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What to know about a patio installation — and the cost

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Decorative tiles can make for a distinctive patio surface.

Patios make a great addition to any home for outdoor entertaining, relaxing under the stars or just plain hanging out. But you want to be sure to install a quality patio that will last a long time. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know.

It’s about more than just the stones: Contractors doing a thorough job will install a layer of landscape fabric to prevent weed growth, lay several inches of crushed gravel and compact it, install a leveling layer, and then the pavers. They’ll also use “polymeric sand” to lock in the pavers, creating a barrier against weed growth and insect burrowing.

Think beyond the patio materials: Details matter. For example, the edging of the patio can help make it pop with contrast. If installed correctly, it can help prevent pavers from shifting. A unique pattern can give your patio distinction, and you might consider design ideas that bring it into harmony with the house or yard. Your family and guests will surely notice these details, so get ready for some compliments.

The grade of the land matters: The land grade moving away from your house should be six inches for every 10 feet to allow proper drainage. A patio needs a slight pitch — about one-quarter-inch for every foot of length away from the house. If your home has a steeper grade, expect to pay extra to accommodate grading requirements. Next to materials, grading has the most effect on your patio’s final cost.

Consider how your project affects your home and yard: In particular, walkways serve a functional as well as aesthetic purpose. It can break up the monotony of a large yard, direct guests to a patio, or accentuate a fountain or your favorite landscape feature.

Think about future repairs: Eventually, even the best-built patio will begin to wear out. You can extend its life with regular maintenance and addressing minor problems before they get out of hand. A pro can repair minor cracks and holes fairly quickly. A skilled contractor can remove and replace individual blocks or pavers as needed or complete a thorough resurfacing.

Use a good sealant: You should apply a sealant to your patio to protect it over the long term from the effects of sun and rain. The sealing will vary depending on your material; concrete, for instance, requires a resealing every two to three years.

Patio material options

Your material selection affects your patio cost more than any other factor. Here are the pros and cons of some of the most common options.

Stamped concrete: Stamped concrete offers the most potential for a unique look and a strong foundation. However, with a price range between $2,700 and $6,500 per project, it’s one of the most expensive patio and walkway options. The exact price per square foot depends on the design.

Flagstone: This refers to any stone cut into layers and laid out in interlocking shapes. It is another expensive but distinctive option at around $15-$21 per square foot.

Pavers: Bricks laid out in interlocking patterns are a versatile option. Depending on the quality of the material, they cost between $6 and $30 per square foot.

Concrete: The most common choice for patios and pathways is also one of the most durable. It costs about $3-$6 per square foot for concrete.

Gravel: Gravel pathways run about $1-$4 per square foot. They may be the most basic walkway designs but also the easiest to install.

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