Even through these snowy winter days, we can’t help but find ourselves planning for spring and summer projects. Often, the patio is the keystone to the landscape, with gardens, plants, and lawn acting as the supporting components. If you have been thinking about installing a new patio, or walkway for that matter, read on to find out how much this project may cost.
Whether a professional is completing your project or you’re doing it yourself, access, site preparation, and aesthetics will all impact the cost.
Access to the site often makes the biggest impact on price. If a truck can back up and dump the base material, this will substantially save on the cost of labor. If the team needs to navigate through an alley narrower than a wheelbarrow, that cost is going to skyrocket.
Because access can vary so greatly among sites, it can be difficult to determine how this may affect square footage prices by material; however, if you look at your own site and can recognize if there is easy or difficult access, this may help you estimate in which part of the price range your potential patio will fall.
The existing condition of the site will also impact the installation cost. Is the team digging into lawn or rock? Do trees need to be transplanted away from the site first? Does an existing patio need to be removed?
While some basic prep is usually included in a square foot price, significant changes like demolition or transplants will be estimated separately. If materials are removed away from the site, access may play a role in that price as well.
Also consider the cost to repair the site after the patio is installed. Some contractors may not even include grading and seeding, while some others include that basic repair in the cost. Extensive landscaping is never included in the price of the patio unless an estimate explicitly says so.
Material: The proper size and material of a patio is determined by the site and client needs. We typically look at the site and the existing materials to determine what looks best. Remember, just because it’s a brick building, doesn’t mean the patio needs to be brick; in fact, an alternative material may actually look best.
Alternatively, if the site is already composed of many different materials (brick façade, concrete paver walkway, flagstone stepping stones, asphalt driveway), it’s often best to replicate an existing material in the new patio.
Size: The intended use of the space should be the primary factor in determining the size of the patio. If the cost is too much, an alternative material may be considered. Waiting until the funds are available is another option. Due to the cost and semi-permanent nature of hardscapes, it generally makes the most sense to commit to the ideal size and scope before investing in the patio.
It is also important not to over-estimate the size of a patio, which will quickly increase costs. Additionally, if the space won’t be used regularly, there isn’t much sense in regularly adding to stormwater runoff. If you intend on entertaining smaller groups and would like a patio table, I would recommend no less than 200 square feet (SF). For larger groups or larger tables (more than 4 people), at least 400SF will feel comfortable.
Shape: Once the appropriate size is determined, the shape of the patio can be as basic or interesting as you like. Basic rectangles are effective for most spaces, minimizing labor costs and often reducing waste. Because manufactured materials (brick & paver) are rectangular, simple designs can fit easily into a rectangle without requiring many cuts. Turn that same pattern 45⁰, and the number of cuts may double.
I prefer patios in softer shapes, with some sort of curve or arc to them, but the number of cuts, and therefore material and labor costs, can increase significantly.
Irregular flagstone is a great way to achieve a more natural, organic shape, with fewer cuts. However, to fit these irregular pieces together, significantly more stones should be brought on site initially for the builder to pick through until he or she finds the right pieces. The good news is that typically full pieces of stone are left over for future projects rather than crumbly bits and pieces.
Not only do the individual materials cost different amounts, but the construction using these materials can vary as well. It is important to be clear that you are comparing the same specifications if you receive bids from multiple contractors. While the surface may look the same, the construction of the base material is even more important.
The approximate price per square foot is assuming the materials are being set on a base appropriate to the surface material.
Additionally, some of these materials may be “wet-laid”, meaning the materials may be mortared together to create and permanent surface. For these cost comparisons, we will be discussing only dry-laid materials.
Stamped Concrete ($15-$21 per square foot)
Stamped and dyed concrete can provide visually interesting patios. The cost is more expensive than basic concrete but less expensive than most other options. Stamped concrete should be poured on a minimum of 4” compacted modified stone, but may require 6-12” depending on site conditions.
