Your outdoor space is a bit wasted right now.
You don’t really have anywhere to hang out and relax, there’s no real utility or function other than keeping the grass trimmed. That’s not a focal point; it’s a chore.
That is, until you create a patio in your backyard. A space to put the grill, pull up a cooler, and finally start enjoying the outdoors to the best of your abilities. You don’t need a lot of money, you don’t need an absolute ton of space; we’re not talking about building an entire deck.
If you’re considering making a patio for your home, whether it’s attached or detached, this is everything you need to know. Consider it your crash course in patio preparation and maintenance.
- 1 What is a Patio?
- 2 How Much Does a Patio Cost?
- 3 Do I Need Permits to Build a Patio?
- 4 DIY vs. Hiring a Contractor
- 5 Patio vs. Terrace
- 6 Patios vs. Deck
- 7 Can I Enclose my Patio or Have a Roof?
- 8 Patio Furniture
- 9 Patio Accessories
- 10 The One Thing Your Home Has Been Missing
What is a Patio?
A patio can be attached to your home, or completely detached.
It is a flat surface that’s flush with the ground, meaning it isn’t suspended by a deck, porch, or any foundation whatsoever. Even if you have a short deck, but it’s suspended three inches off the ground, that’s not technically a patio.
These are most commonly created using stone or concrete, and more often than not, they’re going to be attached to the home.
Patios are often covered with a canopy or tarp whether or not it is attached to the home. Patios are different from decks in more ways than just height, which we’ll get into throughout this guide.
How Much Does a Patio Cost?
Right out of the gate, I want to let you know that a patio is going to cost significantly less than a new deck. If you’ve been considering one – and mind you, they are solid options – you’ll be happy to know that patios are far cheaper.
A patio can vary in cost, but generally, it can run you as little as $800, or as much as $3,200. I know that’s a big four-fold increase in the initial price, but there are a lot of variables to consider. We’ll go over some of them right now.
While this mostly matters so that you can figure out how much flooring material you’re going to need, it dictates more than that. The more square footage, the more you can and will do with the space.
That’s additional pieces of furniture for a large square footage number, a bigger fire pit, or a larger canopy (which drives the price up by a considerable amount). The more square footage, the more money will go into filling that space.
This is the primary cost. Are you going to use bricks, pavers, or something else entirely? Do you want to get it done with asphalt or concrete?
Whatever it is that you want to do, plan for it. This is where that square footage from earlier comes into play.
This isn’t directly related to the cost, but if you really want to get this done, you’re going to need one or two days to properly dedicate to it.
The reality is that most of us are working two jobs and go months without a day off. If this is you, count the lost pay as an expense so you can properly compensate for it.
Furniture and Amenities
You should include this in your patio cost. Why?
Because it’s easy to cut down the cost for budgeting purposes and just get the patio laid down, but then… you can’t really use it for a while. Not until you get a bit of outdoor furniture or something you can use on the patio.
Account for this, because otherwise, you’re going to finish the project and feel like you didn’t pay yourself first. It’s going to be a useless space without the right amenities. A grill, a fire pit, things of that nature. It’s a go big or go home kind of thing.
It would be senseless to have an outdoor patio that you can’t use because it got dark out, right?
You can keep the party cruising on through the night with the right with some simple outdoor lighting. LEDs, tiki torches, or some string lighting would be sufficient.
You could also include some outdoor landscaping lights around the edge of your patio if you want. That way, they could be solar powered and waterproof, so you wouldn’t even have to give them a second thought.
Depending on where you live or what season you plan to use this in the most, you’re going to need some relief from the unforgiving sunlight.
UV rays are okay to have for a short amount of time, but if you’re lounging outside, excessive UV is going to damage your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. Get a solid cover so you can cool down your patio by up to fifteen degrees below the current outdoor temperature.
If you have any other speciality expenses you can think of, include them. The goal here is not to scare you off from building your own patio, but to make sure you’re prepared so there are no stressful bumps in the road.
Do I Need Permits to Build a Patio?
That’s another great thing about making a patio – no permits required! You might have to get a permit to build a deck depending on the size, but patios are a free pass.
That means if you pour concrete, you don’t need a permit. If you lay stone pavers, you still don’t need a permit.
If you’re going to include a fire pit in the middle of your patio, then that’s a different story. You’re going to need prior approval for that. It’s different from a permit, but still something you need in writing from your local municipality members.
DIY vs. Hiring a Contractor
This is where we have to boil down some costs, and talk about a few headaches you’re going to run into either way.
It’s not simple, by any means, to just go the DIY route when professional contractors are available and provide much less stress for these sorts of projects. Let’s go over everything you need to know so you can make a sound decision.
Stress is… well, it’s a bigger factor than anyone anticipates going into any single renovation, addition, or remodeling project. It’s what makes couples who DIY together go mental, and what makes buying a fixer-upper such an up-in-the-air decision.
Thankfully, patios aren’t overly complicated, but the stress of doing it on your own can be pretty overwhelming at times. With a contractor, there are still stresses, but they’re different. You’ll be stressed about the project total, about how long it will take, and things like that.
