This article was originally published on April 26, 2019, and was updated on October 15, 2021, for context and clarity.
Spring is in the air and change is in season. With blooming flowers and the smell of freshly mown grass lingering, inspiration for home improvement is everywhere. If you've got the renovation bug in your system, now is the perfect time to take on an outdoor project. With upcoming events and family gatherings, the perfect way to take advantage of warmer weather is to make use of your outdoor living space.
Many of you may already be on top of this and are perhaps planning to renovate for graduations, the holidays, or barbecue season. Whether you're planning to make a big change, like creating the perfect indoor-outdoor entertaining area with a beautiful kitchen renovation (a popular choice by our clients), or keeping the project smaller with a deck, patio, or fire pit; doing some research on outdoor patio materials is a key first step to making your execution smooth and successful.
No matter the project, materials for outdoor living spaces should have visual appeal, weather durability, and most importantly, be of high quality to sustain functionality. It also should be easy to maintain throughout changing seasons. Listed below are five patio materials commonly used for outdoor living areas, including brick, concrete, ceramic tile, flagstone, and mixed materials.
Which Material is Right for Your Patio Space
Brick is made in a kiln through a process of firing a mix of clay and raw materials. It's solid, has a long lifespan, and has a traditional look and feel that complements various architectural styles. As you've probably seen, lots of homes are built with brick, and some have a mix of brick and other materials, too.
It's extremely versatile and is often applied on patio surfaces as well as pathways, walls, and edging. Great for creating a seamless indoor-outdoor living space, it looks nice with both traditional and rustic landscaping features and many different exterior house styles. While often more expensive and labor intensive to install, brick will last for years.
Brick is usually laid in one of three patterns:
- Running bond
There's nothing more versatile or more resilient than concrete flooring. This timeless recipe combines cement, gravel, sand, and water and offers a lot of flexibility, even more than brick. It can be molded to practically any surface. Concrete is durable, easily maintained, and can be manipulated for visual appeal. Concrete can be:
- Brushed or scored
- Stamped with a design or texture
- Surfaced with materials like pebbles
- Decorated with fun inlays
- Tinted with a bright, dark, or neutral color
3. Ceramic Tile
Ceramic tile is a material that can be used both indoors and outdoors and is generally a cheaper option than stone, brick, or cement. Sealers and enhancers will help protect your outdoor tile from things like moisture damage, day-to-day wear and tear, and staining. Sealers will also help enhance their beautiful natural color.
If you like the look of glazed tile, it’s best used as an accent rather than the whole floor since it gets slippery and can be dangerous when wet. But unglazed tile is the preferred choice for patios.
There are three types of unglazed tiles for patios:
While it is a lower-cost option, ceramic tile is less durable and can be difficult to maintain.
This is a very popular choice and has many different colors and stone-type options. It’s also a great option for a seamless indoor-outdoor space, as it appears stylish and almost like a walkway from your home to your lawn. The larger stone slabs are generally one to three inches thick. You can identify flagstone by its irregular shapes. This patio material has a somewhat rough surface, which provides good traction, even after getting wet in a rainstorm. Types of flagstone include:
For flooring on a patio, the flagstones should be roughly 1.5 inches thick. They should also be laid right on top of soil or sand. If you're planning to use thinner slabs make sure to have them laid on something more solid like concrete, which will help prevent cracking down the road.
Downsides to flagstone surfaces include cracking, less durability, and uneven surfaces depending on installation.
5. Mixed Materials
A great option that is flexible, interchangeable, has great durability, and can fit within any budget is using a combination of materials to create the flooring for your outdoor space. Mixed materials can also break up a large area, creating more visual interest than just one material.
Combinations are endless, although should be well-planned and not haphazard. Materials can include brick, concrete, flagstone, pea gravel, pavers, tile, etc. Once considered a choice strictly for side yards, loose materials are recently gaining in popularity for patio surfaces, especially in regions with serious drought cases. Not to mention, using a combination of multiple materials makes the space easy to work with and is fairly inexpensive.
Other mixed materials include:
- Crushed and aggregate stone
- Bark and rubber mulch
- Decomposed granite
No matter the plan, layout, or function behind your outdoor living space, renovations can be made simple. The important things to consider are the purpose behind the space, what you want aesthetically, and your budget. Then, use one of the materials listed above to help build your outdoor oasis.
Many of them can also be used to help create a seamless transition in a renovation for indoor-outdoor entertaining areas, too. For instance, will you go the same route as many of our other clients and combine your outdoor patio or deck project with a kitchen remodel? It's a great way to create a truly seamless indoor-outdoor entertaining space you and your guests will love.
Looking for more inspiration for your outdoor living space? Check out our portfolio here.