Key Elements to Designing your Northern Virginia Patio

September 28, 2017

As we head into the Fall season, with the weather becoming considerably more comfortable outside, it's time to think about your outdoor patio space. Most customers think that having their patio done in the summertime is the best time to remodel an outdoor space, but the reality is that that's what everyone else is thinking and most companies are overwhelmed with requests! By planning your outdoor patio space in the Fall, it allows you more time with your designer and the opportunity to have the work done well before the cold air of winter blows in. 

Take a look at these different types of patio materials to decide what best fits in within your design plan, budget and style. 


1. Flagstone

Flagstone is hands down the most popular choice when it comes to patio material selection. Not only is it durable, but it also a naturally sourced material, which means it has the temperament to be exposed to all types of weather conditions. This beautiful stone is created by a natural process of layering sand, clay and dirt over time, which is why there is not usually a consistent color throughout the stones. 

There are things to know when considering flagstone as your patio material choice. Flagstone is heavy, which means it can require more hands to install it. This is not a project that should be DIY, as flagstone comes in varying shapes and sizes and requires a keen eye for installation and proper grading. Due to the weight of larger flagstone pieces, proper grading is crucial to ensure the longevity of your new outdoor space, especially if the land around your home does not drain well. 




2. Concrete

Concrete has come a long way from it's original use in patio design. There are now a myriad of stains and designs that can be implemented to take your concrete patio to the next level and out of the dull zone. As shown below, staining a concrete patio is a great way to enhance and compliment the design of the overall space. 

Concrete is considered one of the least expensive patio choices, but really it depends on the condition of the spot where you plan to put your patio. It is important to consult with a building professional to make sure your site is the best choice as to protect your investment. Due to a concrete slabs extended length, it's important to make sure the space is graded properly so that is doesn't crack or the foundation beneath the concrete patio doesn't degrade or erode over time. Concrete is porous and should be sealed to help protect it from the elements. Concrete can develop cracks over time, especially in areas that experience freeze-thaw cycles. The thicker your concrete slab is the less likely it will crack, so it's best to ask for a thicker slab during your design planning process. 


Image via BOXHILL



3. Composite Decking

Composite decking is an alternative to traditional wood, in that these building materials are created using a process that combines plastic and used wood fibers-such as sawdust. Composite decking is virtually maintenance free, and is stain and weather resistant. It will also not splinter or rot. 

This material selection does cost more initially, but it also lasts longer. A traditional deck, can last 10-15 years with proper maintenance, while a composite deck is guaranteed to last for 25- 30 years. It also comes in a wide array of colors. One thing to mention is that if your deck is in an area that receives constant sunshine, the colors may fade slightly over time. This can be prevented by applying a preventative sealer every 5 years.




4. Brick Pavers

Brick is a man-made material that utilizes heating up clay at very high temperatures and then molding them into a specific shape. This process is ideal for uniformity, especially if you looking for an intricate design, such as a herringbone or stacked pattern. Brick is available in a wide array of colors, which makes it highly desirable if you are looking for a patio stone to highlight an existing color scheme or design for your outdoor space. 

Like concrete though, brick is susceptible to cracking during a freeze-thaw cycle. The nice thing about using brick pavers is that they are relatively inexpensive to replace a cracked brick later down the road. Because of this, it is ideal to choose a paver that has color variants, aka not all identical in color. This way if you have to replace a paver down the road, it won't be as noticeable. One thing to consider when installing pavers, is the labor that goes into installing them. The more intricate the design or pattern you choose, the more labor and time it will take to install them. 



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Image via RDM Architecture

5. Tile

 Tile is a very versatile product when used in outdoor applications. Tile allows virtually any design of tile to be laid out in your patio area. This is especially desirable in designs that may fall outside of the traditional brick paver material choice, such as under a covered patio or a contemporary themed patio, as shown below. 

Tile has to be laid on a solid foundation, as it is not sturdy enough to be installed on graded dirt and rock, the same way concrete or brick pavers can be. Because of this, tile can be more expensive to install if you do not already have a concrete slab in place. But if you do have a slab, then most of the work is already done for you! The preferred type of tile for exterior applications is porcelain, as it is well known for its durability and beauty. 


Image via Cochrane Design

6. Slate

 Slate, just like flagstone, is a very popular choice in tile patio design. Slate is a naturally occurring stone that comes in a wide array of color tones. Like flagstone, slate is considered a higher end material choice and does require to be sealed. But unlike concrete or brick pavers, it is less likely susceptible to the freeze-thaw cycle that occurs frequently in the Northern Virginia area. 

Slate, like flagstone, can be installed over a graded spot with gravel and dirt. It can also be put over a concrete slab under a covered porch. Slate can be slippery in wet or icy conditions, so a popular design choice is to put radiant heating below the tile prior to installation. The radiant heating will help melt the ice faster and allows for the stone to not be so cold on Fall nights while enjoying the stars or grilling with friends and family. 



As you can see, every patio choice has pros and cons. Whether it be maintenance or cost, the choice on which patio or deck material to use is a personal choice that should be discussed with your designer. Our top choice remains Flagstone, as it truly will stand the test of time. Which patio is your favorite? 


If you live in the Northern Virginia area and you’re interested in a free estimate, or would like to know how Lensis Builders, Inc. can make your home even better, give us a call at 703-367-8999 or fill out a short contact form. If you’re looking for inspiration for your next project, visit our Pinterest page.