A cheaper alternative to a paver patio??

leslie_z6aMay 3, 2006

have an enclosed space in my yard where I would like to put a 12x23 patio next to my garage, as a place for a patio table, some chairs, a grill etc. I have gotten a couple of estimates for a simple rectangular paver patio and they are way beyond my budget - about $4000 is the average price I'm getting. The materials alone go for about $1500, but after having researched how to build a paver patio I think my back would not take my trying to do this myself. I live near Boston Massachusetts (Zone 6).

I've been trying to think of something that would be cheaper but still give me a nice, low maintenance place to hang out and entertain. The area where the patio would be is relatively flat with some low spots - I've thought about trying to just grade it nicely and put crushed stone on it or something, contained by rr ties, but I'm not sure how that would hold up and whether it would be inviting. I also considered a really low deck, just like a wooden box really, but I don't know if that's practical either. Maybe a cement patio, would that be cheaper? I hate grass so I don't want to just have that. There's gotta be a way, I'd appreciate any advice/ideas you could give.

Thank you so much for your help!


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I only have some partial answers,more aimed at keeping the brainstorming going. What were the actual design and materials included in the the $4000 paver patio? That would help see what "downgrades" would be possible and still be effective as a patio. For example, was it tightly spaced paver "bricks"? If so, could you consider using fewer, larger (18-24 in) concrete pavers, or consider these or other pavers for part of the area with a surround of crushed stone only (providing "elbow room" and walking room around a main seating area).

It is possible to use a low deck, designed to fit the space, that floats over the ground area, and if low, does not need railings, which can save on cost, and overcomes drainage/unlevel issues, so do not have to pay for the skill and work needed to make a level and well-draining stone/paver surface. Design and complexity and hence cost comparison with the pavers would depend on various factors. You'd want it to look finished off, and might need one or 2 steps at a main and secondary entry/exit point.

Each of these options has different maintenance issues.

For starters, though,what are you thinking is your actual budget? That might help see whether you could achieve it with something a little smaller or how drastic a change in approach is needed. ($500 vs. $2000, for example).

    Bookmark   May 3, 2006 at 7:41PM
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avia(8 PNW)

Hey, Leslie, if you're having a hard time visualizing what a floating deck could look like, you might want to check out gingerblue's photo of her own, which she linked to on this thread. (I'm not sure if it's really kosher to link directly to another user's off-site photos, otherwise I'd do so - the link is about halfway down the thread). I know that picture really helped me to visualize what a ground-level deck could look like, and she also gives some description of how such a thing is built.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2006 at 8:30PM
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Hi Frankie and Avia,

Thank you so much for your posts, I really appreciate your ideas and the picture of Gingerblue's floating deck! My budget is about $2000. A floating deck really appeals to me because it would be flat and nice to put furniture on. Some one else suggested enclosing the space with landscape ties and putting 4 inches of pea gravel inside. That sounds good and easy (I could probably do myself, whereas there is no way I could build a deck myself), but I'm not sure how nice it would be underfoot.

Thanks again to you and anyone else that ends up posting!!
Leslie :)

    Bookmark   May 3, 2006 at 9:51PM
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saypoint(6b CT)

The loose gravel is not that good for furniture, especially pea gravel, which will shift around a lot and eventually fill up with sprouting weed seeds.

Concrete, whether plain, stamped, or with exposed aggregate would work.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2006 at 10:44PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

We're cross linking like crazy today... Check out the etched and stained concrete patios done by Punamytsike; she links to them in this thread, as well as on her page. Depends whether poured concrete fits within your budget.

If you do pavers, and are worried about heavy work, you might also find you can hire out a part of the work, say the gravel base and the sand, and then do the paver laying yourself, a bit at a time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Coloured concrete thread

    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 12:00AM
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GingerBlue(z6 MO)

If you have any trees anywhere near this area, a gravel patio will just drive you nuts. I sweep my deck constantly and this would not be possible with gravel. I have a gravel area near my deck (it's a drainage area for an awning for the bikes) and it has filled up with tree debris at a tremendous rate. I'd hate to have a full patio area of this stuff.

