Get a large sheet of 1/4-inch graph paper from an engineering supply company; this allows you to draw your existing yard to a scale of 1/4 inch equals 1 foot. Measure your yard, and transfer the measurements to the graph paper. Detail the shape and lines of the house, garage, other buildings, hardscapes like sidewalks and driveways, terraces, fountains, decks and other features.
A flat rock patio adds instant charm and function to the yard and gives you an attractive area to sit down, barbecue and relax. Flat rocks have an elegant and organic appeal; this gives the patio an enduring quality and connects it more easily to the landscape. If you position similar-colored larger stones or place stacked walls within view of the patio, the stone element will move around your garden, spreading the appeal. Designing a patio involves looking at how you want to use the space and the difficulty and costs attached to achieving your designs.
- 1/4-inch graph paper
- Straight edge
- Tape measure
- Circle template
- Curve tool
- Tracing paper
Draw in your trees, shrubs and plantings by measuring or estimating their canopies and using a circle template to locate them accurately in your yard. This way you can see where you have shade, sun, windbreaks or empty landscape. Detail everything that currently exists in your landscape on your drawing.
Make a list of what you want in a patio. How would you like it to function? What kind of seating areas do you need? Do you want to shade or cover part of it? Does the patio need to join up with existing surfaces or surround a pool or other feature? What problems do you anticipate based on grade, room, existing features, trees or other issues? Make your list as complete as possible. Then establish a budget. Deduct 10 percent to allow for unexpected problems.
Tape tracing paper over your existing landscape plan. Draw the most likely shape and position of your new patio. Look for an entry door from the house to connect the patio to the home. Think about your patio as a series of outdoor rooms with specific functions. If you are including a dining area, approximate how much space you need to fit the size table and number of chairs you want. Allow 2 feet of space behind each chair. For a lounge area, look at the way you want to arrange furniture, and calculate the space necessary.
Draw in an outdoor kitchen, fireplace, covered lounging area or other features. Your first tracing paper plan should include all the bells and whistles and represent your ultimate dream patio. Once you have completed your drawing, calculate the materials costs and labor costs. A rough calculation of labor costs is 1 to 2 times the amount of the materials. This gives you a rough estimate of the budget for your dream patio.
Draw a minimum of three plans looking at different patio shapes, sizes and finishes. Laying a flat stone patio is more expensive and it takes more time making than a poured patio. Look at ways to enhance the stone appeal, such as by bringing the rock element into garden areas with large stone placements or stacked rock flower beds. Design at least one plan that is outside the box. Unusually positioned or shaped patios can be much more visually interesting than boxy square ones. You can position your patio away from the house like a destination. Then create a lit path to the patio for entertaining.
Refine and determine a finished plan by working with your budget numbers and the priority items on your patio checklist. You can plumb and add underground gas and electric for a future kitchen. You can have foundation piers installed for a future trellis. You can build your patio in sections or rooms to afford it over time. Send copies of your plan out for bids through licensed landscape contractors to evaluate the real costs.
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