What do you see when you look outside your window: a deck, porch, veranda, balcony or patio? These names are sometimes used interchangeably to describe outdoor areas attached to a home. Still, each has its own characteristics—after all, Juliet was wooed by Romeo from a balcony, not a porch. These distinctions matter, especially to insurance companies. Your insurer needs to know the exact one(s) you have (deck, porch, veranda, balcony or patio). They also need the square footage and the building materials used to give you an accurate home insurance quote.
First, here’s a quick rundown of the differences between decks and patios, porches, verandas, and balconies.
Deck vs. patio
A deck is an open-air platform built slightly off the ground. It usually attaches to the house on one or two sides and faces the front yard or backyard. You can build decks using materials such as pressure-treated wood, redwood, cedar, plastic lumber, or PVC. A popular new trend is using composite decking materials (made from a mix of wood fibres and recycled plastic). Building and zoning codes will vary depending on where you live. Still, decks raised more than 30 inches off the ground will generally require some type of railing around the perimeter. What’s the difference between a deck and a porch? A deck doesn’t have coverage from a roof.
A ground level, paved outdoor area adjacent to the home filled in with materials such as concrete, flagstones, tile, brick or gravel. A simple concrete slab with some deck chairs—that’s technically a patio! Like decks, you can use patios for dining and entertaining and it can house things like a barbecue or hot tub.
Porch vs. deck, well – a porch is a covered outdoor area outside, kind of like a deck on the front of a house, or the back, that is sheltered by a roof extending out from the main structure. Think of a classic summer scene: sitting on the front wooden porch area in a rocking chair, sipping lemonade. A porch may be enclosed by railings or latticework. Screened-in porches are famous for allowing fresh air in while keeping insects out.
Veranda vs. Porch
Depending on who you ask, the terms “porch” and “veranda” may refer to the same thing. Both are sheltered structures attached to the home, but there are two slight differences. First, a veranda can wrap around the sides of a house, whereas a porch only extends out from the front or back. Second, a porch might have a screen or light wall coverings, while a veranda is an open-air gallery with a railing.
Balconies are like personal mini-decks on the upper levels of a home, townhouse, apartment or condominium. Take a walk downtown in any major city, and you’re likely to see a skyline dotted with balconies of different shapes and sizes extending out from apartments and condos. Because they’re located on the second floor or higher, balconies will always be enclosed by a railing for safety. Most balconies aren’t that spacious, but if you’re lucky, yours will have a great view.
Are decks and patios covered by home insurance?
Yes. Because a deck, porch, veranda and/or balcony is attached to your home, it’s considered part of your dwelling. Read your home insurance policy carefully to see what’s covered and excluded. Still, insured perils generally include fire, lightning, snow, ice, windstorm, hail storm, falling objects, mischief or vandalism. Even if your deck or patio isn’t a physical extension of your house, your home insurance policy may cover an “additional building,” much like a gazebo, shed or fence.
If you build or replace a deck outside your home, the industry calls it a “material change.” Insurers need to know about any renovation that may increase their risk to insure your property. Just make sure when you build, it’s to code—home insurance won’t cover illegal structures.
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Decks and liability
Most home insurance policies include coverage for property and personal liability. The property part covers damage or loss related to your home and its contents. Whereas, personal liability helps cover the cost of legal fees or medical bills if a visitor to your home is unintentionally injured or has their property damaged. This includes things like slipping on an icy deck, tripping over a carpet, dog bites, pool-related accidents, or getting an injury from a falling tree branch. Personal liability also covers anyone living in your household. That means it covers your family if they accidentally injure someone else or damage their property. For example, your kid sending a baseball flying through a neighbour’s window. Liability insurance is also available for renters through tenant insurance, but only covers your personal living space instead of the entire property.
Maintaining a deck
Decks, porches and patios make great outdoor living spaces and can add curb appeal and value to your home when you keep them clean and well maintained. As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to regularly clean, maintain, repair and monitor the stability of your deck. Home insurance only covers unforeseen accidents. It doesn’t cover damage caused by neglect and normal wear and tear.
How to maintain decking:
- Keep it clean: Sweep your patio regularly to keep it free from sticks, garbage and wet leaves, which can clog the slats between deck boards and cause drainage issues, water pooling and rot. You should also move deck furniture and plant pots around every once in a while to air out the space underneath and prevent discolouration.
- Maintain it: Depending on the amount of moisture and sunlight your deck gets, you’ll need to apply a sealant or preservative every few years. And depending on how much wear and tear your deck gets, you should reapply stain finishing as required.
- Inspect it regularly: At least once a year, preferably when the weather is dry, do a thorough inspection of your deck’s undercarriage for rot. Take the time to examine the posts, beams joist hangers and the ledger, which attaches the deck to the house. Check the stairs for cracks, the deck boards for signs of rot, and give the railing a light shake to see if it’s wobbly.
The Bottom Line
Decks and patios, verandas and porches – whatever you own – make sure it’s insured. It’s hard to put a price on the cold lemonade in the hot sun with a cool breeze. Life didn’t give us lemons, we created lemons. But man, did we make lemonade out of them with our gorgeous deck.