What's The Difference Between A Porch And A Patio?

Learn how to tell which one you have and the best way to care for it.

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The idea of “indoor/outdoor” living has always been popular, but it's a staple in Southern homes. Our region's weather lets us enjoy the outdoors nearly all year long, and we make the most of it, incorporating wrap around porches and party-ready patios into our home designs whenever we can. Though we'll take nearly any kind of cozy outdoor space for a sip of coffee in the morning or a night cap after a long day, porches and patios are technically different when it comes to architectural design. Here we’ll explore interesting facts about both, and how you can style and maximize your space them for your warm weather pleasure (and, if you’re in the market, for resale value!). 

Porch Bright Furniture After
Laurey W. Glenn

What's the Difference Between Porches and Patios?

The major difference between a porch and a patio is that one is attached to your house and the other is a separate space. Additionally, porches have roofs while patios do not. While porches can be located on the front, side, or back of a home, patios are most often only on the side or the back. However, a front patio can also work within the right home's design. Otherwise, both porches and patios can function relatively similarly in your day-to-day life and entertaining needs.


Porches can have lots of different architectural designs. The technical definition of a porch is “a covered area adjoining an entrance to a building, usually having a separate roof.” Though porches often adorn the street-facing side of a home, that’s not always the case: Many homes have side or even back porches. But the distinguishing factor from a patio is the roof. 

An enclosed porch offers a railing around the front and sides, where a portico is simply a covered breezeway or entrance. Screened-in porches are especially popular in the South, as homeowners want to enjoy the benefits of outdoor living without exposure to pesky insects or critters that might also want to join the party. 

porch club makeover, looking down porch
Laurey W.Glenn

Styling your porch depends on the amount of space available, but if seating is an option, a classic rocking chair can’t be beat. As with all spaces, “outer order, inner calm” is the key: Keeping your porch uncluttered and aesthetic will encourage you to spend more time outside. Flank your front door with large planters filled with friendly, seasonal offerings (geraniums in warm weather and hardy greenery in the cooler months, for example), waterproof cushions for seating that may be exposed to the elements, and attractive chests or bins if you find yourself wrangling stray gardening equipment or chasing down children’s toys. 

A well built, aesthetic porch is incredible for resale value, but quality is important. Ensuring your porch is structurally sound and uncluttered will help new buyers imagine themselves relaxing in the comfortable space you’ve cultivated!.


The word “patio” comes to us from Spain and literally means “court open to the sky,” though the origin of the patio itself comes from Ancient Greeks. Up and down the Iberian Peninsula, the majority of homes borrowed from Greek architecture and included a small patio for outdoor living in warm months and for overlooking scenic views in cooler months. A patio was considered more of a foregone conclusion than a luxury, and even the most modest homes usually included a small patio. 

Today, most patios are set apart from homes along the side or back, though a front-facing patio can also be charming. They’re almost always paved or ground-covered with small gravel and used primarily for recreation and entertaining. 

Patios can be open or covered and sometimes feature a fire pit as a centerpiece encircled by seating. Because they lean toward the “outdoor” end of the indoor/outdoor spectrum (since they’re detached from the primary structure of a home), savvy designers outfit patio seating with waterproof fabrics that are easily wiped down. The natural world provides its own decor for these areas, so selecting classic, almost minimalist pieces of patio furniture will ensure that your space stays fresh and timeless. These days, many patios spotlight a grill or a pizza oven since so much of their use is predicated on dining al fresco (or “in the cool”). 

Concrete Dining Patio
Laurey W.Glenn

A nice-looking patio can add an estimated value of 8-10% to a home, and experts recommend sprucing up an existing patio over installing a new one, if you can help it, since the return on investment is much higher the less you have to spend. Outdoor lighting, a shade structure, and some small, brightly-colored flowers can give a patio a quick facelift and entice both residents and guests alike to spend time outside for some relaxation and sunshine. 

Whether you’ve got a porch, a patio, or are in the market for building one, a great resource is a local real estate agent who can advise what works best in your area. Consulting with an expert first will help you acquire the proper permits and design something around your current needs and the long-standing trends in your region.

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