by Marcus Pickett
Whether it's your outdoor haven for entertaining guests, a pleasant space to scratch that outdoor dining itch, simply a place to sit and read a book, or some other purpose for your patio, here's what you need to know about today's patio installation options. Simple, gray squares are out. Simple patios may now be cheaper than ever, but new innovations and installation methods have made patio upgrades increasingly inexpensive. With simple planning, the perfect patio is within reach for even moderate budgets.
There is more than one way to build a patio. Although a patio can be built from almost anything, brick, stone, and concrete make up the vast majority of patio materials. The average cost of a brick or stone patio is $5,965, according to data collected by ServiceMagic. Meanwhile, the average cost of a concrete patio is only $3,650. Yet, the cost of a concrete patio lies mostly in the mixing, delivery, and finishing, whereas the cost of brick and stone more closely follow square footage. This means smaller patios might see a negligible difference between the cost of brick or stone and concrete - conversely, the larger the patio, the bigger this cost discrepancy. Indeed, the top concrete patio project hit only $7,091, while ServiceMagic has seen stone and brick patios hit $20,000.
Your new patio is not your parents' patio. Drab, gray concrete is no longer mandatory to control costs. Color mixing, texturing, and other decorative finishing allows concrete to approximate virtually any look and sport any number of colors and textures. Distressed leather, polished marble, and glazed stone are just some new, favorite looks for concrete. Indeed, with concrete's flexibility, you really need the skills of exterior design for the best possible patio. Gray is dull, but bright colors might mess with your naturalistic vibe. Different shades of brown and other earth tones are never a bad idea for your backyard. Stone and brick imitations are also can't-miss choices. But don't be afraid to make a statement, either. This is your patio, and you should be proud of it.
Some people install a patio because they've set aside some money for a home improvement, their backyard looks unadorned, and they're intrigued by the idea of having a backyard patio. Plus, it's hard to argue against a patio; it's a relatively simple project that adds value to your home. But too many people install a patio only to use it once a month for any extended period of time. One of the common mistakes people make is to blow their entire patio budget on the installation. Instead, you should identify the most likely deterrent to your enjoyment of your patio. In Seattle, Pittsburgh, or Memphis, you might want to consider some type of patio covering or awning ($2,750). In Phoenix, Atlanta, or Dallas, an outdoor misting system ($2,750) might be just as important as your patio furniture. In Minneapolis, Detroit, or Boston, you might want to save enough money for patio heaters(a couple hundred dollars a piece) or an outdoor fireplace ($1,300 for a prefabricated unit or $2,900 for brick or stone).
Just as there's more than one way to build a patio, there's more than one type of contractor to consider for your next patio. The cheapest route is to find a basic concrete contractor with experience in ground leveling and concrete pouring. These contractors aren't particularly difficult to find, especially if you live in a city where municipal sidewalks ensure this type of task is always in demand. For more aesthetic and visually stunning patios, however, you might want to talk to landscaping companies or design/build firms. Most of these companies will have a concrete and/or masonry contractor on staff, not to mention a landscape architect. Together, this landscaping team will design and install a beautiful patio to your specifications with advice along the way about how to ensure your patio fits in with the rest of your backyard landscaping. If you're not sure which direction you want to go, that's perfectly fine. As with any home improvement, you should solicit at least three estimates for your new patio. Make sure you get one estimate from an independent concrete contractor and one from a landscaping company so you can compare different service offerings and project costs.
-- Marcus Pickett is a senior home improvement writer with ServiceMagic.com. He has written more than 1200 articles on managing your home and home improvement trends.