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By Bob Vila

A patio can enhance the time you spend outdoors, add value to your home and save you money on landscaping maintenance. Just the thought of a patio evokes images of sun-drenched afternoons, relaxing evenings, cocktails and fireflies. In almost every case, a patio is a very attainable DIY project, as long as you plan well and choose wisely. The task is made more difficult, however, by the huge range of available materials, colors and patterns. Before you start a patio building project, it’s important to research your options and determine which material best suits your needs and abilities.

Flagstone

A burgundy-leafed tree and red cushions complement this  flagstone patio by Urban Oasis.

A burgundy-leafed tree and red cushions complement this flagstone patio by Urban Oasis.

The color and characteristics of flagstone reflect the way it was formed, by the gradual accumulation of layers of sand, clay, minerals and organic sediments. Most commonly found in red, blue and buff tones, flagstone patios have an earthy, timeless appearance that’s hard to resist. Irregular in shape and size, quarried flagstones can be difficult for the inexperienced do-it-yourselfer. Flagstone is also subject to erosion and splitting, so adequate drainage is imperative.

Bluestone, slate, travertine, limestone and sandstone pavers — all variations of flagstone — can be purchased as irregular slabs or in uniform shapes. Each has different heat-retention and slip factors, so select carefully based on your circumstances.

Clay brick

Clay brick suits the traditional feel of this garden patio by David Thorne Landscape Architect.

Clay brick suits the traditional feel of this garden patio by David Thorne Landscape Architect.

Clay brick is a time-tested classic that complements both traditional and contemporary architecture. Over time, bricks retain their rich, warm color and because of their small size, they’re easy to install. Brick can be laid in myriad patterns, from herringbone to basket weave, rectangular to round. Mixing together different-colored bricks makes for an eye-catching effect.

Brick pavers are made from clay, fired at high temperatures to harden it. Typically 2-1/4 x 4 x 8-inch rectangles and available in many colors, brick pavers can last more than 100 years if installed correctly. It’s important to buy brick that’s rated for outdoor use, specific to the climate where you live. It may crack with freeze-thaw cycles, but brick is otherwise durable, and individual damaged bricks can be easily replaced.

Patio pavers

Ipe wood decking and concrete pavers give this rooftop patio by Chicago Specialty Gardens an contemporary, urban feel.

Chicago Specialty Gardens used ipe wood decking and pavers for this contemporary, rooftop patio.

Pavers are typically made from concrete, clay, stone or even recycled plastics. Although pavers are manmade, some are manufactured to look like natural stone, brick, cobblestone or even flagstone.

Molded-in spacers make it easy to lay pavers, so they’re an ideal choice for a DIY patio. They can be laid in any number of patterns, including rectangular and curved. In general, they’re slip-resistant, but because they absorb stains, they should be resealed every two years.

Concrete

De Meza Architecture shows how concrete can be beautiful for a patio overlooking wine country.

De Meza Architecture shows how concrete slab, although affordable, can look rich.

Concrete patios are among the least expensive to build. Assuming proper installation and maintenance, they’re also one of the most durable, although like brick, concrete is subject to cracking with freeze-thaw cycles.

Poured concrete follows any form, giving you unlimited design options. Go with a simple gray slab or add color for a distinctive look. Although it requires professional installation, stamped concrete can mimic the look of flagstone, brick and other pricey materials for a fraction of the cost.

Gravel

A crushed gravel patio by Watermark Landscape provides an area to relax on warm summer nights.

A crushed gravel patio by Watermark Landscape provides an area to relax on warm summer nights.

A gravel patio is inexpensive, quick to install and super DIY-friendly. Gravel comes in a range of sizes and in two basic varieties: river rock or crushed stone.

Gravel can be poured into any area bound by landscape edging. And because water soaks right through it, gravel helps to prevent erosion. Gravel does, however, require some maintenance, and you may tire of returning wayward gravel to its proper place over time.

No matter what material you choose, a patio will add value. Whether you opt for a simple concrete slab or intricately laid pavers, a patio will dramatically enhance your outdoor living space.

Related:

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

About the Author

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila's Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

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