By Chaya Kurtz, Networx
Are you thinking of hiring a deck builder to build a new porch or deck for your house? While it could be a good investment, it might not be the most effective expenditure. If you need to landscape your yard as well as create an outdoor living space for yourself, a patio built into your landscaping might be a more efficient use of resources. Building a patio into your yard also is time efficient. If you are considering building an outdoor living space to improve your house's curb value and you want to start showing your house as soon as possible, then bypass the deck and go right to building a patio.
A good landscaper or landscape designer should be able to guide you through the process of building a patio into your existing landscape. Before you hire the landscaper or landscape designer, be sure to check his or her references. Go to see patios that he or she has built or designed before, to see if the work is durable and up to your standards. If all is a go, then have some fun choosing materials with the landscaper.
Flagstone or slate tiles are a classic material for a backyard patio floor. Also look into cement pavers. Cement pavers come in many different shapes and sizes, and can give you some flexibility with design. Another option is to create a gravel or rock-covered patio ground covering. Solid stone slabs are pricey, but look luxe. Another option for a patio floor material is brick, which is durable and classic.
The way that you edge around the patio will help to create a patio that rivals a deck's independence from the rest of the yard. Shrubs, flower beds, rocks, or pathways are options for edging around a patio. You can also erect trellises, arbors, or fences, or build a pergola over your patio for shade. A raised garden bed or a small wall in the center or near the edge of a patio can help to define the space. To make your patio really stand out, be sure to add dimensionality with built structures and edging.
For patio inspiration, I recommend looking at Minneapolis-area landscaper Switzer's Nursery & Landscaping's photos of patio alternatives to decks on Hometalk.com. It's a great inspirational starting point for building a patio as an alternative to a deck.