However, there are some very expensive natural stone materials on the market!

It’s important to not only consider the cost of the paver versus the decking board, but also the cost of the entire project e.g transportation, the installation (see below) and ongoing maintenance.

You maybe able to save money by installing the decking yourself, whilst levelling and laying a patio can be more tricky.

Installation

Many composite decks can be installed quickly onto a variety of surfaces, e.g an old patio, dirt, sand or even a tired lawn. Patios, on the other hand, require more planning and preparation – and they need an even surface on which to sit.

This often means installation, compared to laying a deck, takes longer (and therefore costs more if you’re using a professional!).

Maintenance

A patio will demand more of your time to keep it looking at its best. Regular jet washing and weeding will therefore become part of your garden maintenance routine. For a low maintenance option, composite decking may be more suitable.

It’s also important to remember that if a slab becomes scratched of broken, it will be much more difficult to replace than simply swapping out a deck board.

Design options

Both patios and composite decks come in an array of different styles and colours. Whilst patios were once considered old fashioned, they can now look stylish and fashionable. Composite decking perfectly emulates real timber, but comes in many colours, from natural browns to contemporary greys and blacks. Ultimately, it depends on the desired finish as to which material you choose.

Conclusion: should I choose composite decking or a patio?

Whether you choose a patio or composite decking will depend entirely on your personal preference – your budget, your desired finished look, the age and style of your home, and the time you have available to look after your new outside area.

Whilst we’re obviously biased, we believe that composite decking provides the whole package – looks, ease of installation and maintenance, longevity, and a wide range of designs and colours to perfectly suit any outdoor space.

If you have any questions about Ecodek decking, or composite decking in general, call our expert team today on 01978 667 840.


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