What's the Difference Between a Patio and a Porch?

Friends talking while having drink at table at porch
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Let's see: both patios and porches are paved, outdoor living spaces with outdoor furniture. They both can be in the front or backyards of a house, and both can be covered with an overhead roof.

So what, really, is the difference between the two? 

History of the Porch

Porches can be traced back to Ancient Greece and Rome, like the Acropolis in Athens; specifically, the Erechtheum—a temple with the Porch of the Maidens—along with the stoa, a classroom, and courtroom. The latter was named by Zeno of Citium, credited with the philosophy of stoicism, who named it for the Stoa Poikle, or “painted porch.” Loggias and piazzas provided shade in gardens during the Middle Ages in Italy. In West Africa, porch-like spaces were evident on "shotgun" houses. 

The American front porch appeared by the early 1700s, and 100 years later became a fixture of American architecture. Some of the first porches in the United States were built by immigrants and slaves from Africa. Others most likely were built by Europeans who adapted homes and architecture for a warmer climate. Early French and Spanish Colonial houses featured verandas, or porches, that featured covered roofs and often wrapped around. Other architectural styles also featured porches, including Italianate, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Stick Style, Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne, Shingle, Craftsman (Bungalow or Arts and Crafts), and Prairie. The post-World War II housing boom brought an end to the popularity of front porches, as privacy and entertaining were pushed to the backyard.

What Is a Porch?

Basically, a porch is an outdoor structure with a roof that is usually open at the sides. It is attached to or projects from the side of a residence and protects the entrance or serves as a resting place for occupants to entertain and enjoy the fresh air. It is sometimes referred to as a veranda or loggia.

A Brief History of the Patio

The word patio comes from the Latin word patere, which means to lie open. Originating in Spanish or Spanish-American architecture, it is an outdoor space that is open to the sky, although it can have a roof overhead. During the 15th century in Spain, square central patios surrounded by galleries and porticos became popular. During the post-World War II years, patios were backyard slabs of poured concrete in various shapes, either left alone or embellished with brick, bluestone, gravel, and other materials. 

What Is a Patio?

Unlike a porch, a patio can be attached to a structure or detached, and sometimes has a roof or pergola overhead. It is a much more versatile outdoor structure than a porch and is usually much larger. One of the most important considerations when building a patio is to create easy access to the indoor or outdoor kitchen if it will be used for dining. When planning, consider who will use the patio and what activities will take place.