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   Patios - Enhance Your Outdoor Living Space
 
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Even as the economy slows and home building starts to drop one trend is still popular with Americans. This is renovating their home. And one of the most favorite renovations is adding, or replacing, outdoor living space. The reasons are varied for this booming interest in patios but many sociologists link it to the growing interest in “cocooning” which has fueled the construction of entertainment rooms, basement living areas and patios. Patios are clean, dry, low-maintenance and highly utile.
 
Cocooning or Just Enjoying
Cocooning is term given to the practice of staying in your own home rather than going traveling or even socializing within a person's community. However, this is a very negative and post-apocalyptic way of looking at the situation and does not take into consideration the boom in the internet and home entertainment and exercise facilities. The demographics are also a factor in that an aging population is looking toward a more laid-back lifestyle.
 
To contractors, it is a great opportunity to enhance someone's living space. With their expertise yards are being transformed into clean, low maintenance living areas for relaxing, entertaining and cooking. In essence the backyard becomes their own private resort area complete with swimming pool and huge outdoor cooking facilities.
 
Investment
Many people who want concrete patios see their back yards as an added investment. For the investment the returns both in the short and long term are phenomenal.
 
Questions before you start:
    1. Are you looking for a family space to enjoy outdoor meals and conversation?

    2. Do you want a quiet are, a sanctuary where you are the prime occupant?

    3. Is your focus on water? Maybe a spa with hot tub and pergola? Swimming pool?
This is where you start looking through magazines and internet sites for ideas on the perfect patio design. As well, ask you family and friends. They are good indicators of who you are and what you want.
 
Designs
 
    1. Open Patios: These are straight-forward, level spaces which allow you to take in the sun and breezes. They can be flat or multi-leveled depending on the terrain in your yard. Shrubs, gardens and trees may or may not be included.

    2. Welcome or entryway Patios: These are located at the front of your home and act as a multi-dimensional “welcome mat” for guests and neighbors.

    3. Sun Rooms: Many homeowners like the outside but prefer looking at it from an enclosed area. Sunrooms give this option and can be made to completely open up to the outside.

    4. Covered Patio: If lots of sunshine is not quite your thing, then you’ll probably prefer a covered patio. Often built beside a home, these patios take advantage of extended eaves or some other type of overhang that offers some shade. To keep sun lovers happy, you can build part of your patio to extend past the shaded shelter. You can also add a patio screen to help keep the bugs out. This type of patio enclosure will let you enjoy your patio even when it’s raining out but is usually not ideal for year-round use.

    5. Poolside Patio: For those who want to turn their backyard into their very own vacation resort, a poolside patio can provide you with a great place to sit and tan. You may even want to put in a patio bar for the ultimate in vacation enjoyment.

    6. Retreat Patios: These patios are perfect for those looking for some privacy. Often built in amongst trees and other shrubbery, these patios sit away from the house (although you can always build a little path from the house to your secret hideaway).
 
Materials
 
When doing up a budget many people find that deck is usually the most affordable option and, although a high option, is the most durable and lowest maintenance. With all the different material and design options out there now, it shouldn't be hard to settle on something the homeowner will love.
    1. Wood decking: This is the end of patios in terms of cost but pressure-treated pine and fir will last many years with the right treatment. However, even with the periodic maintenance warping, twisting, shrinking and swelling may still occur. There are more durable woods such as red cedar, redwood, and tropical hardwoods but maintenance is still required and they are expensive. Add-ons such as gazebos are usually made of wood.

    2. Composite and vinyl decking: Artificial products need less maintenance than wood and are more resistant to insects, warping and splintering but some varieties can swell in hot, sunny climates and become brittle in cold wintry areas. They are more expensive than wood, and vinyl may stain.

    3. Pavers: Brick, stone and concrete pavers are available in a range of styles and colors and are extremely durable. Unlike concrete there is is little possibility for cracking or breaking and, utilizing proper preparation of the area (drainage, leveling and base), can be be a do-it-yourself project. Pavers come in a wide variety of colors and shapes.

    4. Concrete: Concrete is available in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Stamped concrete is becoming very popular as it's colors and designs are nearly limitless. In some areas you may need to reseal it regularly. Concrete is not recommended in areas such as the northeast where there is a pronounced freeze-thaw cycle. In these places heavy steel reinforcement is required.
Many landscaping contractors can help you design your patio and help you figure out what materials would work best in the space you have.