Over half of the people that I consult with about building new paver patios are families who have young children. Many of them have moved into their home within the last few years, and slightly hampered by spending on diapers, t-ball equipment, soccer shoes, dance costumes, and minivans, they have socked away some money for a paver patio. An outdoor living area can be a fairly substantial investment, but one that can pay big dividends in quality family time and be a top-notch entertaining space. Just like Mom and Dad make sure a new home will meet their family’s specific needs, they want to make sure their new patio will too.
We built the paver patio at our home the year before our oldest child was born, and we’ve done a lot of living there over the past 7 years. Our kids are 6 and 5, so I am sharing many of these tips as much from personal experience as I am from professional experience. Our backyard is where our family spends a lot of our time in the spring, summer, and fall, so our investment continues to pay off.
#1) Design steps out of the house that include a landing
Often times, if people have thought about the steps down to the patio at all, they have considered form, but not function. Let me tell you, I am very thankful our steps (3 in all) include a landing to step onto directly out of the house. My daughter, as cute as she is, is typically rocking plastic heels or some other impractical footwear, and has tripped into or out of the house on many occasions. Thankfully, due to the landing, it was just a one-step fall instead of three. My son usually doesn’t break stride on his sprint out of the house, and thanks to the landing, has avoided a broken leg. Believe me, whenever I can encourage someone to spend the few hundred more dollars for the landing instead of just straight steps, they thank me later.
#2) Include a fire pit
About 50% of our patios include built-in fire pits. Fire features are wildly popular, and for good reason! I plan to write another blog post soon that will fully contrast built-in fire pit vs. moveable fire pit vs. fireplace and discuss how to decide which is right for you; however, for the sake of this discussion, just make sure you have somewhere to have a fire! As a parent, there is nothing more thrilling than announcing that we are going to have a fire tonight, and hearing the squeals and cheers from the kids. For kids and parents alike, there is something captivating about fire, and it is just plain fun to spend time by the fire, whether it’s hot dogs, marshmallows, or just conversation. Fire pits are a lot of (cheap) family fun, so include one.
#3) Allow for a clear line of sight to play areas
If you have, or plan to have, a play set, swing set, trampoline, pool, or game lawn (jarts anyone?), make sure that you can see it while sitting on the patio. I can’t tell you how many patios I see around that are beautiful (not always), but completely impractical! It’s great to plan for privacy or colorful plantings around the patio, but make sure they don’t block your view. Make sure that a grill nook or a bar is situated such that it doesn’t come between you and the tots. A seat wall is usually fine if the patio is on grade, but if the patio is substantially higher than the play area, you may want to even consider an alternative that is see-through, such as a peekaboo seat wall or another type of railing.
#4) Make sure the patio has shade
If your patio is on the east or north side of your house, consider yourself fortunate. As the summer heat comes, you are typically going to be cool in the shade in the afternoon and evenings. If your patio is on the south or west side of your home, you are going to bake. We’ve consulted with many clients over the years that tell us that they can’t even stand to use their patio when it is so hot. If the kids are going to be spending time in the backyard and you want to be out there with them, do yourself a big favor and plan for shade. Shade comes in all shapes and sizes. We build lots of pergolas and pavilions, which are fantastic shade structures, and also look super cool (and a fun place to hang lights). That said, to build one of a useful size, they start at $4k+, so sometimes that isn’t in the cards. Other options can include umbrellas (there are some great ones, but you probably want to plan for more than just one in the middle of the table) or sail cloths. Also, if planned appropriately, pergolas can be added later.
Regardless of your exact situation, the ProScape consultation and design process includes a lot of emphasis on both aesthetics AND utility. You might also benefit from reading our E-Book entitled Top 11 Things to Consider Before Building a Paver Patio for more tips and answers to FAQs. Download it here. Or if we can help you, please contact us!