How to Design a Patio?

Image of a Patio

A patio installation is one of the best home renovations today. A patio remodel or newly build has a return on investment of 100% for a DIY patio project. While hiring a contractor can give you as much as 67% to 700% ROISOURCE

With a well-planned patio, you also get more than your ROI. According to Forbes Home: “A well-built patio can add up to $25,000 to the market value of a home”.

Invaluable Benefits of a Patio Installation

Not only is a patio a good investment, money-wise, but having an outdoor living space gives an invaluable physiological and psychological well-beingStudies show that even looking at nature pictures can lower the heart rate and improve focus or directed attention abilities.

Firstly, what are the design considerations in designing a patio? 

Main Patio Design Considerations

A. Purpose and Functionality
B. Site Features and Limitations
C. Budget and Timeline
D. Local and National Ordinances

Jump to How to Layout a Patio?
Jump to Patio Configurations

What is a Patio? 

“It is an outdoor area adjoining or enclosed by the walls or arcades of a house; often paved and shaded. –Dictionary of Architecture and Construction– 2nd Edition Edited by Cyril M. Harris. 

Patio today is used to refer to any paved area that extends, connects, or near a structure for the use of outdoor recreation. 

Loosely interchanged with the term outdoor courtyard. 

Word Origins: Spanish pati or patu, which means pasture as in the Mediterranean times, it is the piece of land located at the back of a home where farmstead animals are kept.

What is the Difference Between Patio, Lanai, Terrace and Deck?

These terms are often used interchangeably. In some cases, they usually imply specific characteristics and regional preferences. It’s important to note that the usage and understanding of these terms may vary depending on cultural, geographical, and architectural differences.

While there can be some overlap in their functions and designs, they generally have distinct characteristics:

Deck vs. Patio
Deck -Usually the area is bound to railings or building benches.
Patio – Permits space overflow onto an adjacent lawn.

A. Purpose and Functionality – What is your main purpose of building a patio?

A patio regardless of size can be a versatile space especially when connected to a living area. But the features integrated into a patio affect its flexibility. Defining the purpose of your patio can help determine which features to incorporate into the design. 

General Purposes of Building a Patio 

  1. An Extended Dining Area – Al Fresco Experience If you plan for additional space for eating any time of the day, you’ll need shading devices to protect you from the elements. 

    Just like typical dining rooms, you’ll need ample space for your dining table and seating. As a baseline, 6 people will need 12.5’ (78”) x 9.5’ (42”) of allotted space or 118.75 square feet. You may also need an additional counter space and a small wash area especially when your patio is far from your kitchen. 

2 An Extended Living or Entertainment Area 

For a 6-seater sofa or lounge set, a 14’ x 14’ is ample for a medium-sized fireplace and outdoor TV. Other amenities depend on your preferences as well as available space. You may add an entertainment center or provide an outdoor television. Though outdoor fireplaces or firepits are popular for patio areas, you can also add a table pool area or incorporate a garden and pond. 

3. . Drying Area by The Pool or Sundeck Patio 

When planning to have a patio by the pool, you’ll need to decide whether it should be fully open or partially covered. Added enclosure for privacy may also be required. Choose waterproof furniture that won’t easily fade. There are a lot of UV-resistant, stain-proof, and water-repellant outdoor slipcovers that can protect any ordinary sofa set. 

A sundeck by the pool will need lounge chairs. The typical lounge chair measures 2 feet by 6 feet while sofas can be 6 feet to 8 feet long with a depth of 2.5 feet to 2.7 feet

You’ll need a slip-resistant paver that will run through and around your pool area as well. 

3. A Gallery for Plants – A Garden Patio 

Whether for flowering plants or a garden of edibles, the patio is the perfect place to showcase your garden skills. Landscaping goes hand in hand with a gorgeous patio and you can incorporate lounging areas or a breakfast nook. The possibilities with a garden are endless. 

The best location for your garden patio is where your plants can receive six hours of sunlight, great drainage, good air circulation, easy access to water (plumbing), and a tool room (storage). 

