Uncle Bobs Tips

Patio Surface Materials

Patio Surface Materials

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Life is full of those little things that we take for granted. How often do we notice the lug nuts on our tires? So vital, yet so easily overlooked. The patio is one of our favorite places to be, a beautiful and calming retreat to which we can escape. But how much thought is put into the flooring of our favorite backyard getaway? If you're smart, a lot! Today, let's look at some appropriate patio surface materials.

Surface materials all have their pros and cons. It's really a question of what you're looking for. Are you going for a high-function area for constant entertaining and dining? Or is this a private haven intended for relaxation purposes only? Do you prefer the natural look of fieldstone or the clean even feeling of concrete? Will you be interested in a design imprinted or built into your patio surface? Materials abound, and there's certainly one that's perfect for you.

Concrete: is recommended for its strength, diversity, and relatively low maintenance. If you live in an area where earth shifts or weather extremes are common, concrete probably isn't a good option for you. The expansion and shrinkage of the ground causes the concrete to crack terribly. Though tension cables can be installed, this sometimes removes the economic advantage.

Asphalt: is a hot tar substance. Blacktop asphalt is a thing of the past. Today you can get a beautiful asphalt patio with the look of real hand-laid slate, stone or brickwork and in a huge variety of colors. Asphalt is also more flexible than concrete, brick or stone, and less susceptible to cracking or shifting due to weather, use, or maintenance.

Natural stone: is, need I say, natural, and practically maintenance free. Stone is beautiful to look at, and, if cut, easy to work with. But it's one of the more expensive alternatives. You could spend approximately $15 or $20 per square foot of stone. Flagstones are flat square or rectangular slabs of pressed concrete. Often, they are chosen over fieldstone for their smooth and even surface, especially for dinning areas. The unpredictable shape, slant and color of fieldstone are all part of its natural charm. Consider the porosity and strength of the stones that you purchase. (Salesmen try to trump up porous stones saying there's no puddling to worry about, but remember, the more water absorbed into the stone, the shorter the lifespan of that rock.)

Gravel: is another inexpensive alternative for you patio surface. Materials like gravel are labeled as cheap copies of the finer building materials, but gravel patios can look every bit as nice and refined as the rest. Use color variation to produce a pleasant design or apply a few larger rocks or stones around the perimeter to develop a very permanent feel to your patio structure.

Brick: Within this seemingly narrow material, there are several options. Brick comes in a variety of colors and styles, and you can create patterns with same or varying shades. Aged brick is very popular for a colonial setting, and red pavers are classic.

Pavers: are blocks made from recycled brick or concrete. These are convenient for cheap (though you can spend $25 per square foot if you aren't careful) and ideal for DIY projects. Careful with pavers, though. They can create a home for weeds and grass, and the shifting is an issue. Often pavers aren't worth the risk.

Wood: Solid wood patios are traditional and eternal. Properly coated with a good layer of weatherproofing w

Synthetics are less expensive than the natural counterparts, easy to work with, and come in a huge array of colors and styles. They're more resilient, come with better weather protection, and are less prone to shifting, cracking or fading. The one down side to synthetics is that they're not the real deal. If you need that 100% authentic look and feel (even 95% won't do), stick with Mother Earth's assortment.

If you like the sound of more than one patio surface material, do a little bit of mix a matching. Frequently this can create impressive results. For example, combing brick and fieldstone makes great use of all the durability these materials have to offer, and forms a beautiful patio setting. Plants also add a gentle touch to rough edges and the entire general area. Experiment with different landscape ideas until you get your ideal patio.

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