When the inside of the house is disastrous — the dining room table piled with laundry, the bathroom tile calling for grout and pet-hair tumbleweeds decorating the family room — picture yourself outside on your patio, iced tea in hand. Like a miniature vacation, a patio requires almost no maintenance and restores your peace of mind.
It also could add value to the property when it comes time to sell.
"There's definitely a trend toward the patio, and people treating it as a separate room," said interior designer Christie Sobran of Madison. "Here in the Northeast, we get very excited about summer. We treasure it and look forward to it. It's about lifestyle."
And we celebrate it by decorating our patios with furniture, umbrellas and plants to extend our living space and make the outdoors a big part of the home.
"There's also a trend of using indoor/outdoor rugs and fabrics," said Sobran, whose business is Christie Sobran Designs. "The fabrics are ultraviolet-, mold- and mildew-resistant, as well as some that are waterproof and resist fading. When they were first introduced, these fabrics felt stiff and crackly, but now it's hard to tell that it's an outdoor fabric."
Several years ago, Sobran's clients were adding full-blown outdoor kitchens to their patios. With the downturn in the economy, it's more common to have a built-in fireplace or a portable fire pit that can be moved around instead of an outdoor kitchen.
Sobran said that if a homeowner adds a patio to the property, he or she could recoup at least 50 percent of the investment.
As for materials, Sobran favors bluestone or slate in large slabs vs. smaller concrete pavers, which can be visually demanding and "hard to walk on in kitten heels."
"Bluestone is consistent and smooth as well as symmetrical, practical and beautiful. Those walking barefoot are less likely to stub their toes on a smooth surface," she said. "You want nature, the furniture and your family and friends to be the focal point of the patio, not what you're standing on."
Stone Can Get Hot
Stonemason Peter Guarino, owner of Old Broadway Mason and Garden Supply in Guilford, disagrees about using bluestone for a patio. While beautiful, bluestone heats up in the sun and might burn your feet if you walked on it barefoot.
"Concrete pavers are practical and ambient, which means they're neutral and don't absorb the heat. If it's 80 degrees outside, the bluestone heats up to 150 degrees," Guarino said. "I would try to talk anyone out of bluestone. It's strictly for show and it moves and shifts over time."
Guario begins by asking the client how the patio will be used. A table and chairs with a grill? Room for a party for 50 people? Guarino makes a sketch of the house and the property and designs the patio according to the needs and budget of the client.
Some homeowners are taking down rotting wooden decks and replacing them with terraced patios, he said, because even a deck made of a weather-resistant composite material such as Trex requires cleaning and power-washing.
A patio made of concrete pavers costs $16 a square foot, while bluestone costs $20 a square foot. A serviceable-size patio is generally about 500 square feet, Guarino said. It is hardly worth building a 100-square foot patio, because it is too small to accommodate even a table and chairs. Chaise lounges require a surprising amount of space. Better to save up and build your patio next year, Guarino said.
Adding a retaining wall around the patio will increase the number of people who can hang out and sit on the wall.
The price of the patio should include grouting, adding an edge restraint to keep the pavers or stones from moving and reseeding any lawn that was disturbed.
"The homeowner should just be turning on the sprinkler," Guarino said.
Indoor-To-Outdoor Styles Should Flow
Sobran also points out that the patio should be a continuation of the house in terms of style. In other words, don't put a Mediterranean-style patio onto your traditional Colonial. Build the patio as large as the budget and space will allow. For dining, you'll need about 20 square feet per person, Sobran said.
Patio sets can be had for as little as $300 at discount stores like Ocean State Job Lot.
makes interesting, whimsical outdoor furniture like a new-fangled Adirondack chair for $550. Fade-resistant, waterproof and maintenance-free, it's made of recycled milk jugs and comes in a variety of colors, including red and sky blue.
While you'd build a patio for pure enjoyment on a summer day, it's nice to know that potential homebuyers value the patio, too.
Real estate agent Rosemary Langer of William Raveis Real Estate in Guilford said that a patio adds value to a house and that an owner could get back 50 percent to 60 percent of the investment, depending on how elaborate it is.
"Patios are cozier and prettier than decks," Langer said. "You never get 100 percent back on any home improvement, but a nice patio definitely helps sell the house."