For many people, the true stamp of style and elegance in their landscape is a patio. While shrubbery and flowerbeds can portray nature’s beauty in color and form, patios, when created with taste and flair, prove that man-made structures can harmonize with – and complement – natural ones.
Because we’ll be constructing with smaller pieces than would be the case with, say, a deck, we can vary the design and character of our patios to a large extent. However, if we want a look that blends well with our house and the rest of the yard, it’s usually ideal to simplify the task and use no more than two kinds of materials. In order to narrow our choices, we might begin by deciding between a formal look and a more irregular and natural one. Bricks and concrete pavers create a clear-cut and uniform design, while flagstones like slate and sandstone will vary in contour and shape.
Before settling, then, on the actual area we want to cover, there are three main things to consider. The boundaries of our patio will require edging, which can consist of brick, stone, metal and even plastic material. Also, our patios must be graded so that water will flow away from the house. A good rule of thumb is to decline at least 1/8 inch for each foot. So a patio that stretches sixteen feet from our house should be no less than two inches lower at the father end than at the top. Finally, we need to consider the sun’s course over our property and plan to possibly build in shaded areas if we live in a place that experiences hot summers. Patio stones absorb and reflect a lot more heat than decking does.
Cold season will be another consideration. Bricks are classed for either mild winter or severe weathering. Paving stones, which are quarried in flat, think sheets, are generally sturdier in the cold. In the event that some do crack, however, they’re easier to replace if we’ve bedded them in an inch of compacted sand topping 4 inches of gravel as opposed to concrete. If we do use concrete for our setting, it needs a base of compacted gravel 4-6 inches thick. The concrete slab itself should be 4 inches thick, and reinforced with steel mesh to prevent cracking.
We could also opt to select materials that echo existing elements within our houses. A brick patio, for example, can consist of the same colors as an indoor hearth and thus convey a sense of unity. We can also reinforce continuity by making our patio the same size as a dominant room of the house.
Patios can also be made to blend in with gardens and other growing spaces. One method is to space pavers apart and place flowers of other plants between them. Wood chips and gravel can ease the transition between patio and pathway. Added touches like these not only enhance the beauty of our patios but also make them look like natural parts of our outdoor environments.