Wood deck vs. stone patio
August 4, 2009 11:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to build a deck or patio in my backyard, but I'm trying to make the final decision between poured/stamped concrete, stone pavers, or a standard wood deck...

The finished product we hope will be about 15'x25', or something in that range. We'd like a pretty good size, so it can be multipurpose. What's generally the cheapest option? The most expensive?

My concerns with a wood deck seem pretty standard across the internet: lots of maintenance, size (if raised off the ground... my yard is not humongous, so I don't want the deck to take over the yard), and lack of durability. I'm attracted more to a stone patio for looks and lifespan, but I've had a couple people tell me that a deck would raise the home value more, at least if the economy was not a wreck.

Any advice on the cost of one vs. the other? I don't mind some hard labor, or an up-front investment in something that'll last for years, so my budget is flexible.
posted by colemanm to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
A couple of things to consider if you like the raised look and feel of a deck but don't want the maintenance headaches (and they are headaches) Trex is some plastic/wood composite that looks good and requires no maintenance and is fairly economical, especially if you take ongoing maintenance into account. However, if your budget really is flexible, Ipe is absolutely beautiful and extremely low maintenance. It a Brazilian sustainable yield product that is extremely hard and durable. However, it is pricey and not something you want to mess with yourself. Because it is so hard, you need special saws and drills to deal with it.

i thought long and hard about both of them about seven years ago when I replaced my deck. I opted to go with regular old trated lumber and rue my decision every year.
posted by rtimmel at 12:31 PM on August 4, 2009

I didn't see any mention of where you are, but here in the SW we tend to avoid wood due to the overabundance of sun, heat, and lack of humidity. Seal it all you want, wood just disintegrates out here.

A friend used (I believe) the Trex mentioned above in Las Vegas. He's said that during the summer months it tends to get a bit droopy... But probably not an issue if you don't regularly get afternoon temperatures well into the triple digits.

If you're not in a desert, I'd tend to go with acid etched concrete. Just make sure you reseal it regularly. Out here in the desert, I'd go with the same - just with a canopy and a heat shield underground between it and the house slab.
posted by krisak at 12:59 PM on August 4, 2009

Imprinted concrete is pricey, but there's nothing like it. I used to install it for a living, so I may be biased, but I think it's great stuff. You can pick your color and pattern and make it look like anything you want: brick, stone, wood, slate, cobbles. You won't have the rot and weathering issues that plague wood, and you won't have to deal with weeds in the cracks like you do with pavers. and I think pavers are pretty blah, anyway. To make them look really nice requires a lot of work.

That being said, installing pavers or wood is work you could do yourself. You could pour an imprinted patio yourself, too, but I don't think the results would be as good. The DIY imprinting kits are crap, and the big imprinting companies won't sell or rent their proprietary tools. Plus, you have to know how to finish concrete in the first place, which isn't hard, but does require a knack, for lack of a better word.

At the very least, I'd solicit some bids from contractors to see what kind of money you're talking about. It could vary wildly based on geography. But I'm fairly certain that imprinted concrete won't be cheap. Memail me if I can give you any more specifics. At the very least, I can tell you some stuff to look for when talking to concrete contractors.
posted by Shohn at 1:18 PM on August 4, 2009

Response by poster: @krisak I'm in Florida, so the weather alternates between soaking wet and beating sun for about 9 months of the year. Doesn't sound very wood-friendly to me...

@Shohn The more I read, the more I like the idea of imprinted concrete, even if it costs a little more. I definitely don't want this to become something I regret or want to redo in the future. Changing my mind later will end up costing a whole lot more than just doing it right the first time. I'll take you up on the specifics once I start chasing down actual estimates.

Thanks folks!
posted by colemanm at 1:59 PM on August 4, 2009

I have a good friend (a successful contractor) I asked to build a composite deck at our house--he said he would be glad to take my money but strongly urged me to put in a concrete patio--patterned and subtly colored. It was the right decision.
posted by rmhsinc at 2:33 PM on August 4, 2009

Pavers take a LOT of time if you want it done right and you are doing it yourself. I wouldn't suggest that route unless you have a lot of help, or have done it before and know what to expect. I helped friends with pavers once, and will never ever do it again.
posted by markblasco at 2:53 PM on August 4, 2009

In Florida you're likely okay, but we've been specifically warned about cracking in imprinted concrete in areas where the temperature differences are extreme. As I recall, the extra cost for the imprinted concrete was 1-2 times the cost of the concrete pre-imprinting.

I find that wood stays cool and pave stones and concrete get unpleasantly hot, so you might want to look into that.
posted by jeather at 8:07 PM on August 4, 2009

I live in SC where it gets to triple digits in the summer and below freezing in the winter. I absolutely LOVE my stamped/imprinted concrete walkway and front porch. No cracking. Easy to maintain, actually nothing to maintain unless you want to re-seal it every few years. I've had it for about 8 years now. I don't remember it being that much more expensive than some of the other options out there. I do remember that the installer had moved to SC from FL where he learned and built his business and he did an excellent job.

I also have a backyard deck with treated lumber and while I love the look and am very happy with it as well, it was very expensive and it is way more trouble to maintain than the stamped concrete. Friends of mine have a deck made of Trex, which looked beautiful for the first couple of years, but to be honest, it doesn't seem to age well aesthetically IMO.

One more mention: wood tends to attract roaches more than concrete does and having grown up in FL and now living in SC (both of which have plenty of the little b*st*rds), you may find the concrete is less "attractive" to the little creatures. Just an observation.
posted by ourroute at 8:38 PM on August 4, 2009

One mention about Trex or the synthetic wood is that they tend to build up a film of, well gunk. Think of finding a plastic lid in the woods that has that slippery film on it. In places with rain you'll need to pressure wash it to rid yourself of this ick.

I've been having this same debate as to what to put in the yard and my contractor/friend said that he wouldn't even do an synthetic deck for me (friends don't let friends have slime etc..). Concrete is not such a great option for me (here in Ontario, with rain like you but winter unlike you). So I'm doing pressure treated wood.
posted by saradarlin at 11:26 AM on August 10, 2009

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