Having a serene place to sit outside is the greatest—there is nothing better than catching some fresh air and enjoying a change of scenery. If you spent all spring creating a beautiful garden or landscape design, porches and patios are the perfect places to admire your hard work.
Though they’re both relaxing areas of your home to kick back with a nice beverage for some time alone, they’re not the same. A porch is attached to an exterior wall of the house and features an overhang or covering, while a patio is a paved surface usually located at the side or back of a home that usually isn’t covered.
Curious about more differences between porches and patios? We've explained the key differences and tips on how to style these areas of your home.
Meet the Expert
Keith Smith is the CEO of Keith Smith Construction, specializing in custom home remodeling and outdoor deck upgrades.
Key Differences Between Porches and Patios
The biggest differences between porches and patios are where they’re located around your home and their architectural design.
Porches are typically seen at the front of your house with patios being in the back, though Keith Smith, CEO of Keith Smith Construction, says porches can also be seen in the back of your house, too.
“You see a porch in most houses at the front door, and there is almost always a covering over the porch," Smith says. "And if your back deck has a roof over it, that can actually be called a back porch.”
Porches and patios are similar in functionality and purpose. Both can be used for relaxation and enjoying the nice weather, but when it comes to actually building them and their placement, there are differences that set them apart.
Defining a Porch
A front porch is typically seen where the front door to a home is and is usually covered by some kind of awning. Porches range in size with some being large enough for furniture while others are a small greeting area with a few steps leading up to your front door.
While most porches contain an awning, Smith says a nice add-on to a porch could be screened-in sides. If you do opt to make your porch screened-in, most of the time this concept is seen on the side or back of the house and serves as a place for lounging instead of greeting.
In terms of building and materials used for making a porch, Smith says that porches can be made out of either concrete or wood, and screening it in is completely optional.
Defining a Patio
For entertaining or enjoying the weather at the back of your house, a patio is where it’s at. A patio is typically built with concrete slats or pavers, or is concrete-poured that sits on the ground and is open, unlike porches. Though patios are mostly seen around the back, a patio on the side of your house is not uncommon.
Most patios sit near backyard gardens or have fire pits and other backyard recreational items nearby. Patios are the perfect place for an outdoor dining table to accompany your outdoor parties or a few outdoor furniture pieces with cushions for comfortable seating.
The furniture that you keep in this area would greatly benefit from covers to protect them from any storms, pollen, or dirt when they aren’t in use since patios are out in the open. Some patio furniture needs to be kept in a cool, dry place once the spring and summer months are over so their materials aren’t damaging during the winter months.
How to Decorate Your Porch or Patio
The best thing about decorating your porch or patio is the flexibility you have with design. This means you get to play around with how you set up your space and tailor it entirely to you. The traditional staple for most front porches is a pair of rocking chairs to relax in with a nice beverage by your side. A nice set of comfortable outdoor furniture is a must for your back patio to enjoy the scenery and time outside.
Decorating a porch or patio depends on whether you plan on hosting or relaxing more in the space. Smith says that other than hanging string lights from the ceiling, something else to consider is entertainment. “When the porch is being built, one of the cool things you have an opportunity to do is put some blocking in the walls if it's attached to the house so you can mount a tv on the back porch.”
How to Maintain Your Porch or Patio
Smith says that the best practice for maintaining your porch or patio is pressure washing your porch or patio once or twice a year—just like you’d pressure wash your house. This helps to remove any caked-on dirt or grime that’s built up throughout the year from storms or debris.
When it comes to screened-in patios, Smith gives some expert advice for cleaning during the Spring months when pollen is at its peak: wiping down your furniture or screens with a rag and cleaner before pressure washing. “Even if you have a screened-in porch, pollen is still in the air and the pollen is going to get on your patio furniture or decking," Smith says. "The issue with being covered is that rain doesn’t wash off the pollen so you’ll have a build-up of pollen to wash off.”