Often, a patio is the keystone to the landscape, with gardens and lawn as supporting components. These project costs vary widely however, with many options. So, if you have been thinking about a new hardscape, read on to see what goes into the estimating a patio or walkway.
On every patio project, access, site conditions, size, and aesthetics impact the costs. Initially, let’s consider access.
Access to the site will influence the final price of any hardscape project. If a truck can dump construction material close to the project, labor costs are reduced. However, costs skyrocket if the team needs to navigate through an alley or other tight space. Consequently, it is difficult to determine how access influences square foot prices. Early in the process, look at your site and decide if you have easy access. This will help you see which end of the price range your project falls.
In addition to access, existing site conditions affect costs. 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 basic prep is included in average square foot prices, significant site work adds to costs. Usually, demolition and transplants are not included in these averages.
Additionally, consider the cost to repair the site after the patio is installed. Quality contractors include grading and seeding in their estimates.
To determine the patio size, first identify its intended use. Will it be used for dining, relaxing, or entertaining? Early in planning, it is important to select an ideal size.
Importantly, you do not want to over-estimate the size of a patio. There is no sense in spending money and adding to stormwater runoff if the space won’t be used. Conversely, you will always regret installing a patio that is too small. So, if you regularly entertain smaller groups, select sizes around 200 square feet. For larger groups, you need at least 400 square feet to feel comfortable.
After determining an appropriate patio size, decide on its shape and pattern. Basic rectangles are effective, minimize labor costs and reduce waste. Additionally, simple patterns minimize cuts to the material. On the other hand, turning that same pattern 45⁰ greatly increases the number of cuts, and therefore labor costs.
In contrast to rectangles, achieving a natural, organic shape is easy when using irregular flagstone. Be aware though, that you need more material to fit these irregular pieces together, and more time to place them.
After determining the size and shape, select the material for the project. Personal preferences, budget, and existing architecture largely determine material selection. For example, if a site is composed of many different materials, re-use one of these for continuity in the landscape. Similarly, a flagstone front walk in may inform the choice of flagstone for a back patio.
Conversely, a brick building, doesn’t necessarily require a brick patio. In fact, alternative materials add interest and may look best.
Finally, you can create similar looks with different materials. Understand your options to make the best decision.
Material Options & Cost
Not only do materials costs vary, the labor involved varies as well. So in comparing bids from multiple contractors, make they are using the same specifications. For instance, wet-laid patios are mortared together while dry-laid patios are set in sand. Consequently, these costs vary widely. The following patio cost estimates compare only dry-laid materials.
Stamped Concrete ($15-$21 per square foot)
Stamped and dyed concrete create visually interesting patios. Comparatively, they cost more than basic concrete but are less expensive than other options. Stamped concrete is poured on a minimum of 4” compacted modified stone.
- Choose from a variety of textures and colors
- Combine multiple textures and colors to complement the existing site
- Can apply 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
- Does not look like natural material
- Requires re-sealing of the concrete as it weathers (at minimum, every ten years)
Interlocking Concrete Pavers ($28-$38 per square foot)
Commonly referred to by manufacturer (EP Henry, Techo Bloc, etc), these pavers are cast from dyed concrete. They come in different sizes and include small “bumps” on the edges to ensure even spacing. Using pavers with larger spacers and constructing a deeper base creates a permeable patio. As a result, water flows through, rather than running off the patio. Although permeable paver projects manage stormwater well, they cost slightly more than traditional paver projects. This is due to deeper excavating and more base material for rainwater storage. Standards are 8+” of clean stone for permeable vs. 4” modified stone for impermeable construction.
- Easy installation due to uniform nature
- Available in multiple colors which are easy to mix and match
- Available in multiple sizes to create interesting patterns
- Comes with matching block for wall construction
- Brands with incorporated dye minimize the look of “wear”
- Create generic hardscapes, without a “sense of place”
- Brands without incorporated dye show wear after several years
- May weather unevenly if parts of patio are under cover
Brick ($28-38 per square foot)
Look around and you’ll see clay brick commonly used in buildings. Construction bricks are slightly smaller than 4”x 8” to account for mortar joints. In contrast, true 4”x 8” brick pavers are best for hardscaping.
- Uniform size is easy to use
- Blends well with the buildings and materials of our region
- Many patterns possible
- Permeable brick paver now available
- May be slippery when wet
- Only available in one shape
- Reclaimed brick can only be installed in a running bond pattern
Irregular Flagstone ($30-50 per square foot)
Compared to rectangular pavers, a patio of irregular flagstone offers a more natural look. If your goal is a patio that blends seamlessly with the landscape, this is a great choice! Like pavers and brick, irregular flagstone creates a flat surface where tables and chairs are stable and tripping is minimized. Due to irregular edges, flagstone is worked together like a puzzle. This can increase skilled labor costs, but the end result is a patio that is truly unique.
- Natural material is visually appealing
- Creates unique patios and walkways
- Options for colors
- Time-consuming to fit pieces together appropriately
- Surface is not completely smooth
- Inconsistent gaps between stones
Cut Flagstone ($32-50 per square foot)
Similar to irregular flagstone, cut flagstone is a natural, flat stone. It is cut to standard sizes (12”x12”, 12”x18”, 18”x24”, etc), and thicknesses. Flagstone comes in two basic colors: “blue” (also called bluestone) or “variegated” which has brown striations. Blue and variegated stone come in either “thermal” or “natural cleft” surfaces. Thermal stone is cut so that the walking surface is perfectly smooth. In contrast, natural cleft has some minor undulations across the surface. Generally, a stone is more expensive the more “perfect” it is. Thermal cut blue flagstone costs about 2 times more per square foot 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
Considering all of the options and variables, patio design and estimating is difficult. If your head is swimming with too many options, contact the designers at GreenWeaver. We are happy to help you with the process!