Decking vs paving: 4 important lessons from a professional landscaper

Decking vs patio

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For anyone looking to upgrade their garden, somewhere to sit and bask in the sun is a must. But often we only have space for either a patio or decking, not both.

 So which one is better and how do we decide?

The quick answer: Patios take the gold medal

Each has its strengths but overall we would say that a patio is better than decking.  Patios last longer, can be easier to maintain and are stronger. 

But if  you are looking to do it yourself then a decking might be easier because you need less tools and less skill. If you are going for decking we always recommend composite, here is a helpful article which explains why.  

There are also lots of other alternatives to decking and paving which can save you money

The long answer

Types available

If you are looking for choice does patio or decking offer the most?

Short answer:  Paving still has much more variety but decking offers a good variety too

Up until a few years ago, the variety of decking available would pale in comparison to the variety of paving available.  However with the arrival of composite decking that has changed.

Both decking and paving have huge varieties available to suit all tastes and styles. 

The influx of Indian sandstone has brought the price down meaning you can get a high quality, real stone patio for almost the same price as plain old concrete paving.

Porcelain paving is now available in any style and text you can think of including a variety of nice wood effect tiles. The options are almost endless for paving.

When it comes to decking we used to be stuck with various types of wood which we could paint or add a finish to.  In recent years composite decking has taken over a large chunk of the market and for good reason.  composite decking comes in a wide variety of colours which is not available in normal wood.

Winner:  Patio

Price

Short answer:  There’s not much in it for the price but it depends what you want.

The all important factor for most people, price.  of course there are very cheap options for both however if you are looking for the cheapest solution then it’s hard to beat plain concrete paving which comes in around £60 per square metre. 

However for most people you want something a little more special than playing old concrete.  

When it comes to price patios and decking are neck and neck. 

good quality composite decking will cost around the same as good quality porcelain paving per square metre. Wooden decking will cost around the same as as basic Indian sandstone paving.

Winner:  it’s a draw

Lifespan

Short answer:  it’s close but overall a patio will probably last longer than decking

Lifespan varies tremendously for decking and patios depending on the materials used the installation method and how it is used.

Traditional wooden decking will have a lifespan of 5 to 15 years as long as it is treated well.  Some high quality wooden decking may last longer.

Composite decking which is a mixture of wood and recycled plastic has a much longer lifespan. 

Composite decking companies offer up to 25 years guarantee against discolouration and you are likely to get many more years of use after that. Combined with a plastic lumber base your decking will be almost age proof.  You could get up to 25 years from your decking.

If you’re up for cheap paving  laid on a sand base you can expect around 5 years before it needs levelling.

However if you opt for a nice stone patio with a solid Foundation this has  no upward limit  and if it’s treated well you can expect a lifespan similar to that of composite decking

Winner:  Patio

Maintenance

Painting wooden decking to maintain it

Short answer:  If you’re willing to spend a bit more then both patios and decking can be maintenance-free.

Maintaining your decking or patio is a prime consideration for many as we always want to reduce the amount of repetitive work we have to do in the garden.

The amount of maintenance needed heavily depends on the materials chosen.

If you buy wood decking you will need to treat it every two years and you will most likely need it jet washed every year. Wooden decking is the most labour-intensive of all the options.

Stone and concrete paving are next.  Although Stone Paving generally doesn’t need treating it’s porous nature allows algae and dirt to build up and spoil the colour. To keep your patio looking fresh you will need it jet washed every year or so.

If you’re a bit more you can go for composite decking or porcelain paving.  composite decking and porcelain paving buy water resistant and need virtually no treatment or care over their long lifespan.  If you can afford either of these options they are hands down the least effort to maintain

Winner: Paving (but only just) 

Strength

Hole in some wooden decking where it was weak

Short answer: a properly laid patio is much stronger than decking

If a patio is Laid properly it will have a solid concrete Foundation on top of a hardcore base.  This means that it can take a huge amount of weight.

By contrast decking is built on a wooden frame with focused support points which  means the weight is not spread evenly. 

This difference is why you don’t see decking driveways

Winner:  Patio

How easy is it to do it yourself?

Electric screw driver on some decking

Short answer:  For a simple layout such as a square a rectangle decking shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.

If you’re handy you may be considering installing your decking or patio yourself.  There are pros and cons to each when trying to do it yourself.

If you are laying a complex shape of decking it would be a bad idea to try and do it yourself. 

You will need specialist equipment and are very likely to do it wrong if you have never done it before or. They can be much harder than paving to fix if it goes wrong.

That being said, the amount of material you need to shift to build decking is relatively low compared to paving.  If you’re building a common shape such as a square or a rectangle then someone with a good idea of what they are doing should have no trouble building some decking.

Laying paving can be quite a skill and if done poorly or result in a weak patio or or something that looks a bit of a mess

If you want to lay your own paving you will need to shift a lot of heavy materials including hardcore, paving sabs and concrete. 

On top of that you are likely to need a cement mixer and the know-how to mix cement properly.

Overall who is saved easier to lay decking dices to lay paving however if it’s going to be complicated it’s much better to get a professional to do it.

Winner : Decking

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