Who hasn’t dreamed of having a beautiful backyard patio? This dream isn’t too far out of reach, but why don’t many people pursue this desire? Homeowners rarely contact professionals because they are afraid of how much it would cost, and those who seek estimates receive different prices from various contractors. Why is this the case, and what exactly determines the cost of a patio?
Just like buying a house, there is no standard price. For example, there may be two houses that have the exact same square footage, but they are different in price because of location, flooring, countertops, or one of many other differences. The pricing is the same with patios. Since estimates are never solely determined by square footage, I have described some of the questions contractors consider when pricing a hardscape.
- How large or small is the patio?
As you may have thought, the size of the patio does affect the estimate, but doubling the size of the patio typically will not double the price. The lack of a direct price increase is caused by the materials that are purchased and the labor required to build a patio. Like with many products, there is a quantity discount causing larger projects to benefit from a lower price per item used in construction. Furthermore, the labor required also does not double with the amount of square footage. In fact, it typically only takes 50% more time to install a 500 square foot patio in comparison to a 250 square foot patio.
- What material is the patio constructed out of?
Most patios are constructed out of poured concrete or concrete pavers. There are other options that include pouring a concrete base, laying natural stone on top, and filling in the joints with mortar; though natural stone is typically the most expensive option. Poured concrete is by far the cheapest option, but it lacks quality and longevity. Concrete pavers however give you many options of color, texture, size, etc., without sacrificing quality. In addition to the regular benefits of concrete pavers, the pavers we install come with a lifetime warranty against cracking, and our installation comes with a 25-year warranty.
- What is the terrain of the back yard?
Most back yards in Central Virginia are not flat. As a result, the yard often needs regrading or the construction of a retaining wall in order to provide a flat area large enough for your patio. There are two ways you can construct your patio on a slope: a raised patio where one end is elevated above the rest of the back yard or a recessed patio where you cut into the slope and construct a retaining wall along the back side of the patio. The additional construction required by a sloping terrain raises costs, but it can also provide design opportunities that make your patio unique. These designs could incorporate steps, walls, terraces, and more!
- What extra features do you want to include?
When creating an estimate for your patio, contractors will also consider extra features. There are many different custom features you can include in your patio; here are some of the most common features:
- Outdoor lighting so that the party can keep going after dark.
- A fire pit or fireplace to gather around on a cool evening.
- A seating wall or bench seat to accommodate more guests.
- Is the back yard easy to access?
The best way to describe how ease-of-access is considered in a contractor’s price comes from our real-life experience. In the spring of 2019, Appomattox River Landscapes built a hardscape behind a townhouse. Since we couldn’t access the back yard of the townhouse with our large equipment, and because materials were staged over 100 yards away from our work area, it took us an additional week to complete the project. Obviously, time is money. This caused the cost of installation for that outdoor living area to be more than it would have been for the exact same patio and features under normal conditions.
- What is the experience and knowledge level of the contractor?
There is a lot of truth to the old saying “you get what you pay for.” In one of my previous articles I underlined the importance of hiring professionals who have the education, experience, and equipment to do the job right the first time. We pride ourselves on being one of only eight companies in the Richmond area who are ICPI Certified Hardscape Installers. The level of education and experience required to receive this certification ensures the quality of the work and is why we are able to offer our customers a 25-year warranty on their hardscape.
Factors like size, materials, terrain, features, location, and knowledge and experience of the contractor each play a role in the cost of your outdoor living area. This means there is no “one size fits all” option or price, but there shouldn’t be because your patio and landscape should be customized to your needs and dreams.