Everything (Almost) You Need to Know to Plan and Build a Patio

A patio is another outdoor living space generally built adjacent to one's home, made of concrete, stone or similar materials. The obvious difference between a patio and a deck is in the builidng material. And patios are always located at ground level, while decks are often elevated. A patio can be covered or not, and usually houses some sort of furnishings such as lawn or patio chairs, tables, and a barbecue. It's used for relaxing, entertaining, and most patios will also contain some sort of plants or other decorative gardening items. A patio makes a nice addition to your home in the warm months, because you can cook and eat outdoors, as well as relax with your newspaper, books, handiwork, or even your laptop computer, portable TV or DVD player, and more. If you have a good-sized area outside your home, especially if it's accessible by sliding or French doors, you are probably already aware this area is begging to become a patio. If you have been thinking about constructing a patio, we present some ideas and information on how to do that.

Planning Your Patio

Planning your patio is similar to planning a deck. First, consider what you will use the patio for. Will you entertain there, or will it just be for your family? Will you want furniture, plants, a barbecue? How big do you want it to be? Where will your patio be located?

Most people do entertain on their patio. It's like adding an extra room, whose space is limited only by the size of the patio and/or your back yard. Whether or not you entertain, you'll need to consider the size of your yard and decide how much of it you will be willing to give up to your patio. Along with size, you'll consider where to put it. Unless it's near a door to your home, it's going to be pretty useless. Most patios are outside a sliding glass door or French doors, but we've seen them accessible through a door in the garae leading to the yard, too. Hopefully it will be near the kitchen if you plan to eat on your patio or barbecue there. While most decks are square or rectangular, you aren't limited to these shapes when designing your patio.

Decide what materials you will use in your patio. Standard patios are made from concrete, but there are other options that are actually better. There are many types of stone and brick that make wonderful patios. When you know the size your patio will be, you can also plan for how much stone, cement, or whatever material you will need.

Along with planning the materials and shape, be sure to check whether you'll need any permits before proceeding with the work.

Patio Materials

Concrete is the most common material patios are made from, and it has been used for many years. It is also the plainest material, but the addition of other material such as bricks or stone will dress up a cement patio considerably. Another popular material is flagstone. It is heavy, but very decorative and stable. Brick is a good material, too. But before you begin, you should be aware that you can't just plop down your concrete, stone or bricks and call it good. Your patio area will need to be prepared, and along with preparation will come more materials you'll need to add to your shopping list for the foundation: namely gravel and/or sand.

Sources and Tips

There's more information than we can cover here, so we're including a list of sources where you can go for more "concrete" (excuse the pun) information on constructing your new patio. An excellent online source for how-to's is the web site. They give you materials lists for the various types of patio, as well as step-by-step instructions on how to do it yourself, as well as landscaping ideas to enhance your new patio. is another web site with helpful design ideas. Check your local building supply stores such as Lowe's or Home Depot for more ideas and for the materials you'll need to build your patio. If you're building a concrete patio, you can even rent your cement mixer from one of these sources.

Once you've completed your patio, you'll be ready to landscape and furnish it. Be sure to check out our articles on these topics, and other backyard ideas as well.

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