We don’t even really need to compare this—going the DIY route is always going to be cheaper, it just doesn’t mean it’s going to be better.
We gave a fairly high maximum patio price earlier, and that’s because it’s associated with laborer costs, contractor fees, and all that complicated junk that gets thrown into the mix.
The time that it takes to build your own patio isn’t necessarily going to be longer than what it takes a contractor. You might be able to do it faster, but a contractor might be able to do it more thoroughly. It’s just a different way of getting it done.
Where this is a relatively straightforward project, you shouldn’t run into too many problems with time constraints, but it’s always possible during any type of construction project.
How is it not convenient to hire someone else to do it?
Well, that’s what people think anyway. You have to call these companies, get quotes, time frames, account for extra expenses, and ensure they have access to everything they need in case you’re at work when they make your patio. It’s not as easy as finding someone on Yelp, paying them, and then you’re done.
It’s convenient in the sense that you don’t have to spend a lot of your time doing this, but you will be doing quality assurance at some point, and directing how you want the project to look. I would say it’s still more convenient to have someone else do it, but there are trade-offs.
Nine times out of ten, a professional is simply going to do a better job at installing a patio than the average DIY warrior.
I don’t know how much experience you have, but with a project like this, years of experience certainly make for a better end result. I always think of it like this: if you’re not going for resale value (this is your forever home), then why do you even have to worry about it looking perfect?
If you can do it, and it’s of agreeable quality, then there’s no harm in going the DIY route, as long as you know the difference in the outcome.
Patio vs. Terrace
There’s such a very small distinguishing factor here, and I mean small. Both are flat, level areas, but a terrace will be on top of a building (like on a flat roof where it’s 100% supported by a structure), while a patio is ground level and attached to the home.
The tricky bit of business is when you have a detached patio that’s sitting in the middle of your yard. Some would argue that’s a terrace. Heck, if you have a canopy over it, someone would argue that it’s practically a gazebo.
It’s a very minor play on terminology. You wouldn’t say you’re going out on the patio if it was raised from the ground, you would say you’re going out on the deck, or out on the balcony.
You wouldn’t call a patio a terrace, because it generally has to be level with the entryway that it’s attached to, but it doesn’t have to be on the ground.
Last but not least, there are some stylistic differences that usually have a person saying one name or the other.
Terraces sometimes sound like the word trellis, which is in a close relationship with plants and greenery.
When you hear terrace, you tend to think of ivy, sprawling plants, and a more uptown kind of feel. Before I knew the difference many years ago, I thought a terrace was a rooftop garden in Manhattan. We all have preconceived ideas that generally gravitate around something like this.
Terraces will commonly have big, heavy planters made from wood or stone, while a patio will have hanging planters that come off of a house or covering.
You can have a covered terrace, and you can have a covered patio.
But more often than not, a terrace is an offshoot of a building, so it’s in the open night air. There might be posts or pillars that have a canopy, but generally it’s not a hanging roof or pre-built structure.
Wood vs. Stone
With a terrace, we think of brick or masonry. To some people, that’s the difference between a patio and a terrace.
This is just a matter of opinion and perception, though, since the differences could be negligible. Some patios are made out of wood, and can be made from recycled pallets that just lay on the grass attached to the home.
Altogether, terraces usually have more sprawling greenery, stonework, and can be separate from a home, although they’re usually located on an elevated platform like the roof of a building with a direct entryway/exit to another section of the home.
Patios vs. Deck
Patios are very different from decks, so when you tell someone you’re going out on the deck, they’ll already have a clear picture in their mind.
A patio is almost always thought of as being ground-level (as it truly is), and simply attached to a door to the backyard or front entryway. These are the differences.
Decks Are Raised
No matter what, even if you have a “ground-level” deck, it’s still built on an elevated platform that isn’t flush with the ground. You would have to make a deck frame, and then attach top boards onto it, so it’s still off the ground.
Traditionally, a deck is a few feet off the ground built on a substructure of support beams, and includes a railing or banister for protection. Nobody is afraid of falling off a patio because there wasn’t a guard rail.
Decks Are Always Attached
If you have a deck that’s just sitting in the middle of the yard, well, you just have a wooden platform sitting in the yard.
Decks are structures that are attached to your home in some way or another, usually to the exterior studs and/or framing depending on when the deck was made in the construction process. Decks are stable and feel more like an extension of the home than anything else.
Decks Are Made of Wood
You can make a patio out of pavers, or out of wood if you really want to, but it’s usually paved in some way. Decks are always made out of either wood or composite, as well as other wood-based materials. Nobody is standing on a stone deck (because at that point it’s basically a terrace).
Decks are raised platforms that are anchored to your home, with support beams implanted in the ground as well. Just like patios, these cannot be counted as a living space, so this is basically additional square footage on top of whatever your home currently has for livable space.
Can I Enclose my Patio or Have a Roof?
If you want to, then go right ahead. It’s not going to really change the classification, since a deck is raised and generally attached to the house, and a patio is just attached by being next to it, but being secured to the ground.
