Get ready for the best parts of summer living with an outdoor do-it-yourself patio that will be an enjoyable spot for outdoor barbecuing, al fresco dining or curling up with a summer read.
[In Pictures: 10 Smart Ways to Improve Your Budget.]
With some time—perhaps the span of a long weekend—and a few basic tips, you can put together a patio to complement your outdoor space. Already have a deck or patio? These tips can also be applied to freshen up an existing space.
1. Plan out your space: Your patio should be big enough to be comfortable, but small enough to be intimate. Set out your barbecue, a table and a few chairs to gauge the size of the area. Once you have an idea, outline the area with string to mark where the concrete or bricks will go. As you plan, make sure you think about the purpose of the patio. Is it for eating and barbecuing? Choose patio materials that will provide a stable surface. Is your patio meant to be a quiet outdoor getaway? Perhaps stone or other natural materials will work better.
2. Choose your materials: You want your patio to blend with your outdoor space and complement the style of your home, as well as work with the purpose of the space. Ultimately whatever you choose will be a result of your personal taste and the amount of money you want to spend.Concrete: While concrete is on the more affordable end, it demands more skill and time than other options. If you decide to go with concrete, it’s necessary to slope your patio at least a one-quarter inch grade to ensure proper drainage. If you already have a concrete patio, note that concrete doesn’t have be basic gray. You can purchase concrete in different shades, or stain and paint existing concrete. Just make sure to protect the color with a coat of sealer.Crushed granite: Once compacted, this can provide almost as firm of a surface as concrete and water drains well through it. Gravel or crushed stones can also work well for a less firm of surface.Pavers/Brick: Both are easy to work with and can be laid out in a variety of patterns on a sand and gravel base. Concrete pavers are the most durable and will give you great bang for your buck.Flagstone or other natural stone: These can also be laid on a sand base but may provide an uneven dining surface. You can purchase pre-cut stones, or have the stones cut for you. The gaps between the stone can be left as is, or filled with a ground cover plant like woolly thyme, blue star creeper or baby’s tears.
With each of these materials, drainage is pertinent. No matter the material, your patio should have a slight slope so water runs off easily.
[See the best personal finance stories from around the Web at the U.S. News My Money blog.]
3. Make some designer touches:Patio furniture: Again, try to incorporate the style of your home or outdoor space with any furniture or accessory you purchase. Try a wrought-iron or wicker look for a traditional home, or more mod plastic forms for a contemporary house. Short on cash? Scour garage sales and thrift stores for discarded furniture. Most of it can be painted to create a cohesive look.Barbecue: If you do have a flagstone patio, you can create a separate gravel or concrete area for the barbecue and save money by dedicating the more expensive materials for the seating area.Plants: Terracotta planters are by far the most affordable and create a cohesive look for your patio. Fill them with plants in varying colors and heights. Herbs, lettuce and tomatoes all grow great in containers and are easily harvested during the summer.Outdoor lighting: Don’t have an outlet nearby? Most lanterns and even strung lights now come in solar or battery options that provide great light without plugging in.Accessories: Make your patio an extension of your home with little touches like hanging art, durable patterned cushions and pillows or, if you happen to be under cover, a great outdoor rug. Love an outdoor fireplace? Grab an affordable standing version, starting at $80 or a chimenea, starting at $120.
Erika Riggs is a real estate writer for Zillow Blog, a resource for real estate and mortgage news. Twitter: @zillow.