To get the most out of your living space, you may try utilizing storage efficiently, strategically choosing furniture and taking advantage of the outdoors. Today's homeowners are increasingly interested in ways to expand their living space past the interior of the home. According to The American Institute of Architects' Home Design Trend Survey in the first quarter of 2008, more than two-thirds of those surveyed saw increasing popularity in outdoor living spaces [source: Baker].
One way to create a great outdoor living space is by adding a patio. Patios are usually level with the ground instead of raised like a deck. From a grill-out location in the summer to a gathering place around a fire pit in late fall, a patio can be a multi-season recreation center. It can also serve to define different areas of your yard, along with enhancing the style of your home and garden.
Patios are as diverse as the homes they go with -- from a large rectangular brick patio to a free-form slate patio. When thinking about the size and type of patio that's right for you, take into account how the patio will be used. Do you want a space for entertaining parties of 12 or an intimate retreat for just the two of you? Along with space, the look of the patio is also important. To have a patio that seamlessly links the home to the garden, you want to think about the overall impression you would like to create. For example, a colonial-style home might mesh well with a brick patio, whereas if you have a contemporary-style home, poured concrete might give you the look you want.
In this article, we'll look at five of the most commonly used patio materials. First up, a natural option.
Stone offers a natural and durable option for the creation of a patio. Liz Birkholz, 2010-2011 vice-president elect of communications for the American Society of Landscape Architects, recommends going with a local stone because it will be more environmentally friendly and also more likely to blend into your backyard setting. Some common varieties of natural stone used for patios include slate, quartzite, bluestone and limestone [sources: Outdoor Living].
Natural stone can also fit into a garden setting because of its natural hues. "It (natural stone) will definitely last longer and hold its color longer than any of the other materials," says Thomas Tavella, president of Tavella Design Group.
While homeowners may be attracted by the look and durability of stone, its irregular surfaces can make for a rough walking area. It can also be heavy and, due to the irregular shapes, stone can be difficult to fit together when laying out the patio. Above all, cost can be a large factor. Stone patios are usually more expensive than concrete pavers or poured concrete.
Now, let's take a look at a less expensive option.
Concrete pavers are made of dense concrete compacted to form individual units that can mimic brick or natural stone, but at a less expensive price. And they can come in a variety of colors and shapes.
Different installation methods for concrete pavers can offer the homeowner different benefits. Since most pavers are laid as individual units, they can be replaced fairly easily without disturbing the rest of the patio. Yet, some concrete pavers have interlocking joints, which aid in creating stability for the patio because they're less likely to shift out of place. When set in sand, the pavers have an element of give, so they can withstand changes in temperature and loads by shifting instead of cracking [source: Outdoor Living: The Ultimate Project Guide].
Yet, concrete pavers do have a few disadvantages. Due to their strict geometric shapes, the pavers offer less freedom in the patterns that can be created. Also, some concrete pavers have shallow pigments that may fade over time or when scratched can reveal the bare concrete underneath.
Let's look at another way to use concrete to create a patio.
Concrete is basically a combination of cement, sand and gravel that's mixed with water to make a gooey substance that hardens when dry. The semi-liquid nature of concrete allows it to be formed into almost any shape or size. This versatility gives homeowners the freedom to do very geometric or more curved patios. Poured cement is also a very economical option for creating a patio that offers a hard, flat surface that requires little maintenance.
Poured concrete does have a few drawbacks. First, the actual mixing of the concrete can be tricky, since the process must be done to exact specifications for the best results. If the concrete is not dried correctly, or has drainage problems, it can crack over time. And very smooth concrete can get slippery when wet. According to Birkholz, concrete may also not be the best choice if your patio will be over sewer or electrical lines because of the possible cost associated with repairing the patio if those lines need attention. Finally, concrete can have a very industrial or stark feel that might not fit with a more natural setting.
Now, let's look at a very different option -- tile.
Ceramic or porcelain tiles can make a very distinctive patio. Tiles come in a wide variety of styles and can create a very seamless transition from indoors to outdoors. While these tiles may resemble the tile that you might use in your bathroom or on the floor of your kitchen, be sure to use both tile and grout that are meant for exterior use. It's also important to use tiles that are not very porous, or will not absorb a lot of water, to resist damage from freezing and thawing with the change of seasons. Usually unglazed tiles work best for large walking spaces because they tend to be less slippery than glazed tiles.
Tile does have some potential downsides. It can be slick, so it might not be the best choice for spa or pool areas. It can also get slippery if it holds water for a long amount of time, causing a film of algae to grow on the surface. Finally, tile does tend to be more costly than brick and sometimes even more than stone.
Next, we'll look at brick as an alternative patio material.
Brick has been a popular home construction material for hundreds of years. Yet bricks used for patios are a little different than the ones you would use on your home. They must be specially fired, so they're less porous. If you live in a location where it freezes, make sure to check that your bricks are of the correct grade for your type of environment.
While you may think that all brick patios must be red and very linear, brick patios can be different. Along with red, bricks also come in tan, black and other shades. A different color is not the only way to make brick patios more interesting. Think about creating a pattern with the bricks. Some popular patterns include herringbone, or alternating bricks on a 90-degree angle, as well as a pinwheel, which forms a square with four regular-sized bricks and a half brick in the middle.
Bricks can offer natural warmth along with a formal elegance, but there are some drawbacks. If installed on sand instead of mortar, you can have weeds popping up in between the bricks, yet these spaces also leave room for plants that might soften the look of the patio. If not properly installed, bricks can be more uneven than paved concrete or interlocking concrete pavers. This can also happen over time as bricks settle. Finally, brick is usually more expensive than concrete pavers.
Whether you add a patio of brick, stone or another material, it will give you added square footage perfect for entertaining or relaxing.
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More Great Links
- Baker, Kermit PhD, Hon. AIA. "As Housing Market Weakens, Homes Are Getting Smaller." The American Institute of Architects. June 6, 2008. (May 26, 2009)http://info.aia.org/aiarchitect/thisweek08/0606/0606b_htdsq2.cfm
- Birkholz RLA ASLA LEED AP, Liz. 2010-2011 vice-president elect of communications, American Society of Landscape Architects. Personal interview. May 28, 2009.
- Carter, Tim. The Washington Post. "Picking the Perfect Patio Pavers." February 7, 2009. (June 3, 2009)http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/05/AR2009020504118.html
- City of Palo Alto, Public Works. "Permeable Pavement." (May 28, 2009)http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/depts./pwd/flood_+_storm/stormwater_rebates/permeable_pavement.asp
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- Editors of Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine. The Complete Patio Book. Lane Publishing Co. 1990.
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- Mosca, Peter L. Realty Times. "Popularity of Outdoor Living Spaces Increases." October 1, 2007. (June 3, 2009)http://realtytimes.com/rtpages/20071001_outdoorliving.htm
- Outdoor Living: The Ultimate Project Guide. Landauer Corporation. 2002.
- Peters, Rick. Popular Mechanics moneysmart makeovers. Porches, decks & patios. Hearst Books. 2005.
- Sierra Club Green Home. "Permeable Paving." (May 28, 2009)http://www.sierraclubgreenhome.com/go-green/landscaping-and-outdoors/permeable-paving/
- Tavella, Thomas FASLA. President of Tavella Design Group. Personal interview. May 27, 2009.
- Walks, Walls & Patios. Creative Homeowner. 2004.