Note as per IBC (International Building Code) patios shall not be used as storage, habitable rooms, carports, or garages and will only be used for outdoor living purposes.   

B. Site Features and Limitations

What is the area, views, privacy issues, existing terrain, trees, and other natural and man-made elements in the site? 

Existing Trees and Shrubs
Great Views
Road and Pathways

B.1 Site Analysis

Your landscape designer or landscape architect should be able to provide a detailed site analysis for your patio build. If you’re building a small patio and don’t require a permit from your housing development or locality then, you can sketch out a simple site analysis of your site. 

Patio Planning Tip: When planning a patio, treat it like an enclosed room. This way, a planner can assign furniture and consider circulation between furniture and adjacent areas. 

B.2 Patio Location 

Decide on where to build your patio.

Most patios are located at the rear side of a property where privacy and the best views of the outdoors are unobstructed. Though the rear side may be a staple place to build your patio there are other parts of your home fitting for a paved area.  

How Far or Near Your Patio to Your Home?

The proximity of your patio to your home is directly influenced by the purpose of your patio as well as the size and shape of your property. 

Patio Planning Tips:

Small patios can be located further away from the main house to create a place of destination creating a private retreat. This encourages users to walk and enjoy the surrounding nature or garden area. However, a patio located away from the main house may not be practical for older users. 

Large patios can have several areas with different uses. In a large social gathering, people tend to break into smaller groups. Create a central space or focal point in the patio area. Stepped patio areas are perfect for separating different patio activities. 

How to Layout a Patio? 

The great thing about patios is there’s no limit to your design since the paved area are not limited to walls or ceilings. This means you have the opportunity to configure your patio in any layout you want and there’s a provision for expansion. 

The prospects are exciting but of course, you are limited to budget and available space. This also depends on the amenities you plan to include. For the best patio configuration, we listed the typical layouts for patios namely, square, rectangle, circle, and free form. 

Factors that affect the layout of your patio:

  • Size and shape of your property. 
  • The main function of your patio. 
  • Theme or style you are going for. 
  1. Square Layout – Cost-Effective 

The simplest yet cost-effective layout is a patio with equal sides. It provides a harmonious and well-balanced backdrop where you can incorporate symmetry with your furniture. This also works best if you have a relatively small to medium-sized patio and want to entertain a good number of people and want to maximize space. 

When you have a square layout, a patio is perfect for a breakfast nook for two or a small jacuzzi. Typically, this layout is suitable for a patio that extends from a bedroom or study area. 

2. Rectangular – Expansive Patio 

If you’ve seen the typical farmhouses, you’ll notice their rectangular configuration, allowing a long frontage and thus having a long rear side as well. If you have a similar floorplan layout, you can follow the length along your rear side, this also gives an almost panoramic view of your outdoors. This also allows you to add an arcade or a series of columns if you plan to add a roof to your patio area.  

For an expansive patio, define spaces with different tile or paver floorings.

3. Circular or Round Patios – Focal Points

Circular patios are perfect as focal points for gardens and for your backyard as a whole. Mainly as a decorative space, you can add a well or fountain or have chairs placed around a round dining table. A popular choice for your round patio is pavers or bricks for flooring. 

As focal points in a large backyard can bring people together creating a landmark or a destination in your yard.

4. Free Form – Multi-level Patios 

Freeform obviously can work in any shape of the land, but to appreciate the freedom of the form, having more than one level adds visual interest to your patio. This works great with rolling or split-type backyards. The asymmetrical form can use any material but if you’ve got unusual geometry, concrete is a great material to explore. You can also have a mix of materials to add visual depth. 

The freedom of design also lets you add layers of light and texture.

Space Availability

The space you have mainly influences how you plan and design your patio. A patio with a size of 15 x 15 feet (5m x 5m) or 225 square feet is a comfortable size to fit a dining table (5.6’ x 3.26’) for 6 people and can fit a bistro table and two lounge chairs. 

