what's the difference between and porch and a patio

What Is the Difference Between a Porch and a Patio?

Random yet deeply important musings for the day: 

Anchor Foundation Repair Bryan College Station

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been thinking *deep thoughts* about foundations and all things concrete surface related for 35+ years. We can fill you in on the differences between porches and patios (yes, there is a difference!) and how to repair them when settlement has occurred.

This article will answer the age-old question that no one ever thinks about until they have to: Is there a difference between a porch and a patio? Do the differences affect how they need to be repaired if slab settlement has occurred?

Is There a Difference Between a Porch and a Patio?

These two terms are often used interchangeably. People treat them like synonyms that mean the same thing. But perhaps you instinctively know that there’s a difference between the terms porch and patio. Though, you’ve never put into words or *concrete thoughts* as to what that difference actually is. 

what is the difference between a porch and a patio?
Inquiring minds want to know . . .

Answer: Yes, there is a difference between porches and patios. Even though people often use the terms synonymously, they are technically not the same. 

Porches and patios differ in their:

  1. Relation to the rest of the home, and
  2. Structural construction.

Let’s *cover* all the details of these sometimes covered outdoor spaces . . . 

1. Porches and Patios Differ In Relation to the Rest of the Home

A porch is part of the original footprint of the home at the time of construction. If you have a slab-on-grade foundation, a porch is included in the continuous piece of concrete that makes up the slab. 

Often, your roofline will cover the outdoor area and your exterior walls might make up one or two sides of the open-air space. Uncovered porches exist as well but are not as common.

The porch is a structural extension of the home that cannot be removed post-construction. In other words, you couldn’t get rid of it without causing significant damage to some other part of the house. You would damage your foundation, your roof, or both.

porch that is part of the foundation
I’m gonna call this one a porch.

A patio, on the other hand, is separate from the home. The patio slab could have been put in at the same time as the home, but it is not physically tied to your house. A patio could be right next to the house or out in the yard somewhere. Patios might not be made the same way as the rest of the slab foundation. 

You could take out your patio and your foundation and roof would be unaffected. You could put in a patio at any time post-construction as an independent structure.

In summary, porches are original structural parts of a house while patios are separately constructed and can be added, changed, or removed.

2. Structural Construction: Are Porches and Patios Made Differently?

Structure-wise, a porch is going to be made the same as the rest of the foundation of your home. The only difference between the foundation under your porch area and the foundation under the middle of your living room is the fact that the porch foundation is exposed to the elements.

slab foundation construction

Slab-on-grade foundations are created with grade beams that penetrate the ground several feet. Your porch has those same grade beams under it. If you were to start digging next to your porch, you could have to dig down quite a bit to reach the underside of the grade beam.

A patio, on the other hand, can be made of a variety of materials. Sure, it could be concrete, but it could also be made from pavers, stone, or wood. If it were concrete, a patio slab is not typically made with a grade beam structure and is considered to be what’s called “flatwork”.

Concrete flatwork is not designed to bear significant weight like a home foundation is designed to do. Flatwork does not typically penetrate the ground too much and just kind of rests on the surface. Sidewalks, driveways, and patios are common uses of concrete flatwork.

Now, you could have a concrete patio with a grade beam structure. But this type of patio construction would likely be for something very large, or on sloped terrain and would still be constructed as a separate piece from the house. A grade beam structured concrete patio is not the norm though. Most concrete patios are made of shallow-depth flatwork.

How Do You Repair a Porch or Patio That Has Settled?

paver style patio
Paver-style patio

Just like home foundations, porches and patios are susceptible to the same strong forces of expansive clay soil, and settlement can happen. Foundation settlement or settlement of porches and patios results in the surface sinking down from its original elevation.

Your porch or patio may crack, slope too much, and/or cause issues for other structural parts of the home. So how do you fix a porch or patio that has experienced settlement? Well, it depends on if it’s a porch or patio and what it’s made out of . . . 

Repairing Settled Porches

If your porch is experiencing settlement, then at least some part of your home is likely settling also. To repair the settlement of a porch, you would do the same type of foundation repair that you would do on the rest of the slab home. 

There are several different methods of foundation repair for slab-on-grade foundations. Whatever the foundation repair contractor does for the rest of the house will be done for the porch too. Remember the foundation is one continuous concrete slab, so the settled portions all need the same treatment.

Repairing Settled Patios

Repairing a settled patio depends on what it is made from. Patios made from grade-beamed concrete would be repaired with a foundation repair method of your choosing.

cement patios can be mud jacked
Cement patio

Patios made from concrete flatwork would be lifted and returned to their original elevation by some type of concrete leveling process like mud jacking or polyjacking. These concrete raising methods only work when the concrete surface is still in fairly good condition, but just needs to be raised back up.

There are several more options to handle sunken or uneven concrete surfaces you can read about too.

If your patio is made from something other than concrete, there’s a lot to consider. First, is it fixable at all, or easier to scrap and start over? The big upside to patios is that they are far more flexible than porches. You can add them, change them, or tear them down with ease since they are not attached to the home. 

Depending on the material your current patio is made from will likely require a different solution. Since we’re not experts in all those other materials, we suggest talking with either a masonry contractor for pavers or stonework, or a general contractor that has experience with the material in question.

paver patio

Raise Porches and Patios with Anchor Foundation Repair

Now that you know all about the differences between these outdoor areas, do you want to raise and level your concrete patio or porch? Well, we can handle either type of sunken surface for you!

help this patio, Craig

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we use drilled concrete piers to raise foundations and grade beam patios, and mud jacking to return concrete flatwork back to its rightful position. Helping Brazos Valley homeowners handle their settlement problems with 100% confidence is what we do best, whether it’s for a foundation or your outdoor concrete surface.

Since mud jacking is one of those things people don’t know a lot about, you might want to read more about it here: Concrete Leveling: What Is Mud Jacking and How is It Done?