What is the Difference Between a Porch, Balcony, Veranda, Patio and Deck?

Whether it’s spring, summer, autumn, or winter, it’s also great to enjoy the outdoor, even if it’s only from your balcony, porch, veranda, patio, or deck. And speaking of that, what’s the difference between all these spaces. They are certainly similar to a certain extent and we often use them interchangeably. Still, this doesn’t make them synonyms. There are, in fact, clear differences between all of the areas described by these terms.

The porch.

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A porch is a covered shelter projecting in front of the entrance of a house or building in general. The structure is external to the walls of the building but it may be enclosed in certain types of frames including walls, columns or screens, extending from the main structure.

Types of porches:

Not all porches are the same. In fact, there’s quite a variety of types based on their design, placement and other factors.

An open porch

This is a porch that doesn’t have any sort of side walls or enclosures. It’s simply an elevated structure with a roof overhead. This type of porch provides a close connection to the outdoors.

A front entry porch

As the name clearly suggests, this type of porch is directly attached to the front door and marks the main entrance of a house. It’s typically quite small and simple and often has a set of steps leading up to the front door.

A farmer’s porch

This is a porch typically attached to a farmhouse-style structure. It has a roof and support beams as well as railings and it goes along the front of the house creating an extension along the width. It’s long and narrow and big enough to accommodate large groups of people and to be furnished and accessible in lots of different ways.

A back porch

This is more or less the opposite of a front entry porch. It’s located at the back of the house and connected to the back door. It’s often open and it has a roof and it can be quite big, depending on the house. A back porch provides lots of privacy.

A detached porch

While the other types of porches are attached to the house, this one is not. It’s a separate structure a bit similar to a pavilion or a gazebo in some ways. It can be attached to the house via a walkway or a pathway and can have a variety of different designs.

A screened porch

This is also a rather special type of porch in the sense that it’s enclosed by screens. It also has a roof and it’s a space which can be used all year round since it’s protected from the elements. In some cases it’s considered to be an extension of the living area.

A rain porch

A rain porch, as you can guess, is designed to block out the rain. It has a roof with an extension similar to an awning so the angle allows the rain to drip down and also provides protection from the wind. This design allows users to enjoy the porch regardless of the weather.

A portico

This is a type of front entry porch. It has a rather specific design with a roof and several support columns. It’s not meant to be used as an entertainment space or an area where people lounge and relax. It’s merely a structure that marks the entrance and add depth and detail to the house.

A lanai

This type of porch comes from Hawaii and it sometimes found in areas with warm climates. It has a roof and can also have walls but it’s also open to the elements on at least one side. It can be quite big and it provides a space which can be used all year long.

The balcony.

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A balcony is a platform on the outside of a building, enclosed by walls or balustrades, supported by columns or console brackets. The platform is projecting from the wall of a building, usually above the ground floor. Balconies are typically small and are not used as social spaces or for entertainment purposes.

Types of balconies:

We all have a clear idea of what a balcony is but the actual image and design can differ from case to case. That’s because there are actually several different types of balconies and they’re not really that similar to one another.

A true balcony

This is what many of us envision when trying to describe a balcony. It’s a space with a floor and railings and it’s open to the outdoors. It can be quite big and can hold furniture so you can have a couple of chairs and a table or a bench out here and enjoy the view from up top.

A faux balcony

This is a space that is designed to look like a balcony but in fact it’s not. It doesn’t have a floor so you can’t really stand on it but it does have rails in order to give the impression of an actual balcony. It’s mostly a decorative structure meant to make the exterior of a house look more interesting.

A false balcony

Not to be confused with a faux balcony, this one is basically just a small regular balcony. It has a little bit of floor space and railings but it’s not really big enough to hold furniture. It’s often a way to extend a room and to make it feel more open and airy and it’s often a part of an apartment.

A mezzanine balcony

This is a real balcony but indoors. It has a floor and railings but it’s inside the house. It can be something you find in tall houses with multiple floors. A mezzanine balcony can definitely make a space look more interesting and can serve a variety of purposes.

The veranda.

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This term has two forms, ‘verandah’ also being correct, although the version without an ‘h’ is usually preferred. A veranda is a roofed platform along the outside of a house. It’s level with the ground floor and often extends across both the front and the sides of the structure. It can be partly enclosed by a railing.

Types of verandas:

There’s plenty of diversity when it comes to verandas as well. There are several different types to choose from and lots of designs to pick from.

A flat roof

This is one of the most common types of verandas. It has a simple design with a flat roof and it’s typically very versatile. The flat roof can cover large and small spaces or all different shapes and can suit all styles.

A curved roof

A veranda with a curved roof has a distinctive look and stand out more compared to one with a regular flat roof. It can also appear more elegant and detailed and can potentially become a focal point.

A gazebo

Everyone knows what a gazebo looks like and although the designs and size can vary quite a bit there are still enough similarities no matter what style you choose. The design of a gazebo of course is more complex than that of a simple veranda with a flat roof for example.

A pergola

This is a structure that can either be attached to the house and look like an extension or that can be detached and be its own separate thing. The designs and styles can vary and some elements can be missing in some cases.

A sunroof

A veranda with a sunroof is very versatile. The advantage, in this case, is that the roof can be opened or closed so that you can either enjoy the shade or so that you can see the sky and enjoy the sunlight. You can open or close the roof based on the weather and your own preferences or needs.

A gable roof

A veranda can also have a classic gable roof which can give it a look that’s a bit more traditional or rustic compared to other styles. A gable roof also allows the rain and snow to drip down instead of collecting on top.

The patio.

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A patio is a paved outdoor area adjoining a house, generally used for dining or recreation. The term comes from Spanish where its meaning is different (inner courtyard). Common materials employed when building a patio include concrete, stone, bricks but also tiles or cobbles. Patios are often decorated with plants and outdoor furniture.

