Learn about the different options for patio materials and surfaces.

The array of choices available for patio materials can be a bit overwhelming. We’ll try to help simplify the decision-making process so you can focus on designing the patio of your dreams.

Your first consideration in choosing patio materials is what you’ll be using the patio for most. If you’re like most folks, the answer is “general outdoor entertaining.” This usually includes dining, which means you’ll want a solid, flat surface and should consider patio materials like brick, cast pavers, or flat stone like slate. Uneven surfaces like fieldstone or gravel aren’t recommended (unless you want to make eating and sitting comfortably more challenging).

The surface of the patio is mostly related to intended use and aesthetics—but you’ll also need to determine how the foundation for the patio will be constructed. This will determine both the slope of the patio and how level it is. To ensure these elements are correctly configured, you’ll need to excavate a level area, then install a gravel base topped with sand. Once this base is sloped and smooth, the surface, whether poured as concrete or installed as stones or pavers, can be installed on top.

Patio Ideas: Building Tips and Design Trends

Planning a Patio: Think Beyond the Concrete Slab

Patio With Pool

Whether you’re dreaming of a modest retreat where you can connect with nature or an elaborate space built for serious outdoor entertaining, there’s a patio to fit your home, lifestyle and budget. Patios can be built in nearly any shape, size, color or pattern you can imagine. Plus, new options in outdoor furniture, kitchens and other amenities can make a home’s outdoor spaces as inviting as its interior. Before you start pouring concrete or laying pavers, learn the basics of a well-built patio, then discover the latest trends in flooring, lighting, furniture and more.

Patio Flooring: Trends in Concrete Patios

Stamped Concrete

Although choices seem endless, concrete is the most common and surprisingly versatile patio flooring option. Poured concrete can be shaped into just about any pattern and color. It can be swirled and scored, tinted a subtle or bold color like red and blue, shaped into patterns or even formed into stone-like shapes. Even an unassuming cement slab can be dressed up with a stain, Dave says.

Patio Flooring: The Perks of Paver Stones

Pavers Stones

Interlocking stones have been gaining a fan base in recent years. They are four times stronger than concrete, earthquake resistant, according to proponents like Dave, and easy to remove and replace should something go wrong underneath the patio. “If you have a pipe that bursts underneath, you could pull the stones out, fix the pipe and then place everything back the way it was,” he says. “It won’t look patched. With regular concrete, you’ll never match it.”

Patio Covers: Create an Outdoor Room

Enclosed Patio

Most people think of a patio as a strictly outdoor space, perhaps with an umbrella table set up for shade. But you can always add extra protection from the elements with a retractable awning or canopy (typical cost range: a couple to several hundred dollars). Go all out by adding a patio sunroom (typical cost range: several thousand dollars to the bounds of your limitless imagination).

Patio Lights: Provide Security and Atmosphere

House with pool in backyard

The right combination of lights will make your patio safe and inviting. Bright standard-voltage lights can ward off possible intruders at night, while low-voltage lights provide a soft glow for entertaining, plus they’re easier on your electric bill. Investing in energy efficient bulbs is another great way to cut down on lighting costs in the long run.

When choosing lights for your patio, think about purpose. Path lights can safely lead the way from a patio to a driveway, uplights can highlight landscape focal points or architectural features and specialty lights, such as rope lights, torches and lanterns, can add ambiance.

All the Extras: Patio Furniture, Fireplaces and More

Patio with Fireplace

Depending on your budget and space, your options are virtually endless when it comes to outfitting your patio. You may consider a patio fireplace, a water fountain or an outdoor kitchen. Seat walls are currently a functional and artistic trend in patios.

Look for furniture with cushions that resist moisture and mildew (they’re out there). A lot of chairs, sofas and tables these days have non-rusting aluminum frames that resemble wood and wicker but are much more weather-friendly.