Nothing could be worse in the home-improvement world than confusing the various styles and terms of outdoor extensions. For example, telling your contractor you would like a balcony when you actually wanted a veranda. But, what’s the difference? How can you be sure of which one you want? It would help to know what makes them different from each other.
A balcony is an open platform connected to the side of a building, always on the second floor or up. They are never installed at ground level. Balconies have many purposes when installed, such as creating an open space that allows the owner to enjoy scenic views and relax. A veranda, or verandah, is a ground-level platform connected to a house that is roofed. It creates a well-ventilated room that is protected from the direct light and heat of the sun to take advantage of space that might not normally be useable in areas with intensely hot months.
To better understand the differences between balconies and verandas and other important distinctions, such as their purposes, read on!
What is a Veranda?
Verandas are platforms that are always constructed on the ground level and connected to the adjoining building. They are always roofed structures and have traditionally included round arches in between the supporting pillars or intricate ironwork. A good example of how older verandas looked are Creole townhouse-styled houses or apartments. These are common in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
Verandas don’t have to be a small section on one side of the house. They can be wrap-around porches that surround the entire building too. So long as the extension is roofed, that’s basically what a veranda is.
Verandas are also known as open-air porches and compared to loggias, which are roofed exterior galleries (rooms with open sides). They’re similar because they are both open-sided extensions to a house and have similar uses because they share their structures so closely. That brings us to the question, “what is the purpose of a veranda?”
What is the Purpose of a Veranda?
The word “verandah” is said to have originated in India and was adopted by the English. In any case, they do have their modern style rooted in Australia during the 1850s. They were perfectly designed for environments that were hot during the summer months or warm all year round, like Australia, because they are always roofed. They created a shade oases that allow breezes to come through freely and are flooded with natural light, easily making them some of the most pleasant spaces in the house, especially when electricity wasn’t available.
Many of the European-styled houses that were in Australia suffered from the lack of fresh air and didn’t have enough windows to brighten up the interior. So it was common to have an enclosed veranda to be a guest room during the hottest times of the year, with plenty of fresh air breezing through the space and offering merciful shade.
Today, when they aren’t being used as fancy aerated bedrooms, they’re used for entertainment in between the outdoors and indoors. They make great dining and sitting areas that provide a change in scenery and open space that guests might not be able to enjoy indoors.
What is a Balcony?
A balcony is a platform connected to a building by its ledgers, surrounded by a railing or balustrade, and supported with console brackets, or sometimes with columns. They require support because they are always on the second floor or higher. Unlike verandas, they are not roofed, except with a very specific style. The word we get “balcony” from is the Italian word, “balcone,” which means “scaffold.”
A unique feature of balconies is that, unlike verandas which are accessed by a side door or back door, balconies can be accessed by the floor window as well as a door, depending on what the owner of the building wanted, or if the window was constructed first and the balcony later.
So what is the purpose of balconies? Balconies have numerous uses, today, but their original purpose was to introduce better circulation of air in ancient greek homes and to bring in much more natural light.
Today, balconies are fantastic spaces that can provide more storage space, be a private escape, provide a place to relax and enjoy the scenery around you, enjoy outdoor dining, create a private garden, and more. The original purposes still stand true too! You can enjoy much more natural light and ventilation than with windows alone. The best part is that balconies come in numerous distinct types so that there’s one for every taste.
What are the Different Types of Balconies?
Naturally, if you have determined that you want a balcony constructed and not a veranda, then you need to know which kind of balcony you want to be built. There are plenty of options to choose from.
There are about 8 different types of balconies, not including the different styles, such as Juliet and french balconies:
- True balconies
- False balconies
- Faux balconies
- Loggia balconies
- Cantilevered balconies
- Hung balconies
- Stacked balconies
- And Mezzanine balconies
True balconies are what you immediately think of when someone says the word, “balcony.” They are wide deck spaces outside a second-story (or so) window or door that have a railing and sufficient structural support. They can be set into small alcoves in a building and come with a small roof, but the point of a true balcony is that it’s useable.
They’re called “true balconies,” because of that fact as there is a type of balcony that can’t be used as balconies are typically intended, called false balconies. Since these balconies are supposed to be used, their structure is much more carefully constructed with user safety in mind and will even include added support such as metal support brackets below the deck.
False balconies are so-called because they are meant to adorn the building but not actually be used space. As a result, they aren’t constructed with the same level of structural support as balconies that are actually used and need the support in order to hold the weight of several grown men and furniture.
Since their one purpose is to decorate the building, they usually have ornate wrought iron railings or dazzlingly colored stucco designs and don’t protrude from the walls very much. Usually, they only extend out at six inches, tops. Juliet and French balconies fall into this false balcony category.
Faux balconies are like false balconies in that they are strictly for decoration purposes, but unlike false balconies, they don’t even include a deck. They’re just highly elaborately decorated railings. You may be wondering why anyone would bother with a faux balcony when there are already false ones, but the benefit of faux balconies is that they eliminate the possibility that anyone could mistake it for a real one and get hurt.
Loggias aren’t just extensions to a building like a balcony, enclosed with only a railing or balustrade. Loggias actually have sidewalls, as a house does. Most of the time, they are just part of the building’s exterior wall as alcoves instead of extending out. In either case, only one side of the loggia looks out and serves more like a thinner sunroom. This does make it a little more secure than a common balcony but naturally takes longer to construct and more materials.