Assuming your patio is made of pavers on the ground, or stone, or even poured concrete, you’re going to be all set to create an enclosure around it. The enclosure needs to be secured to something, though, so you will want to consider one of these two options for siding and covers/roofs.
Attach to Home
Find external studs on the exterior of your home, and attach the structure of your enclosure and/or roof to the home. This works if you have a patio that’s a direct offshoot from an entryway or exit to your home.
Cement and Stabilizers
If your patio is detached from the home, you can still make an enclosure, you just have some extra steps to take. You need to cement poles or stabilizers in the ground around your patio so that you can secure walls, fences, or the foundation of a canopy.
Otherwise, it’s all just going to blow away. If you’re strictly using a canopy, you can usually drill the poles into concrete or a paved surface with the right tools.
Railings are normally for decks and terraces, but you can put a railing on your patio. It doesn’t serve all too much o a purpose, unless you have a garden bed that’s laying flush with the edge of your patio, but it’s an option.
You can build your own patio railings by simply purchasing and cutting wood from the store, but you don’t have to go that route if you don’t want to. You can actually buy prefab patio railings and simply install them yourself. Railings are not a necessity on a patio.
Ever seen those half-walls with screen netting on top that transcend up into a roof?
Those are patio walls, and they’re dead simple to make. You’re obviously not going to use drywall outside, but you can make it out of multiple materials.
Popular options include half walls made out of stone. You can use leftover pavers as well as new pieces of stone to create something that partially encloses your patio. This helps give it a slightly more separated feeling, so people aren’t just walking through the patio all willy nilly.
These can be of great benefit if your attached or detached patio has a grill and/or seating on it. You can separate the area where you will be cooking and your guests will be eating from the spots that your guests will be enjoying activities in the yard.
Patio walls may completely enclose a patio space, but if you’re going to do this, it’s usually a good idea to consider a mosquito net on top of the wall and attach it to the drop point of a roof.
Getting a roof or cover of some sort is one of the best moves you can make for your patio, because it provides protection from the sun.
This means that any coloration in your pavers will remain for longer, your outdoor furniture won’t fade as quickly, and it’s actually going to be hospitable to sit outside fairly frequently.
Patio covers should provide ample shade with very little light bleed-through, as well as proper waterproofing. If you have a cloth covering that just gets soaked, it defeats the purpose.
With a patio roof, you’ll be able to stay outside for longer throughout the summer.
The only time I wouldn’t recommend a patio roof, or just getting a pop-up canopy that covers part of the patio, is if you’re going to have your grill out here as well. Otherwise all that smoke is going to get trapped underneath the cover.
Last but not least, patio roofs can have mosquito nets attached to the edges and be secured to whatever support beams/poles you’re using. You can get magnetic clasps for the opening so that it isn’t too much of a hassle to enter and exit the enclosure without inviting pests in.
If you’re going all-out with your patio, you might as well plan ahead and include furniture in your price. In my experience, neglecting to do this right away means that you’re going to have a beautiful porch with nothing on it when you’re done, and that’s not fun.
Then it’ll end up taking weeks to get everything you want, and the luster of the new patio will have slightly eroded. I recommend sizing out your space and seeing what type of furniture you can fit without it getting too cramped.
The number one piece of outdoor furniture that people usually opt for is a couch, made of wicker or another material that doesn’t mold. On top of that, you’d want a coffee table or something along those lines right in front of it. Small waterproof wicker end tables are also an option.
One or two chairs, some outdoor cushions (to prevent mildew growth), and you’ve basically sealed the deal. That’s enough to get you started and actually have you using your space. If you opt for a patio roof of some sort, this furniture will last a bit longer thanks to blocked UV ray exposure.
Patio accessories are essentially items you can interact with, but aren’t pieces of furniture. This would include resin-based deck chests, where you can store charcoal or fuel for your grill, as well as fire pits in the middle of your patio.
There are outdoor rugs, retractable umbrellas (which are great if you don’t want a full roof over your patio), as well as signs, decor, and aesthetic components.
The number one accessory for your patio should be your lights. These should take top priority if you plan on using this at any point during the early morning or evenings.
You can either utilize solar-powered landscaping lights around your patio, or if you want, you can install solar-powered lights that attach to the back of your house.
Another notable patio accessory would be an outdoor ceiling fan. This is for partially covered patios where you have access to hardwire these in, but since many patios are built underneath slight building overhangs in a lot of houses, this could work well.
These work to repel mosquitos and most bugs, but also help you keep cool, dispel humidity, and make your outdoor area more enjoyable during those hot summer days.
The One Thing Your Home Has Been Missing
Your patio can be an intimate space to relax with a mimosa on a Friday night, or somewhere that you hold an afterparty to celebrate your child’s graduation. It’s versatile, but above all else, it’s a useful space where memories are made, and cookouts are hosted.
If you’re building your own patio, be sure to take every variable into account. Get a canopy to protect you and your family from all those UV rays, ensure it’s not in an area that’s easy to flood, and make sure it’s something you’re actually going to get proper use out of.