Hickory Farms Newsletter – July 2016

Considering a private area for relaxation and entertaining?

Here are some things to think about first:

How big? What shape? Should I use concrete, pavers or a deck? What about shade and screening?
The first thing to think about is…How big an area do you need? How many people do you expect to use it at one time? Consider that each “function” (table and chairs, hot tub, fire ring, etc) will require about 100 sq ft ( 10 x 10’). So how many functions will you need? The average patio is 300sq ft (15 x 20).

Rectangles and squares are easier to build. Curves require more cuts and will add to the labor cost. Curves are nice but you can curve the beds around a rectilinear patio to soften the “look” and maximize the usable space. Curved beds will soften the straight lines just like we do for the straight lines of your house.

Concrete is by far the least expensive material to use but concrete will crack, guaranteed. Pavers are more expensive than concrete but, if properly laid, will last just as long and if they happen to heave or sink they can be fixed. Concrete must be torn out. Stamped concrete has a nice look but it’s about the same price as pavers and will still crack. A decks, while not as popular today, might be your best option if you are on a serious slope. Filling several feet under concrete or pavers is inviting settling and cracking. If your door level is high above the ground you might consider a small deck at the floor level and then step down to a paver patio.

Decks are the most expensive surfaces per square foot but may be your best option. Many people perceive decks as high maintenance. Yes, you might like to stain your deck to give it a fresh look every 3 to 5 years but this can be done relatively easily with a sprayer. Composite lumber is available but will increase the cost by about 30%. The cheaper composites will also fade, crack and can’t be stained to freshen them up.

You can create an intimate “feel” on your private space with a pergola. This can be designed to provide shade or just to hang baskets of flowers from. If shade is needed, ultimately you can’t beat a nice big shade tree. Certainly you should plant one for the future but for immediate shade you might consider a “shade sail”. This is a heavy fabric stretched between posts which is very popular in hot dry climates.

What about a water feature? Ponds are nice but not low maintenance. Think about a fountain or “pondless waterfall” for soothing sound with little aftercare.

Shade and privacy is critical to the enjoyment of your outdoor space so don’t discount the bed shape and plant selection around the area. Unfortunately, I find that most folks today are very excited about the “hardscape” materials and features but don’t give much thought to the plants. A garden designer can provide you with a quiet, shaded space complete with color, fragrance and natural entertainment…all for low maintenance and less expense than any “hardscape” features.

You’ll see a lot of nice accessories on paver patios such as walls, pillars and fire pits. These can be attractive but are they functional? Brick seat walls are not as comfortable to sit on as a lounge chair. The pillars just tie up usable space. And fire pits should be seriously considered before dedicating your patio to a campfire. Consider the prevailing wind direction or you might be sitting in smoke. How about a movable copper fire kettle to increase the versatility of your space? Of course all these “accessories” will considerably add to the cost of your patio. I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures from California and Arizona of outdoor kitchens and fireplaces. Yes they are impressive and the sky is certainly the limit on outdoor entertainment areas, but consider the return on your investment for something that can only be used a couple months of the year here in Ohio.

Do the dreaming… but let’s talk before you start digging!