Materials. Today’s market affords an array of attractive patio materials. Concrete pavers, clay brick, and natural stone products are durable and come in a variety of colors and styles to complement your home’s exterior. Although they may have a lower up-front cost, some contractors recommend against poured-concrete patios because they show greater wear and eventually crack. Repairs are expensive operations, and exactly matching the color and pattern to the original material is often problematic.
Installation. Patios can be installed flush against the house or elsewhere on the property using either the dry-laid method, in which the pavers or stones are set on a compacted gravel base, or the wet-laid method, in which the pavers or stones are cemented to a concrete pad. With either method, the stability of the base is key to the success and longevity of the project. A new patio should be slightly pitched to allow for water to run away from your home and other structures.
Maintenance. Power washing, as well as maintaining or replacing joint material, is necessary every few years to maintain the integrity of dry-laid patios. Wet-laid installations last longer; however, the pointing, or grout, may eventually require replacement.
Materials. All natural wood requires some level of maintenance, but some types are more robust than others. Pressure-treated lumber is known for its longevity and durability, but it does require regular sealing and staining. Choose a high-quality grade of pressure-treated lumber to avoid problems with warping as the wood dries. Tropical hardwoods, redwood, and cedar are extremely durable and naturally resistant to rot and insects, making them a good choice for outdoor construction. Made from a blend of plastic and wood fiber, composite boards retain the look of real wood without requiring intensive maintenance, but they are generally heavier and more expensive. Plastic lumber is another popular decking option. While they may lack the charm of natural wood or wood look-alikes, plastic boards are virtually maintenance-free aside from occasional cleaning.
Installation. A properly installed deck will meet several code standards, including those for railings, stairs, stringers, and footers. Contractors should reference the International Residential Code when constructing a deck for a single-family, detached home and the International Building Code when performing commercial construction. A deck may be a better option than a patio if your property has extreme changes in elevation.
Maintenance. In addition to an annual power washing, most wooden decks require the application of a stain or wood preservative every two to three years to retain their color and integrity. To avoid splintering, pressure-treated wood may also necessitate sanding and refinishing. Composite and plastic lumber should be cleaned when necessary to prevent mold and mildew growth.