1. How will you use the space? This is a very important question people often do not consider. Do you plan on entertaining large groups or smaller, more intimate groups? While envisioning the number of guests, also think about traffic flow, seating, the sun and view. Separate “rooms” may allow different groups to gather in different areas appropriate to their size.
2. How much space will you need? Once you know the intended use, consider the size of the space. Will you use a 4 or 6 person table? Grill or entire outdoor kitchen? To help you envision the end product, paint an outline of the area on the ground.
3. Will you need shade? When choosing the area where you will build the patio, consider how the sun’s rays will affect your use. If the location is on the south or west side of your home and no trees are around to block the sun, afternoons can get extremely hot and make using your patio unpleasant. Shade structures such as pergolas or arbors will provide relief from the hot sun and add beautiful architectural elements to your design. Pergolas and arbors are usually constructed from cedar or treated wood to protect them from decay. Vinyl and metal are also available options. Sail cloths are another popular choice for protection from the sun.
4. Which pavers will you use? The paver choice will greatly influence the overall feel of the patio and certainly impact the price. The most important consideration in choosing the pavers is deciding how the space will be used. Consider function first and let form follow. Some pavers will not be suitable for your chosen function. The other variable is cost. Paver styles can vary by $6/sf which can impact the cost of a 700 sf patio almost $4,000 if the more expensive option is chosen.
5. Does the proposed site have elevation changes? Patios must be built flat (level). If you have a sloped yard, you will need retaining walls to stabilize the patio or to hold back soil from washing onto the new patio surface. Adding walls will increase the project’s cost. Maybe look for alternative areas to construct the patio.
6. Do you want a fire pit or other built-in elements? Most people like the idea of adding a fire pit for roasting marshmallows or spending time with family and friends around a cozy fire. It’s critical to plan for the fire pit when deciding how the space will be used. Would you prefer a round fire pit that uses natural gas or a rectangular shape which burns real wood? Once constructed, these extras cannot be moved without additional cost, unless you’ve planned to add them at a later date and included that option in your design. Other elements available for homeowners include built-in kitchen elements such as a refrigerator, grill, stove and sink. Don’t forget these when planning your design.
7. Should you include seating walls? Seating walls are very popular and, if placed properly, can expand seating capacity for your patio. They are a popular place for photographs and help to frame-up the various rooms in your patio design. Remember to leave large enough space to allow easy traffic flow on and off the patio.
8. What are you looking to spend? Oh no! Now we’re getting personal! But you should have a realistic budget in mind before beginning a paver patio project. It may be impossible to know cost until design aspects have been created, but be ready to be flexible. Maybe it makes more sense to break up the project into stages. As long as allowances are made for future elements like fireplaces or kitchens you may still be able to get the patio in and begin to enjoy it. Realtors say that like kitchen and bath remodels, outdoor living spaces add value to a home and their cost can easily be recouped if you decide to sell.
9. Do you have any setbacks, easements or HOA restrictions? You will need to consult you plot plan and HOA bylaws to answer these questions. These documents can usually be found in your closing documents. Finding out a design you love cannot be constructed because of restrictions or regulations will cause you great frustration. So make sure you understand all of the requirements prior to beginning your project.
10. What about permits? In general paver patios do not require permits because they are not “permanent structures,” but they must be constructed per manufacturer recommendations and on compacted gravel and screeded sand. As you get into more complex construction involving plumbing, electrical or gas fixtures, permitting and inspection may be required by your municipality. Always check with your local city and county government prior to construction.
11. Should you hire a contractor to construct your paver patio? While paver patio construction is not rocket science, a lot of science and engineering (and back- breaking work) is involved in making sure all of the construction steps are followed so your project will be beautiful and long-lasting. Many DIY’ers miss the fact that what is underneath the patio will determine whether or not it will provide years of enjoyment. Making mistakes during construction can be costly, especially when a contractor has to rebuild from the ground up. If you decide to explore hiring a contractor, confirm with the paver manufacturer they are an authorized installer. Are they ICPI and NCMA certified? These certifications indicate they have been trained and have experience in construction of paver patios, driveways and retaining walls. Check the contractor’s online reviews and make sure they have current liability insurance and workers compensation coverage. And it’s best to genuinely like the person you will be dealing with and that you believe they understand your “vision” for what you want from a paver patio.
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You’re ready to get started now! Good luck and ENJOY!