Patios, balconies, and terraces… oh my! Okay, so these interchangeable terms are not necessarily as intimidating as lions, tigers, and bears. However, when searching the housing market, these terms can bring a lot of anxiety.
Terrace level often is a descriptive term used in housing reviews to mean that it is equal to the ground floor but has an outdoor space raised from the ground level. These are often desirable locations because people enjoy being on the ground floor and having an outdoor oasis that provides extra living space.
Still confused? Though it should be easy to comprehend, there are multiple terms that relate to similar descriptions. If you’re trying to distinguish between terraces, patios, porch, decks, and balconies, read on to learn the differences between the five.
Outdoor living is one of the biggest selling features for real estate. While it is often important in warm climates, many cooler climates that offer outdoor fireplaces and hot tubs are very desirable. Afterall, who doesn’t think of a lovely mountain getaway with a heated pool, sauna, firepit, and hot cocoa? When creating an outdoor living space, people want an oasis in nature. This is especially wanted in urban sprawls, like New York City or Philadelphia.
What is included in the living space typically relates back to which of the outdoor living spaces you have. A terrace allows the needed room for an outdoor kitchen, but a balcony will only spare room for a bistro table and chairs.
Since you came here looking for the answer to what a terrace level is, let’s tackle that one first. As mentioned before, a terrace is a term that typically refers to a home or apartment that is on the first floor. In Latin, terra is the word for Earth, and terrace is built off of that etymology.
While a terrace is often used in place of the other words (ahem, I’m looking at you, patio), they are not exactly the same. First thing to note is that a terrace is not connected to a single room. There are typically several entry points to get onto a terrace. These can be from the garden or several rooms of the home. Typically, a terrace is not enclosed by a railing so that they are accessible. Terraces also typically are built raised from the earth at least one step, if not more. They can be made from a variety of materials, such as wood, stone, brick, cement, composite, or even marble. Terraces can be freestanding structures away from the house or can be connected to the home. They can be covered, but it is not a requirement.
But let’s throw a monkey wrench in there. Terraces can also be on the rooftop of homes and apartment buildings. These are clearly not directly attached to the living areas and can only be accessed through the building or an emergency stairwell. Typically, a rooftop terrace is a communal area in an apartment building, so people will not get to live on these terrace levels.
Patios and terraces are often interchangeable since they both refer to a living space that has been built separate from the home. These structures are built directly on the ground, however. They are also made of natural paving products, such as asphalt, cement, concrete, and stone pavers. These are quite common in yards, as it is easy to pour concrete and can also be repurposed. For example, many people have concrete patios that were once where a shed stood.
Balconies may be the easiest to tell apart from the other outdoor living areas. These are attached to the building and not on the ground floor. Balconies are accessible from only one room, sometimes only through a large window (think Rachel and Monica’s balcony on Friends). Balconies tend to be quite small, since they jut out from the building. Most people use these for small seating areas as a place just to get outside for some fresh air. These are the most common outdoor areas for inhabitants of large cities, and many gardening and decorating advancements have allowed renters and homeowners the opportunities to treat this as a much larger space.
Porches & Decks
These two are lumped together because they are quite similar in many aspects. Both typically are made of wood or a wood composite. They are elevated from the ground with a few steps. They also are typically enclosed with a single opening to go into the house and to enter the yard.
A porch is covered, while a deck is typically not entirely covered. Decks tend to be outdoor living spaces for dining or relaxing, while porches act as a resting spot for those waiting to enter a home. You can see old Southern homes with wrap-around porches, and these act as a place to escape the warm sun near the home.
Now that we’ve figured out the confusing nature of outdoor living structures, let’s look at the point of this article: what is terrace level? Terrace level is clearly on the same level as the terrace, which would be the ground. In the housing market, this is often the basement, though it should still have windows and an external door to the terrace. In luxury homes and apartments, these are decorated to the nines, and are quite desirable because of the privacy and the outdoor living space. Of course, people would prefer to see “terrace level” written in the description rather than “basement level,” so it is often all in how things are marketed.
If you are a homeowner, you may be able to tap into potential living space you hadn’t thought of before. An unfinished basement may be great for storage, but these levels can be turned into rental apartments for income or for guest space.
- Access to a (typically) private terrace, possibly doubling your living space.
