A Complete Guide to Planning The Perfect Patio (plus 5 extra cool features to include)

Is there anything more relaxing than chilling on the patio? 

It’s hard to find a better place to unwind! 

Maybe that’s why every homeowner wants a beautiful patio - but designing one can feel overwhelming! 

And as you know, patios are built to last, so you want to be sure you build one that you love. 

At Keystone Custom Decks, we understand that you want to design a patio that you still love and enjoy years into the future. 

We have put together a guide to help you design a practical, functional, and beautiful patio. 

Ready to learn how you can create your dream outdoor space? 

Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

  • Blog-images--Keystone-Custom-Decks-Sept-20-ICON-1
    1. What Is The Difference Between A Deck and Patio?
  • Blog-images--Keystone-Custom-Decks-Sept-20-ICON-2
    2. Eight Elements To Consider When Planning Your Patio
  • Blog-images--Keystone-Custom-Decks-Sept-20-ICON-3
    3. Five Extra Features To Use In Your Patio Design

What is the Difference
Between a Deck and Patio?

Most people use the terms “deck” and “patio” interchangeably. But they are two different things. 

The biggest difference between the two is the materials they are made of: 

A deck is made of wood or composite materials and often has a platform frame coming right off of the house. Since decks can be elevated, they are great for showing off a view.  

On the other hand, patios are on the ground level and are usually made of concrete, tile, brick, or stone. They can be attached or detached from the house and often incorporate the landscape. Because of this, they can be almost any shape you want. 

Whether a deck or patio is better for you depends on your situation and needs. 

If you think a patio is better for you, read on! We will explore some of the things you should think about when planning your patio. 

decks vs patios

8 Elements to Consider When Planning Your Patio

There’s plenty to think about when planning a patio - where to place it, what materials to use, whether or not you need a drainage solution or a shade solution...the list goes on! 

Some of these things are hard to fix if you overlook them while planning, so you want to be sure to think about them before you build. 

We’ve made a list of some of the most critical elements to consider so you can plan a patio you love. 

Here are 8 things to think about when planning your patio:

What is the Purpose of Your Patio? 

When planning your patio, the most important question to ask yourself is, “What is the purpose of my patio?” After all, all the other decisions you make depend on this question. 

Consider what you like to do. If you like to host large crowds, you may want to think about traffic flow and an open plan. If you like smaller groups, go a little more secluded and intimate with your design. 

If you like to host formal dinners, make sure you have a place to put a dining set. If you want more casual gatherings, plan a place for a fire pit and conversation set. 

Whatever you like, your patio should fit your tastes and lifestyle.  

Patio Size 

Patios that are too small seem cramped when you add furniture and plants. Patios that are too big lose their sense of intimacy and closeness. 

Here are some tips for determining how big your patio should be: 

make sure your patio is big enough
  • It’s common to go too small. But it’s better to make your patio too large than too small, so don’t underestimate the space you need. 


  • Buy and arrange your furniture first, so you know how much space you need for it. 


  • Don’t forget to leave some walk-around space. You’ll need about 2-3 feet around your furniture for walking. 


  • If your patio is raised and has a drop-off on the edge, leave some extra space around the edge for safety. 


  • A good rule of thumb is to allow 25 feet of space for every person you plan to have on your patio. So for four people, you should have a 100 square foot patio.  


  • To be smart with your space, create different “zones” on a larger patio. 


You can create different zones by creating split levels, using different materials for different sections, or blocking off areas with plants, walls, or edging. 


This way, you have an ample space that’s great for hosting lots of people but still has some smaller, more intimate areas. 

The Shape of your Patio                                                   

Since patios are on the ground level and can be unattached from the house, they can be virtually any shape. The possibilities are endless! 

patios can be virtually any shape

You could design your patio to be: 

  • Square - This is the most common and often the most cost-effective and practical option. Square patios work great for entertaining large groups and are straightforward to build. 


