Adding a Patio
Our home was definitely a turn-key one, given that it was new construction and had the general layout and finishes that matched our requirements. We’ve done some decorating, painting, and replacing light fixtures, but nothing I would really call a large project or significant upgrade to the interior.
The exterior on the other hand has significant room for improvement. Last year we added some initial landscaping in front of our home, but our outdoor space could certainly use some attention. Our big improvement for this year is adding a paver patio in the back yard.
The back yard is currently a large empty expanse of grass. It’s a pain to mow, and it doesn’t provide any functional purpose. A sizable patio will eat up some of that space, and provide us with a place to relax and dine outside.
It didn’t take much discussion and research to realize that a DIY patio just wasn’t in the cards. We’re extremely novice DIYers, we don’t have an army of handy friends and relatives nearby, and we really want it done right the first time. Renting equipment, hauling material, and leveling and packing down the area seemed a bit overwhelming, let alone placing and cutting the pavers. We decided to take the plunge and get some estimates for a professional job.
Of course the estimates all came in higher than we expected, because we didn’t consider things like sod and irrigation repair, a retaining wall, or the increased difficulty of creating nice looking steps from the house. It’s always easy to underestimate the complexity of a domain you don’t understand. As a software developer, I’ve watched this happen countless times as clients never seem to realize what it will take to create or change a web application that they think is “simple”.
It took weeks for all the estimates come in, and we found ourselves changing our plans with each person we spoke to. Although I had tried to do research ahead of time, I realized that I lacked the knowledge to even make an informed decision. Each contractor gave us new ideas and new potential issues to consider (like how to construct steps that didn’t sink, or how a fire pit legally must be 25 feet from the house in our city).
We finally settled on a landscaping company that we’ve dealt with in the past. We’ve purchased supplies such as mulch and edging there, and everyone has always been remarkably friendly and helpful. Their bid came in lowest by leaps and bounds, so it wasn’t really a hard decision. Our down payment is in, and we’re just waiting in line behind all the other jobs they’ve committed to. I’m hopeful that they will get started within the next week or two.
Now that we’ve gotten everything settled, I can share what we planned the patio to look like. I’ve been playing around in Google Sketchup (and got carried away creating a whole scale model of the house). Here’s what I came up with:
The patio will basically be a 14′ diameter circle joined to a 15′ diameter circle, for a total of roughly 400 sq. ft. It’s just the right size for enjoying al fresco dining, as well as lounging around and occasionally using a portable fire pit. We plan to someday add another detached patio circle to the very back of our yard to allow for a permanent fire pit that meets city codes.
The steps from our house will be poured concrete with pavers lining the outside. They’ll be wide enough to span the width of our sliding glass doors, and have a landing coming off the house for added ease of use.
The patio itself will be made from cobblestone pavers, with a small retaining wall under the top right curve, where our grade drops more steeply. For the paver colors, we chose to go with a blend of grays.
I think the gray color palette will keep the patio looking modern and crisp, and still contrast nicely against our white house. The pattern will be a “random” one using four sizes of pavers.
I’m slowly working on acquiring the perfect patio furniture and decor. I’ve been admiring the amazing outdoor spaces on HGTV and on Pinterest, and daydreaming about having one of my own. Living in Minnesota certainly makes it harder to have an “outdoor room”, as only very durable things can survive our winter exposed to the elements. Everything must be portable and easy to remove at the end of our all-too-short season of nice weather. I have come up with some lovely modern furniture options that fit the bill perfectly, but I’ll wait to show those to you another time.