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What Are the Differences between a Terrace and Balcony?

By Victoria Blackburn
Updated May 16, 2024
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Within a house or a building, a terrace and balcony are used for similar purposes. They both provide a means for adding extra usable living space outside of the property. While a terrace and balcony may seem similar in this respect, there are significant differences between them. The main differences include their size, location relative to the building, and how they are constructed.

Both balconies and terraces can be used as a communal area for a building's inhabitants. They are also added to dwellings as an additional private area that connects the interior with the exterior. The first — and usually most obvious — difference between a terrace and a balcony is size. In most cases, a terrace is significantly larger than a balcony. Due to the difference in size, this can also impact how a terrace and balcony are used.

Another difference between a terrace and balcony is where they are located with respect to the building to which they are attached. The word "terrace" is derived from the Latin word for earth. As such, the term was used for a structure that was built on the earth, usually from rock, tiles or wood. In more modern times, the term is also used for open or communal areas found on the rooftops of buildings. In many places, the term patio is also used interchangeably with terrace.

In most cases, balconies are elevated platforms that are attached to the side of a house or building. The term "balcony" derives from the Italian word for large window as, originally, many balconies were accessed through windows. Generally, balconies are significantly smaller than terraces, although this is not always the case. They are often included on a house or apartment as a way of extending living space outside the actual building.

Due to size and location, another difference between a terrace and balcony lies in how it is actually built. Terraces do not need to have a building anywhere near them. They can be free standing structures built directly on the ground. They are usually large open spaces, which allow them to be used for many different purposes, from sporting events to entertaining areas. Pools may be added to a terrace to provide further entertainment.

In comparison, a balcony is affixed directly to the side of a building. Since they are elevated from the ground, they are usually surrounded by some kind of wall or railing. They may or may not be covered, based on where they are found on the building. Balconies are always accessed through the room, or rooms, to which they are attached, while a terrace can have its own independent access point.

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Discussion Comments
By serenesurface — On Feb 22, 2014

A terrace is just an outdoor platform. It doesn’t have to be on top of a building. I guess terraces are made this way, especially in populated areas, to save space. I live in the city and my apartment complex has a terrace with a pool.

By SteamLouis — On Feb 22, 2014

@fify-- Both terraces and balconies can vary in size. It’s true that terraces are usually larger but balconies don’t have to be tiny. It depends on the building and the architect.

Balconies and terraces are not used as much in the US as they are in other countries. Especially warmer countries often build buildings and homes with balconies and terraces because people spend more time in these areas due to heat.

For example, the historical bangla homes of India have many outdoor spaces. The balcony is a long space that surrounds the entire home. Many of these homes are very large and have open areas in the center. The homes also have terraces on top.

In Delhi, India’s capital, all of the homes in the old areas have terraces. In fact, the homes are built so closely that one could jump from the terrace of one house to the next very easily.

We don’t make use of these structures very much in our country, probably due to climate. But the interesting thing is that the British have adopted the structures of Indian homes and now make homes that are very similar. Britain is cold too but I guess it’s the cultural influence.

By fify — On Feb 21, 2014

I love terraces much more than balconies. Balconies are nice too, but like the article said, they are very small. A terrace, as far as I know, is the open flat space on the roof of a building, so it’s very large. There is also more air and sunlight on the terrace so one can do so much more with it. We can’t even barbecue in our balcony as it’s too small.

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