Types of patio materials:

It’s not just the design of a patio that matters. The material from which you decide to build the patio is very important as well. Choose the right material based on your needs.

Concrete

Concrete is a very common material for patios. It’s nice because it allows you to create a very flat and clean surface with a uniform design. Moreover, concrete is very versatile and can be poured in all sorts of layouts, allowing you to give your patio any shape that you want without being limited to using only straight lines. Concrete is also a very resilient material.

Asphalt

This is also a common material used for patios. It’s appreciated for its affordable price and its versatility. Asphalt is flexible and can withstand changes in temperature throughout the year and it has a simple and flat look which gives you a smooth surface to work with. An asphalt patio can be easily and quickly repaired if needed.

Pavers

Another popular option is to use paving stones or pavers to create a nice-looking patio. Pavers can be made from a few different materials, concrete and brick being two of the most common ones. They can be arranged in a variety of different patterns and they come in a variety of different shapes and colors. Their colors usually fades over time and they can also get damaged but repairs are easy to do.

Natural stone

Flagstone patios are very appreciated for their simplicity and their natural and organic look. Unlike pavers, natural stone doesn’t fade over time and ages beautifully which allows you to keep your patio for a very long time. The stones have irregular shapes which can sometimes make installation easy but at the same time this is one of their most appreciated features.

Gravel

Gravel patios have their pros and cons. On one hand, they’re easy to install and can be completely done as a DIY project. They also facilitate drainage and can be relatively cheap in general. On the other hand, gravel is a loose material and the small pieces are likely to get pushed around and scattered throughout the yard which can require quite a bit of maintenance. A gravel patio is also not as easy to walk on as a concrete one. The same pros and cons apply if you want to build your patio using sand.

The deck.

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A deck is a flat, usually roofless platform adjoining a house. Decks are typically made of lumber and are elevated from the ground. It can include spaces for BBQing, dining as well as seating. Decks are generally enclosed by a railing. In some cases, decks can also be covered by a canopy or pergola.

Types of decks:

Before going ahead and building the first type of deck that comes to mind, it can be helpful to do a bit of research and check out all the options. It might turn out that some other type of deck would be better suited for your space and your needs.

An attached deck

The description here is pretty straight-forward. This is a deck that’s attached to the house, typically at the back. The house is a lot of times either L-shaped or U-shaped which allows the deck to fit perfectly and naturally at the intersection of the walls.

A detached deck

As expected, this is a deck that isn’t attached to the house. It can be positioned anywhere on the property, as close or as far away from the house as preferred. It can adapt to uneven or difficult terrain and there’s usually a pathway or a set of steps connecting it to other points of interest.

A wraparound deck

Some houses have a wraparound deck or porch which basically extends the house on all sides and provides a covered outdoor space which all the rooms can access. It’s slightly elevated and it creates a smooth transition between the indoor and the outdoor.

A multilevel deck

This type of deck is great for properties that have a steep slope or differences of elevation. It’s not a single deck per se but a whole series of decks that are interconnected and spread on multiple levels. They’re perfect for hills, slopes and rocky terrains where other types of decks would be too inconvenient or difficult to build.

A poolside deck

It’s common to have a deck around a swimming pool or a pond. The deck is often made out of wood which doesn’t get as hot in the sun as concrete or other materials do, thus allowing swimmers to walk on it comfortably as they get in and out of the pool. A poolside deck is also commonly accessorized with lounge chairs and umbrellas.

An entryway deck

This type of deck is similar to a front porch but the different here is the roof. An entryway deck is not completely covered overhead and has a more open design. It has have benches and planters or other accessories and it can take a variety of different shapes.

A rooftop deck

Houses with flat roofs sometimes feature a rooftop deck which is an open and sometimes covered space that provides a nice view of the areas below and the surrounding landscape. Rooftop decks have safety rails and can be placed on top of garages. They’re also fairly common in urban areas.

Types of deck materials

Decks are almost exclusively built out of wood which in a way makes choosing the material easier than in other cases. However, there’s a wide variety of types of wood to choose from and they have various different characteristics that may either appeal to you or that you can may disapprove of.

Cedar

Cedarwood is often preferred because it’s inexpensive, durable and easy to work with. Its natural beauty gives it lots of character and on top of that a deck built out of cedar wood can last anywhere between 15 to 20 years with proper maintenance.

Redwood

This type of wood is appreciated for its strength and also for the fact that it’s lightweight and easy to work with which makes it a suitable choice for DIY projects. However, redwood can be quite expensive compared to other materials. Like cedar wood decks, those built out of redwood last between 15 to 20 years with regular maintenance.

Pressure-treated wood

This is a very common material for decks and part of the reason is its very low cost compared to a lot of the other options. It’s made of fir treated with anti-rot and insecticide agents which are effective at preserving the deck in good shape and don’t present health hazards unless they burn. Decks made out of pressure-treated wood can last for a very long time (several decades) and require refinishing every year.

Vinyl

This is a great material if you want to build a deck that’s basically maintenance-free. PVC is very resilient, easy to clean, doesn’t get damaged by water or insects and can last for a very long time. It’s quite expensive, comparable to redwood from this perspective. It comes in a variety of different colors.

Composite

This is also a low-maintenance material which can last for a very long time. It’s made of wood fiber combined with recycled polyethylene and has a texture that mimics solid wood. It’s versatile and requires minimal maintenance but can allow mold to grow on it if not cared for properly. The price is similar to that of vinyl decking.

Ipe

This is a type of South American hardwood that is naturally-resistant to rot. It’s also very durable which makes it an excellent choice for deck building. However, it’s also difficult to work with and required yearly maintenance in order to keep its rich color and appearance. It’s the most expensive material on this list.