How to Tell the Difference Between a Balcony and Porch

Whether you find yourself in a conversation with an architect, or you’re thinking of building or buying a home, or if you’re just plain curious, knowing some different terminology of outdoor structure will be rewarding. For instance, is there a difference between a balcony and a porch, and if so, what is it? 

The difference between a balcony and a porch is that balconies are usually raised platforms attached to the upper floors while porches are on the ground level. While balconies are smaller and have only one exit, porches are bigger, can have multiple exits, and are built in the front of the house. 

There are a few big differences between balconies and porches, and knowing the differences can aid with future decisions regarding new homes or even choosing hotel rooms when on vacation. This article will describe in detail the difference between a balcony and a porch. It will also describe a few other different structures that may seem similar to balconies and porches.

They Are on Different Levels

The biggest thing that differs balconies from porches is that balconies are always either on the second floor of the house, or floors above that. But balconies are never on the ground level. On the other hand, porches are meant to be locations where one can pause for a moment before entering or exiting a house (to talk to a company, for example). Since porches are where one enters the house, they are usually located on the ground level. 

Since balconies are usually on higher floors, they have balustrades of at least three feet surrounding the perimeter. These block the sides so that people will not fall. Balconies can also have a few different types of railings. You can usually find glass, cement, metal or wood railings on balconies. 

They Are Attached to Different Spots of the House

Another difference between the two is the possible locations of each. As previously stated, a porch is meant to be an area to chat and relax before you exit or enter the house. Therefore, it is always located at the front of the house. Since a balcony can be on upper levels, balconies can be located anywhere around the building (the front, the back or the sides). 

Porches Usually Have Roofs While Balconies Don’t  

Usually, porches are under the same roof as the house. Porches can also have their own roof, but in almost all cases, you will find some sort of roof over a porch. On the contrary, balconies often don’t have roofs, but you will find some with roofs depending on the building. Oftentimes balconies have roofs when there are multiple on top of each other, like at a resort. 

A Balcony Has One Exit Where a Porch Can Have Multiple

Since balconies are attached to houses or buildings on upper levels, there is only one door that leads to the balcony. Porches have balusters as well but are designed to be more of an open concept since they are on the ground level, and there won’t be serious injuries if someone steps off. 

Due to this reason, porches can have multiple exits such as on the sides or around the house if it is a wrap-around porch. One can enter a porch and leave without even entering the house while to get to a balcony, you have to walk through the house. 

Balconies and Porches Are Different Sizes 

Porches have a lot of flexibility when it comes to size. They can be wrapped around the entire house or be at the front of the house. Either way, porches are usually bigger than balconies. While porches are meant to hold a number of people and to have room to chat and relax, balconies are built smaller. Balconies are not meant for many people but are designed for one or two to watch the sunset or to get some quiet time. 

Similarities Between a Balcony and a Porch

Both Balconies and Porches Can Be Open or Screened

While there are a lot of differences between balconies and porches, one big similarity is that both can be open or screened. “Screened” means that there is a screen that covers the whole balcony or porch. This is mostly to keep bugs and rain out when it is summer. 

Both Balconies and Porches Can Have Balusters

Even though they are used quite differently in balconies and porches, they both have balusters. Porches usually have a few tall balusters that go from floor to ceiling on the corners, and sometimes have shorter balusters running from the stairs to the tall balusters. If balconies use balusters and not glass, cement, or wood (or any other material), they are shorter and cover the entire perimeter of the balcony. 

If you are looking at buying or building a home, or are just curious about learning more about porches, check out this video that showcases different styles of porches:

If you already have a balcony or need some ideas, this video shows a few different ways to decorate your balcony:

What Are Some Other Outdoor Structures? 

If you live in an area where people spend most of their time outside, you will notice that there are numerous outdoor structures. Not only are there porches and balconies, but there are terraces, verandas, and decks. With all of these different kinds of outdoor areas, it is hard sometimes to tell the difference between them. Let’s look at three more outdoor structures. 


Terraces are raised platforms either in front of or protruding from buildings, houses, or in gardens. Furthermore, terraces can either be attached or detached from the structure and are normally paved. They are meant for large parties of people and for leisure activities. 


Verandas are often hard to tell apart from porches since they are defined by roofed areas attached to a structure that is partly enclosed and enclosed with railings. They are also known to be on the front of houses and wrap around the sides. 

Does this sound a bit familiar? The reason why verandas are hard to tell apart from porches is that the word veranda is actually the Portuguese word for porch (look it up yourself with google translator), so the two can be used interchangeably. 


Finally, there are decks. Decks are the simplest structure of what we are talking about today. They are outdoor platforms that are extended from the house or building. Decks are also usually raised off the ground. In simple terms, it is a wooden floor outdoors. 


There are a number of outdoor structures that can attach to buildings and houses. The article today covered the difference between a balcony and a porch. A porch is built on the ground level and is normally in the front of the house. Porches can be partially enclosed with balusters.

On the other hand, a balcony is an above-ground structure that is usually seen on the second or third floor of a house. Balconies are always enclosed with railings that are at least three feet high. Furthermore, you have to walk through the house to get to a balcony, but one can step on a porch without entering the house.

In summary, there are a number of differences between a balcony and a porch. If you are interested in learning more about different outdoor structures, check out Black & Decker The Complete Guide to Decks 6th Edition.

LaShawn Toyoda

I love home decor, DIY, and gardening. During my free time I enjoy looking for new ways to improve my home so that it's more organized, comfortable, and relaxing. My apartment in Japan has a small balcony with a great view. I created this site to share and get ideas for how to decorate and better utilize my balcony space.

Recent Posts