Patio Design and Material Options: What You Need to Know

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    If you are planning to have a patio designed and installed, there are certain aspects of the process you should understand. After all, this is your space and it should reflect how you plan to use it and your own personal style.

    The first step that should be taken when consulting with a landscaping professional to construct a patio is to identify your own personal design style. You can find great patio ideas on sites such as Houzz and Pinterest, to help you discover what you like, as well as what you dislike.

    When you begin thinking about what you want for the patio space, it will be beneficial to let your designer know the following things:

    • How will you be using the space?
    • How many people do you plan to entertain in this space?
    • What time of day do you plan to use the space?
    • Will your pets share the space?
    • Do you want cooling or heating in the form of fire pits, fireplaces, shade structures or misting systems installed?
    • Will you be cooking outdoors? What type of fixtures do you want – pizza oven, full kitchen, grill, etc.?

    Considerations Made During the Patio Design Process

    It is important to work closely with your landscaper to create your desired patio and outdoor living space. You should specify how each area of the space will be used and how it will work with the remainder of the backyard. The shapes of the hardscape features and bed lines should be designed so they complement the design style you have specified. For example, do you prefer diagonal or tangent lines? Straight or arched features? Essentially, what you choose should mimic the architectural style of your home.

    Your outdoor living area should flow with the remainder of your home. For example, there should be a clear view of this space from your windows and doors, which means you can enjoy it, even when inside. The patio also needs to be easy to access and complement your indoor style. These are all factors to discuss with the designer to ensure the patio shows off your style and lifestyle, rather than being a complete conception of the designer, who will not be using the area.

    Materials to Use in Your Patio

    Patios can be constructed with a variety of materials. It is important to understand the positive and negative aspects of each type of material when deciding how to best use your investment dollars.

    Natural Stone

    Natural stone offers a classic style for timeless appeal. Common examples of natural stone used for patios would be slate or flagstone. Typically, these items will be mortared into place, but polymer enhanced sand can also be used. Some types of stone have naturally occurring metals that oxidize and produce orange colored rust patterns as the natural elements age the stone. Some people find this aging charming, while others would prefer the stones remain true to color. Another challenge to natural stone is that some types may peel off in layers as time passes due to the freeze-thaw cycles. Natural stone is typically on the high end of the price per square foot average for patios, but it is beautiful!

    Notice the variation in the bluestone. High Prairie Outdoors constructed this patio at the UMKC Diastole Scholor’s Center to honor founder E. Grey Dimond.

    Manmade Stone

    If you opt for manmade pavers on your patio, you will find not all pavers are created equal and there are multiple grades available.

    Paver grades are based on overall durability and the ability of the paver to age without exposing aggregate or losing color.

    • Low-Grade: Box store pavers: These products will not hold color well and may show aggregate fairly quickly. This stone will also not tolerate salt.

    This is an example of a low-grade paver. The color has faded and the aggregate is exposed. This was not installed by High Prairie Outdoors.

    • Mid-Grade: These pavers are a better quality than box store pavers, but will still fade over time. They can also expose aggregate over time and cannot tolerate salt. Many mid-grade pavers do not have coloring the entire way through the paver.

    Here is an example of a mid-grade paver used in Parkville.

    • High-Grade: High-Grade pavers do not suffer major fading and will not expose aggregate. There are a few pavers of this grade that come with a lifetime warranty. For example, Techo-Bloc has created several pavers with a salt tolerance, granite aggregate for a stronger paver, and coloring the entire way through the paver. The Techo-bloc brand has also created a number of realistic looking pavers that appear to be stone or travertine slabs but have the durability only offered by Techo-bloc, which means they won’t peel or oxidize. This tends to be the best of both worlds as far as investing in an outdoor living space that ages gracefully.

    This is an example of a high-grade paver. The clients choose a contemporary look, but more natural pavers are also available in this grade. Notice the vivid coloring and variation of texture in the grey. That creates interest not found in flat, one color pavers. These pavers are also salt tolerant and made of granite aggregate.

    Stamped, Colored Concrete

    Patios can also be created out of concrete with aesthetic variations such as: coloring, stamping, texturing, and antiquing. Concrete tends to be a smaller investment than pavers, but can match the price of pavers if coloring and stamping options are detailed.

    Most types of decorative concrete age similarly to low-grade pavers. The color tends to fade and cracks will form in our Mid-western clay soils. The negative aspect of concrete is that cracks are inevitable at some point and you can’t just replace a section and match it. With pavers, if something were to happen to a paver, a new one could be put in place. If a patio moved, the pavers could be re-installed.

    Be aware that there are differing grades of concrete and price can vary based on the type of re-enforcements used in the concrete. Examples of re-enforcements are steel re-bar, wire mesh, and fibers mixed in the concrete.

    Understanding is the Key to a Successful Project

    Understanding your available options on how you’ll use an outdoor space and what materials fit your goals is paramount to creating a project you’ll be happy with. Your professional Kansas City landscaper should educate you on options so that you understand what you’re investing in.

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    About The Author

    Robyn is a 2009 Graduate of the Kansas State University Department of Horticulture. She grew up in South East Kansas where she graduated from Humboldt High School. She was a Kansas State University Leadership Scholar and President of the Horticulture Club. She married Bret in 2009 and they have a daughter Ellie, born in 2021. Their family is completed by three adopted dogs.

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