Area and Dimension Guidelines

  • Allow 25 square feet (2.3 square meters) of space for each person or 5 ft x 5 ft (1.5m x 1.5 m)
  •  For a trail path walk, provide a minimum of 4 feet or 1.2 meters width. If space is limited you can provide a minimum of 2 feet or .6 meters width of path walk.  Don’t forget other access points openings.
  • 14 ft x 6 ft (1.8m x 5m) minimum dimension for a two-seater lounge area.
  • For multiple seating for a dining area make sure to allow 2 ft or .6m in between seats to make room for access.
  • Allow a clearance of 18 to 24 inches between a fire pit and seating area.

Common Dimensions of Patio Furniture

  • Bistro Table – The diameter of bistro table is typically 24 to 36 inches (61 to 91 cm) and 28 to 30 inches (71 to 76 cm) in height.
  • Adirondack chairs:
    Seat width – 20 to 24 inches (51 to 61 cm)
    Seat depth – 18 to 22 inches (46 to 56 cm)
    Seat height – 13 to 16 inches (33 to 41 cm)
    Backrest height – 36 to 40 inches (91 to 102 cm)
    Armrest height – 7 to 9 inches (18 to 23 cm) measured from the seat

  • Square Tables – 30(2 people) – 64 inches
  • Rectangle Tables – 40 to 102 inches
  • Oval Tables – 60 inches (min) up to 84 inches

Tip: When designing the patio include the rest of the adjacent backyard to see how other elements come together. Also, consider adjacent interior or functional rooms in the existing building. This will also help in mapping out the circulation and traffic in and around your patio.

Pathway Clearance and Widths:

For two people to walk side by side a pathway should have at least 48 inches or 1.20 m width.  The minimum width possible is 18 inches or .5 m but a more comfortable pathway width is 24 inches or .6 m.

Ways to Maximize a Small Patio?

Don’t let limited space stop you from having a stylish and comfortable patio. Small patios can provide intimacy and at the same time not too demanding on maintenance. The following are ways to spruce up your small patio while maximizing the space-starved space.

Use multifunctional furniture. From a table that can be transformed into a lounger or shelves converted to seats, or a table converted into a cook on the counter, the furniture options are endless.

Go Mobile.  Choose carts on wheels or coffee tables with caster wheels that can be adjusted to stay still. Use a mobile bar cart for easy access to drinks/food.

Collapsible furniture. Folding chairs, umbrellas, tables, loungers, and other outdoor furniture allows you to store away the furniture when not in use to give way to other uses for the patio.

Go Vertical. If you have a tight space horizontally that takes advantage of your vertical or aerial space. Multi-tiered cabinets or vertical gardens and screens decorates your patio.

Choose Minimalist Pieces. It makes sense to include simple framed furniture such as a wire-framed or wicker outdoor chair. Not only do they take little space, they’re even easier to carry around.

C. Budget and Timeline How Much Does It Cost to Build a New Patio in 2023?

The cost of building a new patio can be as $1000 to $20,000 depending on several factors. Similar to other home improvements, the area, location, features, theme, and materials are major factors to affect the cost of your patio installation. Another contributing factor to the cost of a patio build is whether it is a DIY patio installation or whether you willing to hire a contractor.

  How Much Does It Cost to Build a New Patio in 2023?
U.S.$3,000 to $5,500 source
U.K.£1,000 to £8,000 source
Australia$2,000 to $20,000 source

Average Cost is from $3,000 to $5,500
Lowest: $800
High End: $8,000

AreaAverage Cost
Las Vegas$2,445
New Jersey$5,224
New York$5,224
South Carolina$5,536

D. Local and National Ordinances

Building codes for patios can vary depending on the specific jurisdiction or local regulations. These codes are typically established to ensure the safety, structural integrity, and compliance of outdoor structures.

Check for:

  • Height restrictions when building a covered patio. Based on the international building code, covered patios are limited to one-story height with a maximum of 12 feet or 3.657 meters.
  • Another common building code requirement for patios is that it can occupy a certain area of a setback or required yard with certain conditions. For instance, a patio is allowed to project to the rear yard with a maximum of 12 feet and walls should be open on 3 sides.