Decking Or Patio? Which is Best?

 In Garden Design, Landscaping, Uncategorised

Should your garden makeover include decking or patio?  Here’s how to decide.

Designing your own garden involves several different thought processes. From the homeowners point of view, the most important consideration is the aesthetic.  What atmosphere do you want to create and how would you like to style your garden? The next important factor is the build budget, and finally ongoing maintenance of your decking or patio.

The Process For Deciding Whether To Use Decking Or Patio Slabs

A garden designer’s brain thinks differently to a homeowner.  We literally start designing from the ground up. My primary consideration when designing a garden is the usability aspect. How will this garden be used and who will be using it? Where are the sunniest spots, the most secluded places and the best views? Are there any problems to overcome such as slopes, poor drainage, or noisy neighbours? What features are on the client’s wish list and what is the budget for groundworks, structures, materials and labour?

Before I even think about suggesting materials for a garden makeover, I’ll consider the layout.  Do I need to re-contour the land? Will the design need to incorporate,  steps? Ramps? Lighting? Trees? Plants? Hedges? Surfacing is usually the penultimate thing I think about. (My final design decisions are all about creating the planting plan).

How I Specify Landscaping Materials For A Garden Makeover

Once the garden layout plan is complete. I’ll start to think about the colours and textures that will work best for my clients. The first thing to consider is the style.  It must work well with the age and appearance of the property. And it must also suit the clients’ personal taste. 

Somebody whose home is filled with nick knacks, colourful objects, photographs and houseplants would probably prefer a more cottage style garden. Somewhere with plenty of opportunity to add their own personal touches. Whereas a minimalist home with neutral colours and strong focal points would probably prefer a scandi-style or very contemporary garden.

Ongoing care for the garden is also a big consideration.  Will this family enjoy oiling their natural timber decking, or would a lower maintenance alternative be better for them?  A deck made using natural timber also has a shorter lifespan than a well made patio.

Finally, the build cost comes into play.  Which is more expensive to install? Decking or patio? I have to think about every aspect of the construction when pricing a job.  Will I need to bring machinery in to level the ground? What needs to lie beneath the decking or patio in order to make it safe, strong and long lasting? If the client might want to put a hot tub onto the deck in the future, it needs a substantial support system so that it will take the weight! And of course, fire pits and decking are not a great combination.

You may also  be surprised to learn that decking sometimes (but not always) works out to be more expensive than paving.  It’s all down the the substructure and the labour costs.

Decking or Patio?  Let’s compare some projects

decked area beside a home with steps leading to a natural stone patio hugged by timber benches and planters

 This sunken patio has steps leading to an area of decking.  Decking boards have been used to create the seating and the whole area will be ‘hugged’ by scented planting. The design overcame the problem of a steeply sloping garden by dividing it into terraces.

textured patio using slabs and setts

This low maintenance garden has a paved patio using materials which echo the texture of the property’s walls.  The light colour complements the new conservatory and makes the garden feel larger.

Can’t decide whether to have decking or patio? This homeowner chose to use both. The contrasting materials create different ‘zones’ within the garden, each with its own distinct character.

newly landscaped garden with timber pergolas forming walkways at 90 degrees to each other


These timber pergolas will be dripping with climbing roses when the plants have matured. They’re one of the main features of the space and to use decking as a surfacing material would have amounted to overkill. So we opted instead for limestone setts

pretty triangular pergola in one corner of a garden lit with uplighters for a calm ambience

Only timber decking could have created the ambience required for this relaxing seating area. A stone patio would have somehow seemed too harsh.

patio vs decking this image show both being used side by side in an oriental style garden

Another good example where decking and stone compliment each other. Water features lend themselves beautifully to natural materials.  The curving path you see carries on around the corner where it opens out onto a large patio for al-fresco dining.

A Garden Designer Can Help You Choose Between Decking and Patio

Choosing between decking and patio is a tricky decision and there is a lot to think about. Rather making an impulsive decision and then regretting it once the garden is built, it’s worth investing in a professionally drawn garden design.  Using modern technology, a good garden designer will be able to create a layout plan and then show you what it would look like using decking or patio. That way you’ll be able to make an informed decision.  You might opt for a mixture of the two materials, or even decide to use something completely different.

If you would like to explore the use of decking or patio in your own garden, I can create a 3D garden design that will take the strain out of decision making.  I can even build your garden if you’d like me to.  Click here for my contact details, I’d love to hear from you.

For more garden design inspiration, visit my portfolio page 

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floating timber deck with purple beanbag over hanging a small garden pond with fountainclematis with purple flowers climbing over a wooden fence panel