A patio is a feature that multiplies your living space and provides outdoor access without planting your feet directly into the dirt. In contrast from a deck, which is typically made from real or engineered wood and is mounted directly adjacent to the house, a patio is generally made up of other materials and can be located right outside the door or a distance from the house.
Whether you have an existing patio or are simply in the planning stages, creating the perfect patio means evaluating the structural components as well as the soft finishing touches.
If you are in the initial stages of design, you can have some fun evaluating different options. For an existing patio, you can still add on or cover it up with another material so don’t feel like you’re ‘stuck’ with a feature you don’t like.
1. Choose the Right Materials
When it comes to patios, there seems to be an ever growing list of material options. Older patios were formed using poured concrete, almost exclusively. Walk through a home improvement store today, though, and you’ll see myriad options ranging from stone to brick to an endless assortment of pavers.
Selecting the right material for your space depends on your budget, ability to DIY the project, slope, and personal preference.
2. Location, Location, Location
Start by really evaluating the location. Make sure you are close to the kitchen if possible. You’ll likely spend a lot of time enjoying drinks and dinners on your patio so make it convenient. Having a spot to plug in the electric smoker or outdoor lamp is convenient too. A door or patio slider is a natural starting point in your planning.
Although being close to the kitchen is ideal, other factors come into play. Watch the sun’s rotation over your house. Ideally you would monitor this movement for a full year, but even a few sunny days of tracking will give you information about when and where the sun hits the spot.
Place your patio based on this information and your particular needs. If you are a sun seeker, the ideal location is westward-facing. This allows you to have afternoon bar-b-ques and entertain a pool party. However, if you prefer morning sun and afternoon shade on hot days, place your patio on the east or southeast part of your home.
3. Ensure Critical Support
When pouring concrete or placing paving stones, ground preparation is essential for a long-lasting patio. Have your space evaluated for water runoff so water accumulation doesn’t cause issues down the road. Also make sure the ground is well compacted beneath pavers. Pay attention to slopes, although brick, concrete, and pavers can all be used effectively on a grade. However, the end result may not be the flat communal space you’d hoped for.
One more significant consideration at this stage is whether or not you will have some sort of patio cover. This can be a full roof or a pergola. While the covering will likely be free standing, separate from the patio, you may want to incorporate the vertical beams into the concrete pour or make space for them during the installation of pavers.
Once your patio is in place, the fun part begins. First evaluate the main traffic area. For example, a sliding glass door to the grill will be a frequent path so you will want to avoid placing items there. Look at where the windows to the home are and avoid blocking them. Also look out for access to water spigots so you’re not draping your hose over the patio furniture in order to water.
With all of that in mind, select patio furniture to suit your needs. This may be what is known as a ‘chat set’ or ‘conversation set’ with a sofa and chairs clustered into a square around a table or fire pit. You could alternatively choose a sectional that gives you flexibility to move pieces as your needs change. If your patio is small, you may simply need two chairs and a small table. Then again, a patio dining set may take center stage.
Also include wall decor, lawn art, and soft furnishings into your finished design.
5. Incorporate Greenery
The main purpose of a patio is to take advantage of the natural world, so bring it close. Incorporate hanging plants around the space to draw the eye upwards. Around the edges of the patio include climbing plants that can provide shade over a pergola or act as a privacy screen from the neighbors while ascending up an arbor. Place colorful pots in the area too.
6. Prepare to Entertain
When it comes to outdoor living, the patio is the hot spot for gathering and serves as a launching point for other activities in the yard such as lawn games and swimming. To prepare your space, make sure your grill or outdoor oven are equipped and ensure fuel sources such as propane are available. Supply adequate surfaces for setting down drinks and make sure you have a combination of sunny and shady locations to suit personal preferences and tolerances. Use waterproof benches or totes to store toys for the kids and adults and care for outdoor furniture by covering or storing elsewhere during the winter.