Like most Bay Area residents, you’re probably looking forward to spending lots of time outside this summer. If that’s the case, you’ll want your outdoor living space to be ready—particularly your backyard patio. While most homes have patios, few are as comfortable or attractive as they could be. If you’re feeling underwhelmed by your patio’s current state, consider investing some time and money into helping it reach its full potential.
Refurbish or Replace?
Depending on your patio’s overall condition, you may be able to inject some life into its existing structure and layout. For example, a drab concrete slab can be made to look new again with simple steps like power-washing and resurfacing. Likewise, refinishing and restaining can do wonders for an aged but structurally sound deck. The refurbishing route is especially beneficial if you’re working with a limited budget.
If, on the other hand, you have cracked concrete or a decrepit deck, you may be better off starting from scratch. What’s great about this is you can go in any direction you want, regardless of what was there before. Want to replace your old deck with a stamped concrete terrace? No problem. Want to swap your drab slab for a paving stone mosaic? Go for it. If you’re unsure what direction to take, consider consulting a professional designer.
If your backyard is unsightly, you’ll want to alter it so it complements, rather than diminishes from, your patio’s aesthetic beauty. Start by trimming back overgrown vegetation, removing unwanted plants or trees, and leveling out uneven areas of soil—this will give you a clean palette to work with. Next, incorporate landscaping elements like gravel, grass (natural or synthetic), wood chips, flagstones and/or drought-tolerant plants. Don’t be afraid to mix and match. When tastefully arranged, these accentual ingredients imbue a yard with eye-catching colors, textures and angles to provide the perfect patio backdrop.
Much like an unsightly yard, shabby outdoor furniture can make a patio look stale and unattractive. Replacing your patio’s furniture is far more affordable than remodeling it and can go a long way toward improving its appearance. If you’re on a tight budget, consider buying a used furniture set or repainting/restaining your existing furniture pieces to make them look new again.
Even if you love sunshine, you’ll want protection from its harsh effects while lounging in your patio on hot, sunny days. There are several options available for shading your patio, including free-standing structures like pergolas, fabric fixtures like shade sails and permanent additions like patio covers.
When choosing a shade product, you’ll need to consider your personal preferences. If you want to have the option of shade or full sunlight, a retractable awning may be the right choice, as it can be extended or retracted as desired. If you want permanent shade, a solid patio cover is a good option. Since they’re made from insulated material, solid patio covers don’t merely provide shade—they actually decrease solar heat gain to make the patio several degrees cooler than a normal shaded area. They also provide shelter from the rain, which makes the patio usable in winter as well as summer.
For most homeowners, aesthetics are major factors when it comes to choosing shade products. That’s why pergolas are so popular—while they only provide partial shade, their main appeal is in the elegant effect they bring to a patio. Likewise, awnings and shade sails can lend visual vitality to a patio space with their striking contours and colors.
A final consideration for choosing a shade product is maintenance. Whereas a vinyl or Alumawood® patio cover requires little upkeep, a natural wood pergola needs to be periodically resealed and/or repainted. Likewise, fabric awnings should be cleaned annually to retain their aesthetic appearance. Fortunately, this isn’t very complicated—simply remove the fabric from its frame, scrub it with soap and water, rinse, air-dry, and reinstall it.
In terms of cost and effort, few patio makeover measures provide as much bang for your buck as adding lighting. Whether strung around pergola posts or hung from the roof, patio lighting extends your outdoor enjoyment into the nighttime hours. You can also add lighting to the rest of your yard to create an artful after-dark aesthetic.
A basic patio is perfectly serviceable for summertime lounging, but there are additional features that can augment its functionality. For example, an outdoor kitchen or bar can transform your patio into an all-purpose venue for hosting parties and get-togethers. Likewise, a water feature can give your patio a relaxing ambiance and drown out unwanted noise from traffic or neighbors.
Another great patio addition is an outdoor fireplace, which provides an inviting hub for family and friends to gather around. Outdoor fireplaces can be custom-built or purchased as prefabricated units. You can also choose between a wood-burning fireplace and a gas-powered model—just keep in mind that the latter requires permits for running the gas line and testing the pressure. While this creates an extra hoop to jump through, it’s worthwhile to eliminate nuisances like smoke and gathering firewood.