• Choose from a variety of textures and colors
• Combine multiple textures and colors to complement the existing site
• More colors available than traditional, natural materials
• Can be applied over existing concrete (level, unbroken, good condition only)
• Minimal waste
• Not permeable (water will runoff)
• Site requires access to a concrete truck
• Requires seams through patio
• Will not mimic natural material
• Requires re-sealing of the concrete as it weathers (at minimum, every ten years)
Interlocking Concrete Pavers ($28-$38 per square foot)
More commonly referred to by manufacturer (EP Henry, Techo Bloc, CST, etc), these pavers are cast from dyed concrete. They come in many different sizes and include small “bumps” on the edges to ensure even spacing. By changing the base material and using the pavers with slightly larger “bumps”, this material can also easily create permeable patio options (water can flow through the patio, rather than run off). The price for permeable generally goes up due to the need for deeper excavating and more base material (8+” of clean stone for permeable vs. 4” modified stone for impermeable), although the unit cost of permeable vs. impermeable pavers is comparable.
• Easy to work with due to uniform nature
• Available in multiple colors (usually red, blue, gray, orange, or a “blend”), easily mix and match
• Available in multiple sizes to create interesting patterns
• Can easily incorporate retaining or freestanding walls in matching colors
• Some brands dye the concrete all the way through to minimize the look of “wear”
• Create generic hardscapes, without a “sense of place”
• Brands which don’t dye through the paver show wear after years of weather and traffic
• May weather unevenly if parts of patio are under cover
Brick ($28-38 per square foot)
Look around and you’ll see clay brick is a masonry standard used on buildings along the east coast. Those bricks are slightly smaller than 4”x8” to account for mortar between the bricks. Today, manufacturers make true 4”x8” clay bricks for dry paving purposes.
• Attractive and blend well with the buildings and materials of our region
• Uniform size is easy to work with
• Many patterns available using true 4×8” brick paver
• Now available with side “bumps” to achieve permeable patios made of brick
• May be slippery when wet
• Only available in one shape
• Reclaimed brick from buildings can only be installed in a running bond pattern
Irregular Flagstone ($30-50 per square foot)
If you’re looking for a patio that blends seamlessly with the landscape, irregular flagstone is a great choice! Irregular flagstone has the natural undulations of stone, but is relatively flat, so that tables and chairs are stable and tripping is minimized. The irregular edges of flagstone need to be worked together like a puzzle, which can increase skilled labor costs, but the end result is a patio that is truly unique.
• Natural material is visually appealing
• Unique stones create unique patios
• Time-consuming to fit pieces together appropriately
• Uneven surface
Cut Flagstone ($32-50 per square foot)
Flagstone refers to a natural, flattish stone that is commonly used on the east coast. It is cut to standard sizes (12”x12”, 12”x18”, 18”x24”, etc), but becomes more expensive per square foot, when larger individual pieces are used due to unit cost and labor to move larger slabs. It comes in 1” thick slabs or 1.5” thick slabs. Flagstone comes in two basic colors: “blue” or “variegated”. Blue flagstone (also called bluestone) is a pure bluish gray stone. Variegated is a gray stone with orange-brown striations through the stone. Either blue or variegated may come in “thermal” or “natural cleft” surfaces. Thermal has been cut so that the walking surface is perfectly smooth while natural cleft will have some minor undulations across the surface. Generally, the more “perfect” a stone is, the more expensive it is. Thermal cut blue flagstone costs about 2 times more per square foot of material than natural cleft variegated flagstone.
• Attractive, natural material
• Square and rectangular pieces come in many different sizes
• Many different patterns can be created
• Requires detailed specs when comparing installation and price across contractors
• Highly processed flagstone produces more waste
With all of the options, it can be difficult to figure out which material is appropriate for your site, but after a thorough assessment of the location and immediate off-site conditions, it often comes down to aesthetics and cost. If your head is swimming, the designers at GreenWeaver will be happy to help you through the process!