  • Round - Round patios are often unattached from the house and serve to draw people out into the yard. They effortlessly blend into their surroundings because they don’t have any hard edges. Round patios often have a focal point in the middle, such as a fire pit, fountain, or table and chairs. 


  • Free Form - Get creative! You can make your patio any shape you want. Free-form patios often have an organic feel and look good in informal gardens. A free-form patio might have sweeping curves or sharp angles - whatever suits your personal tastes and lifestyle. 

Patio Materials 

There are 6 main options available for patio materials: 

  • Concrete - Concrete is the most versatile and typically the least expensive option. You can form it into any shape you want, and you can get it stamped, brushed, colored, inlaid, painted, or patterned. 


  • Brick - Another classic, brick is sturdy, long-lasting, and easy to install. Brick can be laid in lots of cool patterns, and it’s great for edging and pathways. 


  • Flagstone - Flagstone is unique for its irregular shape and looks earthy and natural. It often has a rough surface which provides good traction when wet, so it would be a good choice for a patio surrounding a pool. 


  • Pavers - Pavers come in lots of different colors and textures and can look like different materials such as cut stone or brick. They are versatile, cheap, and easy to install. 


  • Tile - Tile is a classy option for your patio. Different types of tile include porcelain, terracotta, and quarry. Some tile gets slippery when wet, so it’s not the best option for areas surrounding pools. 


  • Cut stone - Cut stone is similar to flagstone, but it is cut in regular square or rectangular shapes. It’s often used for more formal gardens than flagstones. 

Which material you choose depends on the aesthetic you want to achieve and your budget. In general, concrete, pavers, and brick will be the cheapest materials. 

If you would like more information on hardscape materials, check out this blog

the most affordable materials for constructing a patio

Traffic flow 

Your patio design should facilitate movement and maximize convenience as much as possible. Here are a few examples of ways to think about maximizing traffic flow and convenience: 

  • If you have an outdoor kitchen on your patio, you should have easy access to your indoor kitchen. You don’t want to cart food all the way around the house or across the lawn!  


  • If you have a pool on your patio, it would be good to have close access to a bathroom or changing room. 


  • Exiting the patio should always be easy. Think about this when you choose boundaries for your patio:  

It’s common to enclose a patio with shrubbery or seat walls, but this can limit traffic flow. If you want definition, lone pillars or posts might be a better option. For privacy, consider outdoor drapes. These options will still allow for easy exiting. 

  • Leave plenty of room on your patio. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to twist, turn, and navigate through a crowded space, especially with trays of food or drinks. 


Drainage may not be the first thing on your mind when you design your new patio, but it’s a big part of the functionality factor. 

Consider the natural drainage of the area where you want to put your patio. Is it sloped? Is it a low spot where water will pool? Is the soil a type that drains quickly? 

If not, you may want to install an artificial drainage solution. If you are unsure of what to do about drainage, contact an expert. We’d be happy to help here at Keystone Custom Decks!  

ensure there is proper drainage away from your patio

Patio Shade 

Basking in the sun on the back patio sounds great! 

But you also want to be able to escape from the sun if you need to. 

That’s why it’s important to think about incorporating some shade into your patio design. It could be natural shade from trees or your house or an artificial shade solution. 

Here are some ideas for how to incorporate shade into your patio design: 

  • Build a pergola with removable drapes. This way, you can have some shade during the day and still enjoy the stars at night. 


  • Attach an awning to your house. 


  • Put up a temporary sunshade or canopy. 


  • Install a trellis or lattice panel and grow vines for some cool, leafy shade. 

Landscaping Around Your Patio

Leave room for plants! Before you jump into construction, think about where you would like some landscaping.

Here are some tips and ideas for how to landscape around your patio: 

  • Plant trees or large shrubs for shade and privacy. Here are some of the best options. 


