The 5-P’s to a Perfect Patio
Come middle-age, some guys buy a Harley. For me, it was the custom building of my patio. Motorcycles may come and go, but a nicely maintained patio may provide you, your family, and friends with a place to congregate, relax, and enjoy life’s many simple pleasures.
Step 1: Plan your patio to be an integrated extension of your home and landscape design. In my case, I couldn’t stand the postage stamp sized patio that came with my townhouse. So, I said “screw it” to the Harley and set out to design my own patio.
I reviewed the plat-of-survey and determine how much land in the patio area was actually mine (e.g. versus “common area”). Knowing my buildable space, I next gave a lot of thought to the design that would both optimize the use of the available space and take into account my own personal design. In my case, 2 sides of my patio area already had a boundary (i.e. 1 side was against my town home and another side was adjacent to a privacy fence that separate my home from my neighbor’s. To provide a combination of style, design, and functionality, I planned to have a functional seat-wall with nice 3” sandstone coping across the top. Besides looking sharp, the coping may also double as “extra seating” when those get-togethers just seem to keep growing……and friends you forget you even had start showing up. For a final touch, I installed a solid aluminum decorative gate. Though it doesn’t have a lock, it is pretty clear that to someone you don’t know that when the gate is closed, the party is limited only to those invited guests. Hey, good rule to live buy when you are the one supplying the food and/or booze. For some added pop, I had stone veneer completely covering the vertical portions of my seat-wall, which was topped with the 3” coping. As you go from the inside of my home to the patio, the rock I have on my fireplace is the same type of rock that is on the seat-wall around my patio.
From a functionality perspective, know what type of patio furniture (tables, chairs, grill, and more) you want to have and build space for that furniture into your design. Since I never wanted to worry about running out of charcoal or propane, I got myself a nice gas grill and I had a licensed Plumber put in three (3) gas quick-connects around my patio….as I realize that today’s furniture layout….may be so “yesterday” by tomorrow. Planning ahead will definitely optimize the flexibility of your patio.
The next stage of my patio planning was on what type of patio surface to have. I didn’t want the same old boring concrete look I had before and I wasn’t really sold on stamped concrete. However, I did see a Composite Rock concrete patio that my Concrete Dude had done for someone else that really looked jaw-dropping stunning.
What about the area adjacent to your patio? Good think’n! I planned ahead and put in below ground piping for both the decorative/functional lamp posts that I had put in as well as a high-density gas line to feed my grill……of whatever might need a natural gas supply. The final step to plan was the landscaping. No need to cause yourself a lot of work, so I went with a nice blend of decorative grasses, bushes, and an ornamental tree to tie in with some flowers. But then again, the Ladies love flowers. Note: For low maintenance, go with perennial flowers, as annuals have to be replaced each year. Also, if you can fit a sprinkler system into your budget, then “go for it,” as it really sucks having to water by hand each day (especially after a long day at work). In my next life, I’ll have a sprinkler system too!
Step 2: Project Manage your plans and take them from a dream to your own reality. Unless you do this type of work for a living, I’d recommend you have seasoned professionals perform the various types of work that will be required for this project to be successful (e.g. Concrete Dude, Mason, Electrician, Plumber, and possibly even a Landscaper if you don’t have the necessary expertise to “do it right the first time”). Activity timelines are important to know, as you may save cost by using less material if tasks are performed in an optimal order. Your various Service Professionals may let you know if they need something performed by another Professional prior to their starting their part of the project. Note: Permits may be required depending on local or state requirements. Making mistakes, for example with electricity, can get you killed. So be smart and play it safe. Don’t try to do something you are not qualified to perform legally and safely.
Step 3: Prep and clean the external surfaces of your patio, seat-wall, and coping as may be required before you seal those surfaces. The initial prep work should be done by the respective Service Professionals since you want to hold them solely responsible for the warranty of the work they provide. However, after you have enjoyed your patio for a few years, you could take steps to keep it looking “like new” by doing some prep and cleaning work before your reseal the respective surfaces. Note: Be sure that you know what cleaning solutions are best for your respective surfaces. In my case, for example, a clear dish soap with mild amount of bleach is best for cleaning my seat-wall and coping. However, to really get down and clean my Composite Rock Concrete Patio, I used an EPA approved acidic wash to scrub that sucker clean as a whistle. If you do you any type of acidic solution, please make sure that you follow the directions provided on the container and wear both safety glasses and heavy-duty cleaning gloves. Also, make sure when you read the instructions that you know what to do “before” you somehow accidentally get it in your eyes. If you know what to do in advance, you may help to prevent what could be just a minor accident from becoming a major injury.
Step 4: Preserve the surfaces of your patio, seat-wall, and coping. Unlike taking a shower, I’d recommend you seal those respective surfaces from the bottom-up. However, it is important not to get the High Gloss Sealer that you will use on your Composite Rock concrete patio or seat-wall on your coping. So, either cover your coping or just make sure you are very, very careful not to get the High Gloss Sealer on your coping.
Preserving the Composite Rock concrete patio and seat-wall may be done using a High Gloss Sealer approved by the EPA. If you can afford a decent compressed air sprayer, it can save you a lot of time in applying the High Gloss Sealer. If you don’t have a compressed air sprayer, then you may easily use a paint roller with a long handle to apply the High Gloss Sealer to the bulk of your patio. You may want to use a paint brush to do the delicate edges of your patio first and then use the roller for the open space. Afterwards, you may then use the paint brush (I’d recommend about a 4” brush) to apply the High Gloss Sealer to the seat-wall. Follow the directions for drying time. Apply a 2nd coat and you’ll be extra happy. Once it dries, your newly sealed patio and seat-wall will have a slightly wet/glossy look. Yes, it will look really sharp!
After your patio and seat-wall have fully dried, you may then seal your coping. The sealer that you should use on your coping is completely different from what you used on the Composite Rock concrete patio and seat-wall. The sealer for your coping is meant to seal out moisture. Just use a clean brush to apply the sealant. Don’t let the sealant pool and just brush it on until it won’t soak up into the coping anymore. The purpose of this sealer is not to shine, but to keep liquids (e.g. red wine) and bird droppings, etc., from staining your coping.
Step 5: Party on Garth! Your patio is now ready for some “extreme relaxing.” Enjoy yourself with your family and friends for countless hours of enjoyment. Use your imagination and let the games begin!
Note: Repeat Steps 3 and 4 every few years (depending on wear) to keep your patio area looking like new. As for repeating Step 5, you should do that for as long as your liver, your budget, and your doctor may permit.