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DIY Patios: What to Consider When Designing a Patio

Adding a patio to your home is exciting. It's the perfect place for relaxing outdoors, alone or with company. It's not as simple as finding a patio you admire and duplicating it, however. You have to design a patio that will work with your location, budget and other factors. Here are some things to consider when designing your patio to ensure it suits your needs while expressing your personality and style.

Patio Location

Don't be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to location. No rule says a patio has to adjoin the rear of the house. You may prefer placing it in the front yard, or off to the side instead. A beautiful "destination patio" in the middle of the backyard with a pathway leading to it may fit your home and lifestyle perfectly.

When deciding on your patio location, keep in mind other design considerations such as the size, how you plan to use it, and how much sun, shade or climate protection the location offers. Even the land itself influences the patio location. A more level area, free of underground lines, requires less work to prepare. (Always call 811 before digging. Utility companies will dispatch and mark underground items for you.)

Don't forget the view, either. Plan on laying out in your swimsuit? You may want a more private location. Socializing with the neighbors allows for a more open setting.

How Will You Use the Patio?

Just as important as the patio location is how you plan to use it. A patio meant as a private retreat may not be very relaxing next to a full, active house, for example, while a patio meant for dining and cooking works best closer to the home.

Do you plan to host small, intimate gatherings or do you have a large family? Will children and pets regularly use the space? Rather than a flat, simple rectangular patio, would you rather have various areas, perhaps with different shapes or levels, to create groupings for different times and purposes? Look for patios you admire to spark your design ideas.

Patio Size

Size is everything. Depending on your budget, you may have to limit the size of your patio, change the layout or compromise on special features. Don't think of your patio as a one-time chance to get it right, either. You can always keep the design expandable and add the extras later, as money permits.

Create a Budget

Your budget will impact not only the size and layout, but also the building materials you choose. Don't assume that a limited budget means your patio has to be plain. Even concrete can be made beautiful with stains and special finishing techniques. Brick allows for a richer color variation, and pavers can create an old-world feel. Once you have determined the patio size, location and layout, it's much easier to price the materials needed. Consider adding graceful curves, beautiful planters or special borders to make up for less-fancy materials.

Decide on Extras

It's the furnishings and features that make a patio your favorite place to hang out. Also consider any irrigation, drainage, landscaping and lighting you want to include. It's much easier to run pipes, lines and cables now, before the patio is built, than later. Other options include:

A fire pit

A built-in grill (or space for your portable grill)

A water fountain or pool

Built-in seating or flowerbeds

Steps and railings

A roof and screened-in areas

Walls or fences

A built-in kitchen or bar

As you plan your patio, look for other patios you admire and modify the elements that catch your eye to suit your own design. Designing and planning your new patio is really the fun part. Well, other than the hours you will spend enjoying the end result!