Planning Your Patio
Patio The word itself calls to mind an image of splendid sun-drenched days spent sipping chilled drinks under the welcome shade of an umbrella. From simple concrete slabs to colorful tile laid in intricate patterns, patios dramatically enhance outdoor living space.
Here’s what you need to know before you begin on a patio building project.
The first step is to assess your needs and determine how your family will use the patio. Do you plan on entertaining? To facilitate serving and clean-up, locate the patio within striking distance of your kitchen. Meanwhile, consider opting for a stain-resistant patio material upon which furniture easily slides.
If you’d like to sunbathe on your patio, site the installation the section of your yard with the best exposure. If your patio fantasies involve snoozing peacefully on a gently swaying hammock, then choose a shady spot, perhaps one near a side of the house from which an awning may be extended.
Once you’ve chosen a location and reviewed applicable zoning and set-back requirements, use stakes and string (or landscaper’s spray paint) to outline the perimeter you have in mind. Live with the area marked off for a few days; be sure you’ve chosen wisely.
Ideally, the patio should look and feel like a natural extension of your home, or if placed away from the house, it should fit almost seamlessly into the landscape. Watch the way the sun falls over the area, and monitor the amount of debris that builds up from trees and bushes.
Water flow is another consideration. Even though you’ll grade your patio in such a way as to prevent standing water, it’s best to avoid planning your patio for a low spot on the property. Excessive moisture not only disturbs the ground beneath a patio installation, but also contributes to weed growth and mildew.
Don’t forget to give some thought to the plumbing, septic, and electrical lines in your yard. Many homeowners have been forced to dig up their patios so that underground repairs could made to utilities.
Budget and taste are likely to guide your decision-making when it comes to patio materials, but if you expect to be walking barefoot on the surface, texture and heat retention are also factors worth weighing. Depending on where you live, a material’s relative tolerance of freeze-thaw cycles might be important, too.
Patio Building – Materials
Poured Concrete The least expensive but most labor-intensive option is pouring your own concrete patio. Go with a simple gray slab or add color for a unique look. Though it requires professional installation, so-called stamped concrete mimics the look of flagstone, brick, and other pricey materials for a fraction of the cost. Avoid concrete next to swimming pools; the material is slippery when wet. Also, note that concrete patios are susceptible to cracking in climates with extremes or on properties where the ground occasionally shifts.
Pavers Homeowners can choose from the variety of pavers on the market. Popular options include brick, flagstone, clay, concrete and composite. Less expensive are concrete pavers, which come in different colors, textures, and styles. In general, pavers are slip-resistant and easy to install, but because they absorb stains, proper maintenance means re-sealing the surface every two years.
Composite Pavers A relatively new entrant to the patio world, composite pavers are made almost exclusively from recycled materials (e.g., old tires). A half-dozen colors are available, and the slip-resistant pavers are comfortable underfoot. Plus, alignment is a breeze, since the pavers snap onto a pre-laid grid. But that convenience comes at a per-square-foot cost rivaling that of high-end brick.
Brick Installed correctly, brick pavers can last over 100 years, and who doesn’t appreciate their charming old-world aesthetic? Different patterns are possible, from herringbone to basket weave, and bricks of different colors may be installed side by side for an eye-catching effect. Of critical importance is buying brick that is rated not only for use outdoors, but also for the specific temperature range of the climate where you live. Mostly resistant to stains and kind to bare feet.
Natural stone Included in this group are bluestone, slate, travertine, limestone and sandstone pavers, any of which may be purchased as irregular slabs or in uniform square or rectangular shapes. Each has different heat-retention and slip factors. Select carefully based on your planned usage of the patio. With the exception of specialty tile, natural stone is the most expensive patio material in common use today.
Tile Many different types of tile may be used outdoors. Unglazed clay tiles are popular (terra cotta among them), but there are plenty of glazed options as well (remember the latter is likely to be somewhat slippery even when dry). The price tag on tile ranges from perfectly reasonable to jaw-droppingly high.
Installation requires the tiles to be laid over a concrete slab; if you don’t already have that foundation in place, you’ll need to factor the cost of one into your budget.