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How to Design & Plan a Patio 101

Expand your outdoor living area into a space for dining, entertaining, relaxation and recreation with a patio. It's one of many simple, affordable outdoor transformations that can beautify your garden, improve curb appeal and make your space more functional. Here are some simple patio tips and ideas.

Choose the Site

Consider the following when choosing your patio location:

The value of convenience
Have you chosen a site with sufficient space? Do you want to be near the kitchen to simplify outdoor cooking? No matter how great your patio looks, it won't get used as an entertaining area if it's not easily accessible from the house.

Nearby sights and sounds
For a private escape, be sure to factor in your environment, considering noise and privacy from neighbours and traffic.

Weather conditions
Hot, glaring sun can make an open patio uncomfortable in summer while too much shade can make the space chilly in later months. Select a location that has a mix of sun and shade and that is sheltered from strong winds.

Inspect the Site Conditions

Proper drainage will prevent mildew and water stains on your outdoor stone patio and maintain a level surface that won't droop over time. Look for a spot with no standing water after a rainfall.

  • If you want to install a patio in a moist or low-lying area, remove six to eight inches of soil and install a drain field—a three- to five-inch layer of rock beneath the topsoil, turf and pavers—to whisk moisture away from the surface by allowing an underground space for collection as it absorbs into the earth.
  • You can also place one to three inches of grass, pea gravel or decomposed granite joints between pavers or stones to help control runoff. This gives you more square footage with fewer stones.

If the proposed site is near your house, inspect your gutters for any blockages to avoid heavy overflow that might soak your patio furniture and accessories and direct downspouts away from the patio.

Ask Professionals for Advice

  • Call utility and cable companies and ask them to flag the position of any underground lines before you start digging. Sewer, water and gas lines must also be considered.
  • Review your design with a building inspector to make sure you're meeting building and zoning codes. You don't want to have to spend more to adjust your plans, abandon a project mid-way or have to pay fines because you neglected this step.

Select Materials

A wide variety of options are available for designing a patio.

  • Granular materials such as pea gravel and marble chips allow for less structured spaces that are easy to install, but aren't as friendly to bare feet.
  • Stone pavers, brick and natural stone such as flagstone help define a more permanent space, providing a strong foundation for patio furniture and barbeque grills. Find out how to install them yourself.
  • Decide if you want a warm or cool look to your patio and choose your pavers accordingly. Rose-coloured pavers complement a house with Mediterranean-style architecture, while a more modern home could accommodate large rock-style pavers.

Design Your Space

A patio can be laid in any shape or size depending on your available space and budget, but it's important for its style to echo that of your home and surroundings.

Select your outdoor furniture
Find the right pieces to suit your style, budget and space. Be sure to take your area measurements with you when selecting your patio dining set for a good fit.

Finishing touches
Complete the look by placing flowerbeds or containers of complementary plant materials around your new living space. Consider echoing your patio design by using the same material in other parts of the garden, including in retaining walls, step stones or paths.

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