- Easy access to the street for bikes and strollers.
- No downstairs neighbors to worry about noise complaints.
- Having a terrace may mean yard space, which is beneficial for gardeners or pet owners.
- Terrace levels may come at a more affordable price than their upper-level counterparts.
- No worries when moving in or bringing in groceries.
- Excellent for those with mobility issues, since stairs are not usually needed.
- Ground floor living in apartments can often mean a lack of privacy as your windows are at sidewalk level. This is particularly noticeable in urban settings.
- Ground floors are accessible to most insects and pests.
- Ground levels tend to be cooler, since heat rises. This is not a good thing in the winter, but it could be in the summer.
- Many people complain that they have less natural light on terrace level floors. Again, this is very noticeable in cities where tall buildings block light.
- These are the first floor that will likely be burglarized since thieves who lack superpowers will target them.
- In cities, first floor living usually means there will be a lot of noise- from outside and from above.
Designing Your Terrace
So, you’ve decided to move into a terrace level apartment. What should you do to make the most out of this space? Well, as in all rooms, planning is key. It can be very tempting to go onto Pintrest or home reno sites looking for ideas, but your space may not be right for those ideas. First off, consider the size of your terrace. Is it smaller? Then a kitchen space, dining space, and hot tub will not all fit. Alternatively, a very large terrace will look barren if you only focus on a sitting area for reading. Once you have your initial design plan in mind, be sure to keep some additional touches in mind.
Lighting is often an afterthought when designing an outdoor space. There’s an external light on the house, so what more could you need? If you plan to use this space at all hours, you’ll quickly find that it’s difficult to read by that single light on the back of the house. String lights may be pretty on the fence, but they provide mood lighting, not enough for some activities. If you have an overhang, consider a beautiful hanging pendant built for the outdoors. If you don’t, consider pool lights or floor lighting sconces that shine light upward.
While rooves are not necessary for terraces, they are often useful to avoid super sunny days and rain. Would an awning work for your space? How about a pergola? If you don’t want the permanence of those, consider a retractable awning or umbrellas to provide shade. Tall plants and potted trees can also provide some shade, while spicing up the décor.
Speaking of greenery, have you decided what you want to do about plants on your terrace? Will they all remain in the earth surrounding your terrace? What if your terrace overlooks a hill or lake? Greenery is a great way to add natural decoration to a space to notch up the Zen factor.
If you, like many of us, are not fans of large gardens, you may want to consider a raised garden bed so you don’t need to get deep into the dirt. Hanging planters are a great way to bring the eye upwards, while wall planters are great for herb gardens and making décor go vertical. Plants that climb are also a great way to create a living privacy wall. Be sure to pick plants that work best in your area. Cactuses will not last long through the wet, cold months up North.
Another often overlooked décor aspect is texture. A great way to bring style into an outdoor space is with an outdoor area rug. These tie a space together, bring additional color to the area, and provide comfortable walking areas for bare feet. This is also a good time to add random tiles to your terrace, whether within the terrace itself, the walls of the home, or laying in small sectioned areas. Large terra cotta tiles can provide design and warmth in some of the more barren areas outdoors.
It may be tempting to select furniture based on what you like, rather than practicality. Choosing the right materials for outdoor spaces is essential when building your terrace. A velvet chair will suck in the rain and heat (not to mention get ruined). Instead, choose colors and materials that will repel the sun and moisture. Quick drying materials are a bonus because you can get back to enjoying outside more quickly after the rain or morning dew. Consider items made from canvas, rattan, vinyl, bamboo, wicker, and polypropylene.
I may love the idea of a hot tub and bar area, but it may not work for everyone in the household. If you have a family, remember the children. Consider setting up a child-safe zone. If you’re building the terrace yourself, you can consider adding in a climbing wall, a slide, or a swinging bench.
For the griller in your life, be sure to make that outdoor space work for them. Make sure the outdoor kitchen has amenities that will be needed rather than look cool and that access to the indoor kitchen is good.
Teenagers are likely to enjoy hammocks, reading areas, pools, and places to escape everyone. Of course, even your pets should be thought of- indoor kitties enjoy watching birds in a birdhouse or birdbath, while dogs (and outdoor cats) need an outdoor water and food dish and a shaded spot for them to lay beside you.