  • Mix and match textures. A layered, diverse look will create interest and make your space look like an oasis. You can even add some boulders or rock gardens to your landscaping. 


  • Plant moss or ground cover between your pavers to create an attractive floor. 


  • You could even leave a gap in your concrete or pavers and plant some shrubs right on your patio, which is a great way to create some smaller sections in a large patio! 


  • Don’t go too minimalist with the plants! Installing too few plants is a common mistake and will result in a sparse garden that packs no punch. If you are on a tight budget, pick out lush, hardy plants and ground covers that will spread and grow. 


  • Try some vertical gardening. Living walls not only look beautiful but can provide privacy and shade as well. 
things to consider when planning a patio

5 Extra Features For Your Patio

Now for the fun part! 

You can spice up your patio and make it unique with various extra features depending on what you want to use your patio for. 

Here are some patio features you could include in your design:  

Cooking features 

Don’t you hate it when you host a party and then end up stuck in the kitchen all night? You don’t want to be that removed from your guests! 

An outdoor kitchen is the perfect way to host, cook, and be with your guests all at the same time! 

If you install an outdoor kitchen, make sure you have easy access to your indoor kitchen from your patio to make for convenient food transportation.  

Other ideas for patio cooking features could include: 

  1. A stone pizza oven
  2. A built-in grill
  3. An outdoor bar 

Water features 

Do you need a tranquil, relaxing space to unwind or meditate? Or do you want some ambiance on your patio? 

Consider adding a water feature! A water feature adds both aesthetic and audible appeal to your patio. It can also add some depth and interest to your landscaping.

adding a water feature to your patio

You could include:

  1. A fountain
  2. A Koi pond
  3. A pool
  4. A built-in spa or hot tub
  5. A waterfall for multi-level patios
  6. A doorway waterfall or water wall 

Water adds the perfect peaceful touch to your patio for some first-class relaxation! 

Fire features 

Fire features can be relaxing, add ambiance, or provide warmth for cool evenings. They are a great addition to any patio! 

Plus, features like fire pits can make great focal points and gathering places on a patio. 

Some ideas for fire features are: 

  1. Fire pits
  2. Fire bowls
  3. Fire tables 
  4. Fire columns 
  5. Outdoor fireplaces
  6. Chimineas (a type of small, free standing fireplace) 
  7. Tiki torches

If you live in a cooler area, you can even make patios with heated floors so you can socialize in cooler temperatures. 


Nothing creates an ambiance on a patio like the lighting! 

Adding some lighting features increases the usability of your patio as it enables you to use it after dark. 

adding lighting to a patio allows you to use it after dark

Lighting also functions as a safety feature, allowing you to navigate pathways safely at night.

If you really want good patio and landscape lighting, it’s good to get help from a professional who knows how to strategically place the right lights. But there are also DIY solutions you could try, such as:

  1. Strip lights under stairs 
  2. String lights
  3. Landscape pathway lights
  4. Lanterns 
  5. Lamp posts
  6. Outdoor table lamps 


What’s a patio without a comfortable place to sit? 

Furniture transforms a bare concrete slab into an inviting, comfortable space. The furniture is one of the most important and highly used parts of any patio.  

There are lots of different types of outdoor furniture you can buy: 

  1. Conversation sets
  2. Dining sets 
  3. Bistro sets
  4. Benches
  5. Bar sets 

And the list goes on and on. 

What type of furniture you need depends on your plan for your patio and the look you’d like to achieve. 

choosing the right patio furniture

Every homeowner wants a gorgeous patio where they can host, spend family time, or relax. 

However, planning a patio can feel like a big job. 

At Keystone Custom Decks, we don’t think it has to be that hard! 

We can help you plan your patio and make your vision a reality. It’s easy to work with us: 

  1. Give us a Call 
  2. Propose a design
  3. Let us install your dream patio! 

If you would like a lovely backyard space that makes you proud, give us a call today! 

We look forward to hearing from you!