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Porch vs. Deck

When it comes to expanding your outdoor living space and adding value to your home, a porch or deck can provide a wonderful addition.

But subtle differences between the two might make one better for your needs than another. Before hiring a contractor to execute the project, be sure to learn all you can about the differences between decks and porches.

How porches and decks differ

Both structures are similar in the obvious ways: They're both found outside the home and provide additional outdoor living space. The major difference between the two is that porches are covered. They can manifest as small covered platforms that keep you from getting wet in the rain at the front door, or they can be larger spaces enclosed with screens or windows that function as a true additional room of your house. You'll almost always find porches on the first floors of homes.

Decks, on the other hand, tend to be open spaces that you'll either find on a home's first level or jutting out from a higher floor. People tend to enjoy decks in fair weather only, whereas homeowners can usually use a covered or insulated porch in any kind of weather and through multiple seasons. A deck also doesn't need to be attached to the home, as in the case of a deck built around a pool.

Extending your living space outside

Although they're similar, decks and porches actually serve different functions, so choosing the right one can provide the appropriate kind of space to suit specific needs.

If you're feeling cramped in your home, an enclosed porch might be a good solution. You can create an enclosed porch with screens only to provide refuge during those hours when mosquitoes emerge.

But if you live in a temperate climate, your porch may lie dormant during the colder months. Surrounding your porch with walls and windows, however, effectively makes it another year-round room you can use for everything from dining space to a children's playroom.

You can also add a porch to an uncovered entrance. A porch at a front or side door can shield you and your guests from inclement weather while you wait to get inside. It can also make the surface immediately outside the door more tidy, so guests or kids don't track mud or snow into your home.

If you simply want to expand your enjoyment of the outdoors, a deck might better suit your purposes. Because they aren't typically covered by a roof, decks provide a more expansive feeling and a greater connection to nature.

For sun-worshippers, decks can provide a good place to work on you tan on fine days, and, if you like to grill outside, decks are really the only way to go because they don't trap cooking smoke.

Because you can place decks on a ground level or off higher floors, the layout of your home and the area where you want your outdoor space might also dictate a deck.

With a deck, you can incorporate various other dazzling options, like a gazebo, pergola, post caps, firepit, lighting and even an outdoor kitchen.

One other consideration when choosing between the two structures is safety. If you have pets or small children, a screened or enclosed porch can provide more security than an elevated deck with openings between the rails.

Comparing the costs of a deck or porch

All home improvement projects that expand your living space naturally depend on the size and scope of the job. As a general rule, decks are cheaper than porches because they don't have the added expense of a roof.

If you're concerned about home improvements that add to the resale value of your house, a sunroom has a return on investment of less than 60 percent, so you might opt for the deck instead.

Be sure to get advice from a reputable contractor on the various costs and options based on the layout of your home and your particular needs.

Excerpt from Porch vs. Deck on the Angie's List website.