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Patio, porch, lanai, veranda: What’s the difference?

 Homes in St Petersburg and all around Florida often advertise a patio, porch, veranda or lanai. What’s the difference between them?

A patio is typically an outdoor space adjacent to a residence that is paved and does not have a roof. It may use pavers, brick, stone or concrete (if it’s made of wood, it would typically be called a deck). It’s used for relaxing, recreation or dining. In Spanish style homes it may refer to the interior courtyard. Many masonry homes in the St Petersburg area will have patios, especially smaller ones.

A porch is an extension to the exterior of a house, generally at the same level as the floor inside. It usually has a wood floor and generally has a roof. It may be on the front, back or side of the home and a home may have multiple porches. The sides may be open, screened, glassed or have lattice. It can be utilitarian, to protect you from the elements while you’re waiting to enter the home or a place to take off your boots or garden shoes; it can be the size of a room, with furniture for relaxing or dining. The materials and style are generally compatible with the house it’s attached to. Frame homes in older St Petersburg neighborhoods like the Old Northeast and Kenwood will typically have porches.

A veranda or verandah may be a large porch that’s a room for entertaining or it may be a gallery running along one or more sides of the home, roofed, perhaps with a railing. Often a verandah will wrap around a house – think Victorian or New Orleans style here – perhaps on the front and both sides. Verandas aren’t as common in St Petersburg but there are occasional Victorian style homes and some of the 1920s Mediterranean style homes will have them.

A lanai is less frequently defined, and often as a roofed porch or verandah. Actually it’s the Hawaiian word for patio or balcony. In Florida we wouldn’t use lanai for a balcony. A lanai is a typical term in a tropical climate and generally is furnished like a room. It may have removable panels of glass, screen or plastic and would usually have a hard surface floor, similar to a patio. Lanais are found in many St Petersburg neighborhoods – think of the masonry waterfront homes in Venetian Isles, Broadwater and Yacht Club Estates.

Like so many terms, these will mean different things in different parts of the country. Not only that, even in the same city you’ll find the terms aren’t used consistently. In St Petersburg real estate the terms patio, porch and lanai may be used to describe the same space, depending on who is doing the describing. 

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