What’s the difference between a balcony and a terrace?

UK Home Improvement

What’s The Difference Between A Balcony And A Terrace?

The health benefits of having access to an outdoor space attached to your home have long been documented, which is why features such as balconies and terraces are such popular additions to residential buildings.

Both balconies and terraces expand living space and provide a connection between the interior and exterior of the property, allowing residents to enjoy the outdoors in comfort without technically leaving their home.

However, while they have similarities and add architectural flair to a building, the two are not the same, and the terms are not interchangeable. 

So, what exactly is the difference between a balcony and a terrace? Read on to learn how these structures are different and determine which would be better for your property.

What Is A Balcony?

A balcony is an elevated platform that is attached to the façade or side of a building on an upper floor. This platform is typically supported by columns, brackets, or cantilevers, and enclosed by a railing or balustrade around the sides.

The name comes from the Italian word ‘balcone’ – meaning ‘one scaffold’ – where one of the most famous historical examples of a balcony originates. Everyone knows the ‘balcony scene’ in Romeo & Juliet, the Shakespeare play set in Verona, Italy.

Balconies used to be accessed through a large floor-length window, though these days they are often accessed through a sliding glass door. They may be fully or partially covered with a roof or canopy to provide protection from the weather.

What Is A Terrace?

A terrace is an external platform forming a raised open area, typically paved or tiled, open to the sky, and surrounded by a low wall. They are usually found either attached to a building on the ground level or on the rooftop, though terraces can sometimes be free-standing.

The name comes from the Latin word ‘terra’ – meaning ‘earth’ – as a terrace was traditionally a raised but flat area of level ground. It can be found in many languages, including terasse in French and terraza in Spanish, to indicate a platform for walking or sitting.

Terraces are also often confused with patios, which are another similar feature. However, patios are always on the ground level and flat, while terraces on this level will still be somewhat elevated and enclosed, and terraces are normally much more spacious.

Balcony vs Terrace Differences

There are certainly some similarities between balconies and terraces, which is why they are often confused with each other, but there are several key differences.

The two outdoor spaces have their own characteristics when it comes to factors such as location, size, construction, function, and accessibility, which we’ll explore below.


The most significant difference between balconies and terraces would be the obvious variation in size. Terraces are much larger and more open spaces, often spanning an entire rooftop or a large portion of a garden area, with enough room for a variety of amenities.

On the other hand, balconies tend to be smaller and rectangular, only a few feet deep by several feet long. These have to be narrower because they protrude from the building and would require more structural support to bear weight, though they’re typically big enough for a bistro table and chairs.


Balconies and terraces also differ in where they can be situated, as their designs each limit their potential locations. For example, terraces are large flat spaces that can only be located on the ground floor – usually at the back of a building – or on top of a flat roof.

Meanwhile, balconies cannot be on the ground level or uppermost roof, as they are attached to the front or side elevation of a building, usually overlooking a street in a city. They are connected to an interior room with their only access point being through a large window or door. 

Balconies are therefore smaller and more private spaces with limited access directly from the residence, while terraces are often public or shared spaces with access from communal points such as stairs. Terraces also have the potential to be free-standing, separate from the building, which is obviously not possible for a balcony.


Terraces have a more extensively robust construction than balconies because they are larger and have more structural support, either from the building underneath if they’re on the roof or some kind of raised embankment if they’re on the ground level.

This allows for heavier and more varied materials, from stone, brick, and concrete to wood and metal. Terraces also don’t need to be surrounded by walls on all sides, as they can be accessed from multiple points (unless, of course, a safety barrier is needed around a roof edge).

Balconies are smaller and have to be more lightweight, with material choices dependent on the method of securing the structure to the building. They were traditionally made using wood and wrought metal, but modern versions tend to use glass and steel.

That said, both balconies and terraces can benefit from using durable glass balustrades to double as safety barriers and aesthetically appealing features for a contemporary look.


Being more spacious than balconies, terraces offer more opportunities for various activities. There is room for more furniture and separate areas for sitting, cooking, dancing, exercising, etc. Rooftop terraces especially are excellent for facilitating urban gardens or hosting social events.

However, terraces also require more maintenance for all of this, and often aren’t exclusive for one person or family to use (unless you own the building). Balconies, on the other hand, are exclusively for the use of the people living in the specific residence they’re attached to.

Balconies are ideal for individuals, couples, or small families living in apartments to have a little private outdoor space to escape to. There is normally enough space to set up a cafe-style table with one or two chairs, perfect for sipping coffee, reading a book, and watching the world go by below.

Is A Balcony or A Terrace Better?

Whether you want an outdoor space as a hideaway to relax, grow flowers and plants, or do your morning yoga in the fresh air, both balconies and terraces can fulfil a range of needs while adding an extra touch of elegant luxury to your home.

When deciding between the two, the most suitable option obviously depends on the building type and where you would want to build the balcony or terrace. Terraces are preferable for large privately owned properties, while balconies are likely best for multi-use residences for rent or lease.

In any case, both balconies and terraces require professional input to plan and design an architectural feature that is structurally sound and safe for its intended use. So, be sure to carry out calculations and choose materials carefully, and check with your local authority to ensure that your balcony or terrace complies with building regulations and planning permissions.


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