These are balconies that are designed with large beams that are only supported at the wall they are connected to but have no support on the side furthest away from the building. In other words, there are no visible support systems. This option is usually chosen because it’s very visually appealing due to the fact you can’t see the supports and it’s the simplest to construct but can become dangerous with age at those support points, making regular inspection more or less required.
Hung balconies are named by the supporting structure you see. Stainless steel cables are fixed to the wall of the building and attached to the far edges of these hung balconies, then a large plate connects to the building at an acute 45 degrees. These balconies may be the least commonly seen, but they are safer than you might think. Their design fully utilizes the strength of the bolts used, using 50% sheer force and 50% pull-out force.
If you have ever seen a bunk bed, you have a general idea of what stacked balconies look like. These are some of the simplest balconies to install and they have the lowest load implications on buildings. Stacked balconies are exactly what they sound like, they’re balconies on top of each other from floor to floor, supported by pillars that reach from the top balcony to the ground. Naturally, as a homeowner, you’re likely not going to need more than one balcony on the same wall.
Unlike every other balcony type in this article, a mezzanine balcony is constructed inside large buildings. In appearance, it’s a lot like a common balcony by extending away from the main wall, having the large deck and rails, and being made to be walked on with proper supports, but it’s built-in exceptionally large buildings like hotels, enormous malls, and other similar structures.
What is on a Veranda?
Back to verandas. What do homeowners normally place on a veranda? How are they decorated? Verandas are still entertainment spaces, so most will place comfortable sitting areas with small coffee tables. Rocking chairs, couches, or wick chairs are very common choices for this. If the veranda is large enough, you can place a whole dining area on it.
Like we talked about earlier, verandas were originally used as outdoor bedrooms in climates like Australia has, so there would be a bed, nightstand, curtains, etc. Since they are always covered, you can easily decorate the space with even more lighting, such as hanging lights.
Added lighting sources and potted plants are often found on verandas to brighten the space (literally) and make the atmosphere more comfortable and homey. If it’s decoration ideas you’re looking for, there are some ideas here. I’m the engineer on the team for goodness sake, not the decorator. It’s not really my forte unless I’m truly inspired.
What is the Difference Between a Patio and a Veranda?
Ultimately, the difference between a patio and a veranda is variety. Patios have a defined structure but deviate from it very often with the features that they may or may not have, depending on what the homeowner would like. Sometimes they’ll have rails, sometimes they don’t, among other features.
Verandas, on the other hand, have a defined structure that they never deviate from. They are ALWAYS connected to the house, they always have rails, they are always roofed, etc. Here are the primary differences between the two.
- Patios can be found sometimes connected to the house or entirely separated from it.
- Patios are not commonly roofed but they do often include a fabric overhead shade, at least in part, but not a more permanent or durable roof structure unless the patio is paired with a gazebo above it.
- Patios are designed to help residents enjoy being outdoors as wide outdoor living spaces that are open and useful for a range of activities because it’s not limited by size. Since they are made for entertaining groups they will often include outdoor kitchens or BBQ areas.
- They can be raised off the ground to stay flush with an entry door.
- Patios might come with rails, especially when off the ground for safety, but not always.
- Patios are only typically constructed on only one side of a building, most commonly the backyard since it’s usually the designated outdoor entertainment space and has the room for the patio.
- Patios can be constructed out of pavers as well as wood.
- Verandas are always connected to the main building structure. They are designed to be more like an outdoor room extension to a house; a refuge from intense heat and sun that doesn’t close off the outdoors entirely.
- Verandas always have a roof over them.
- Verandas always have rails and at least two pillars to support the roof.
- Verandas can wrap around a house to connect the front and back entrances or even be wrapped around the entire building.
- Verandas are always at ground level.
- Modern verandas are partly constructed out of aluminum. Since they are often constructed in locations with hot and humid conditions, they are made with composite wood, stone tiles, treated wood, and/or vinyl.
As far as outdoor extensions go, verandas and patios have similar functions, primarily as entertainment spaces, but are constructed differently according to climate, need, or desire.
Is There a Difference Between a Patio and a Balcony?
Just like with verandas, there are plenty of differences between patios and balconies. Sometimes verandas are even called ground-level balconies.
When it comes to their purpose these two outdoor structures aren’t very different. They are both used for relaxing and enjoying the fresh outdoor air and the outside world, but they do differ in how many can enjoy the structures and what can be done on them. You’ll probably never see a balcony have a dining table or a BBQ set-up on it. This is because structurally, balconies and patios have major differences.
Balconies are usually very small, meant only for two people to enjoy the space comfortably. Balconies will always have a railing or balustrade wrapped around them while patios might not unless they are off the ground. There’s also the primary difference in that patios are always on the ground floor, while balconies are always at least one floor above the ground.
Before we sign off in our classic way, I’ll leave you with this: regardless of which structure you choose between balconies and verandas, they are both complicated to construct, which is why you should let a team of professionals help. It’s even better when that team includes an engineer who triple checks every measurement, so consider contacting my crew at T-N-T Home Improvements before planning this big project.
Both verandas and balconies are exquisite additions to your home and are guaranteed to bring years of entertainment and relaxation, and hopefully, now you know which one suits your house the best. There are a lot of things to know about choosing outdoor house extensions, so the next time you’re trying to make up your mind between a porch, balcony, veranda, gallery, terrace, patio, loggia, pergola, or lanai, let us help you with understanding what you really want. If you are located in the Northern Colorado or Southern Wyoming areas, go ahead and give us a call today at (970) 663-2868, or fill out our contact form on our website home page so that we can walk you through everything you need to know about your balcony/veranda project.