How to Plan the Perfect Yard


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Are you starting to dream of eating under the stars? Make that dream a beautiful backyard reality.

For many homeowners, the yard is limited to magic: a place to relax, unwind, cook and rest from the daily grind. It is surrounded by lively nuances, and food prepared in outdoor kitchen somehow tastes better than anything that comes from its internal equivalent.

Creating that perfect outdoor space for you and your family all starts with the literal foundation of this outdoor living room: the patio materials. Your choice can have a big impact on the look, durability and performance of your favorite home addition.

Getting started

Before committing to a kind of patio, first anticipate the finished space. You probably have a good idea of ​​the location and approximate size, so go grab a chair, take it out, and put it in the intended location. Then sit down, and visualize every material in the mind.

Your yard should not only complement your home and landscape, but also improve your lifestyle. If you have a large space to work on, consider adding a combination of paving materials; some of the best yard projects include two or more. Using several materials allows you to integrate inlaid edges that can visually separate an area to rest from the outside kitchen.

When you come up with your ideal project, consider what materials will best bring it to life, in terms of aesthetic and practical issues, such as care requirements and cost.

Concrete

Poured concrete is the yard chosen by many homeowners because it is structurally sound, inexpensive, and can even be stamped or dyed to mimic higher paving materials. It is best suited for moderate to warm climates where frost does not matter.

Planning advice: A standard concrete yard is four inches thick, but if you intend to build something very heavy, such as a built-in fireplace, ask the contractor to reinforce that particular area before you pour.

Bricks

Available in a variety of colors, bricks create a warm and attractive courtyard. This classic courtyard style usually costs more than one constructed of concrete, not only for the materials themselves, but also for work – a significant consideration when each brick has to be laid by hand, leveled and cemented.

If you decide to invest, you can design the space with many patterns, from a traditional running link to something with added texture appeal like a boxed braid or herringbone.

Planning advice: For patios, solid 1- or 2-inch thick paving bricks are the best choice, whether dry laid or mortared in place. Be careful about extending your brick yard into a deep shade, or else you will need to pay attention to a smooth surface after each rain.

Pavements

Often made of cement, ash or stone, pavers surpass the DIY yard wish list due to their low price and super simple installation – they will get you there grilling in record time.

If you plan to arrange your own yard, you will need a suitable substrate consisting of at least three inches of sand, and a constant edge, such as a poured concrete edge, to prevent slipping.

Planning advice: Pavers can be dry-placed by horn-beating them tightly, or installed with uniform mortar joints. If the yard lies over service lines, be aware that dry bins will be more easily removed and replaced if (or when) you need to access the servers below.

Stone

The highly desirable look of a stone comes with a steeper price tag – especially if your choice isn’t on site – but you can’t beat it for a natural attraction. Flat, irregularly shaped stones offer a calm and serpentine effect, while single-cut slabs of granite, travertine, slate or copperstone can produce a formal courtyard suitable for any back garden.

Planning advice: Natural stone is extremely durable for any patio, but if you’re planning one pool shore, choose a non-slip product, such as coral stone.

Tile

Available in ceramic, glass, porcelain, terracotta and natural stone, tile creates beautiful mosaic patio projects that are refreshingly cool underfoot in warm climates. Because tile is thin, it requires the installation of a concrete slab.

Planning advice: Even if you plan to put the tile yourself, it’s a good idea to have a professional pour even a slab. Note also that not all tiles are suitable for yard construction. To withstand weather, all of your materials – tile, thin, cement mortar and punch – must be labeled for outdoor use.

Crushed stone, pea gravel and sand

If you’re not a fan of rock solid yards, crushed stone, pea gravel or sand could be more your style. Both crushed stone and gravel offers a variety of colors and textures at low prices, and even sandy Zen gardens can double as backyard areas.

You will, however, need to install a solid perimeter to prevent the loose material from spreading outside its intended boundary.

Planning advice: It can be difficult to remove snow and fallen leaves as the seasons change, so consider your climate and surroundings carefully. To maintain a well-groomed appearance, be sure to refresh the surface every few years.

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Originally published in April 2016.


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