To give an idea of cost, my deck is 12x14. The labor was free, the framing was from salvaged treated 2x8's, and the decking cost about $600. Add in another fifty for deck screws, drill bits, paver stones (for footings and landings) and a can of water seal.

I found that I didn't need steps, just pavers for a landing. It's not a big step up to the deck.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 8:19AM
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avia(8 PNW)

I am so indebted to you, Ginger, by the way, for that photo and idea on the previous thread. It solved one of my own landscaping dilemmas (seating area under trees, desire to be able to walk to and within said area barefoot without stepping on the slugs that mulch attracts in these parts, etc.) perfectly. So, thanks!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 3:49PM
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GingerBlue(z6 MO)

Gee, thank you Avia! My dad built it for me and he'll be thrilled to know his idea worked for more than just me! He loves this deck. He keeps coming over to do projects for me but I suspect he really just wants to sit on my deck and eat mexican food and drink Coronas.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 7:32PM
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Gingerblue, thankyouthankyouthankyou for posting the the photo & description of your floating deck and Avia, the same to you for posting that link that took me to it! This is exactly what I've been thinking about to replace our paver patio but just can't seem to get the idea across to my husband and oldest son ... Now I have exactly what I need to move this project forward!

Leslie, I would stay away from gravel - as others have mentioned it is unfriendly to patio furniture and in time will become dirty and weed infested. In this area, I've found concrete to be unbelieveably expensive (just got some estimates for the driveway). Sounds like the floating deck might be your answer, but I've seen some very nice seating areas that are "paved" with wood chips and/or stepping stones (slate, bluestone, concrete pavers) - usually surrounded with beds of shrubs/perennials/bulbs, they have a warm, natural look that is casual and inviting.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 2:24AM
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Leslie, do not underestimate your abilities! Building a simple deck, specially one that is "floating" just a few inches off the ground is not an insurmountable project for a DYI'er, even one that is a novice to carpentry. You might want to enlist the assistance of a friend or relative who has a bit more experience (and tools!) to give you a hand - 4 hands are much better than 2 :-) Also, HD and Lowe's typically offer free workshops on simple home improvement projects and this is one area where they can and do provide good advice and assistance - check 'em out.

Enough has been said regarding gravel as a base to discourage you from this unsatisfactory material and exposed aggregate concrete is more expensive than you might expect and is NOT a DIY project. I would not dismiss a paver patio. Perparing a proper base is no harder or more strenuous than preparing a new planting area and you can get pavers in all sizes. I'd consider what is referred to as Roman pavers - 6"x6" or 8"x8" squares, often tumbled to give a rough, natural looking edge. Very manageable and rather inexpensive compared to natural stone and will present a very tidy and solid base.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 10:28AM
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I'm looking into putting in a 20' X 20' patio in my backyard using design concrete which I saw earlier today was a cheaper way to go than brick, stone, etc. How much would it cost to have this done for me vs. do-it-yourself?

    Bookmark   August 5, 2007 at 12:49PM
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we have also been toying with putting a deck outside. What I want is exactly what one of the pp's here posted (floating deck) but my husband says here you should not have wood touch the ground. which sounds like a bunch of cuck to me. Is this true? he says it will just rot. But isnt there a better alternative? pressure treatedwood? Im always seeing wood decks.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 8:49AM
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Do a Google search for something called Oz Post. It is something that you put into the ground to build on. There is a plate version for decks. Anyway, it would not require any anchoring to the house and would keep your project off the ground. Unless you are going to try for something "designer style" and a good bit more expensive than the gingerblue option, these things would be pretty nifty. No wood either on or in the ground. No concrete either.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 10:54PM
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We have a floating deck on the back of our house, and we love it!! In fact, we are about to build a larger floating deck around it to expand the seating area. It's currently 8x10, and we are going to expand to 16x16.

I know some posters have been concerned about putting the wood on the ground. We live in a hot, humid climate (Jacksonville, Fla.) and have not experienced a wood-rot problem.

We especially love it because our backyard gets a little mucky when it rains a lot, and the deck becomes the "safe", dry area to sit.


    Bookmark   August 25, 2007 at 9:40PM
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