When warm weather approaches, it’s time to leave the living room couch behind and get out to your favorite backyard spot. Whether it’s to kick back under the sun, entertain guests or dine alfresco, the patio is where it all should happen, so why not make it perfect in every way? The right look, feel, design, size and location all play a part, but most importantly, it all starts with the right hardscape material.
There are a few different options out there, but admittedly, we're partial to natural stone. Natural stone is a product of earth, which means it’s going to harmonize with its outdoor surroundings better than any kind of man-made material. It’s strength, durability and uniqueness make it more desirable over concrete or brick pavers for a patio. Nothing can compare to its natural beauty and the way it gives any outdoor living space a timeless look. And natural stone lasts for generations, so it’s well worth the investment.When choosing the type of natural stone for your patio area, there are a few things we suggest you consider.
NATURAL STONE OPTIONS
The first and most important decision when it comes to your patio design is which type of stone you’re going to go with. You want to do this once so it’s best to know your options in order to determine what will work best.
A timeless sense of long-lasting beauty can be found with granite pavers. Naturally durable, granite will withstand the freeze-thaw cycle, it’s virtually maintenance-free and lasts for generations. Wood, brick and concrete don’t stand a chance against granite in harsh elements.
Swenson carries thermal top pattern pavers, stocked in Woodbury Gray and Caledonia, plus five other granite colors are available by special order: Autumn Pink, Deer Isle, Bethel White, Concord Gray and Cambrian Black. Gray bush-hammered granite pavers are also great when you want a more rustic appearance.
Woodbury Gray granite patio.
Bluestone’s hardness and distinctive soft color make it very appealing. In thermal top or natural cleft top, it provides excellent traction when wet and just like granite, it’s also durable and handles temperature changes very well, resisting damage from the freeze-thaw cycle.
Full color natural cleft bluestone patio.
Flagstone patios offer beauty and texture far above concrete surfaces. This type of material softens and defines spaces in harmony with natural surroundings. Flagstone allows you to bring character to your space, with the unique shape and color of each stone.
Flagstone is made of 100% natural stone. Granite, bluestone, quartzite and fieldstone are the material choices. Available finishes include thermal top and natural top.
Irregular bluestone patio.
Designing the patio is an exciting part of this whole process, and when the work is done you will see your vision come to life.
First things first -- choose the spot. Will it be attached to the house or farther away in a more natural setting? If you plan to use your patio for dining, you may want to keep it as close to the kitchen as possible. It’s also convenient to step right out onto the patio, rather than having to walk. However, a patio that sits well away from the house can provide a private retreat in a natural setting.
For a design that is more informal, Tom Kraus, owner of design build firm Natural Path Landscaping, suggests leaving some green space between the patio and the house. “When you don’t pave here, you can leave a 3-5 ft wide garden space, which allows you to grow some plants and feel more like you're outside while sitting on the patio,” says Kraus.
Determining the size is very important, as you don’t want to end up with a patio that is either too small or too large. If it’s too small it will feel cramped after adding furniture. If it’s too large it loses its intimacy. A simple way to figure out the size is to set up your patio furniture on your lawn and see how much room you might need.
A small, intimate thermal bluestone paver patio with New England Style Wallstone.
A larger sized Caledonia granite paver patio with both room for al fresco dining and lounging.
The style of your patio will set the tone for your outdoor living area. For a rustic style patio where symmetry is not desired, you may want to go with flagstones. For a more natural appearance, plant moss, turf or groundcover throughout the flagstones. Pattern pavers give a clean look, suitable for formal patio designs.
The organic look of irregular bluestone creates a rustic patio that fits with the natural surroundings at this lake house.
A formal patio with thermal top Caledonia granite pavers -- a clean, classic look.
Photography by John McCarthy
Woodbury Gray granite pavers inlaid on the lawn and positioned to create a contemporary patio. Project by Andover Landscape.
Will your patio be raised with a retaining wall or sit at ground level? With a raised patio you can incorporate curves, corners and steps into the design. If you’re looking to add structure, consider multiple levels with segmented visual sections. With a top and lower level, it can seem like the patio is being split into separate outdoor rooms, even though they are in the same place.
Woodbury Gray granite pavers and coping for this pool patio in Edgartown, MA.
DIY OR HIRE A CONTRACTOR?
Are you thinking you may be able to pull this off, DIYer? Ask yourself these questions: Do you know exactly what you want to do? Are you entirely capable of getting the job done? Do you have all the proper equipment and can you operate it safely? Think you’ll be pleased with the outcome?
Landscape architect Pete Pedersen thinks it’s possible to DIY, but feels it’s better to bring in a professional -- from day one. “If you know the shape and size because you have limited space, you could probably lay it out yourself using string and stakes, “ says Pedersen.
DIY not an option? There are many advantages to hiring a pro. A contractor will design the patio, help you choose the location, determine the best way to deal with drainage, go over material options, estimate the cost and, most importantly, do all the work, including the visit to your stone supplier.
“Projects run very smoothly with the help of Swenson,” says Kraus. “I can choose all the materials I need for a project before I start the job and they will put it aside for me until I need it. They can even do custom products within four weeks and deliver it to the site.”
Visit a Swenson Granite store near you and we can help you choose the stone that’s a natural fit for your future patio. We can also connect you with a contractor in your area.
Learn more about granite pavers and flagstone in our spec sheets. See options for stone types, shapes, sizes, colors and textures. Download here.