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Build a Beautiful Patio in Your Backyard

Apr 9, 2008
Probably as a result of increased leisure time, outdoor living has gained tremendous impetus in the United States in recent years. In fact, the home that lacks adequate outdoor facilities may now be considered virtually obsolete.

One of the best improvements you can make for your year-round pleasure is to create a patio, terrace, porch, or other facility for eating, playing and relaxing outdoors, provided such an improvement does not cost much. It may increase the value of your home by more than its price.

Homeowners who plan outdoor improvements often make the mistake of regarding them as mere spare-time projects, says the Portland Cement Association. Actually, your patio will become just as much a part of your property as your garage, landscaping and even the house itself.

Plan your outdoor improvements so that they will stand up under the destructive effects of wind, rain, sun and snow. Unless you make them well and with permanent ideas in mind, that leisure time that you intended to use by relaxing on your patio may be spent in repairing it.

Building a Patio

Patios provide the ideal place to eat and entertain in summer. All you need is a durable surface that will support lawn furniture and is easily cleaned. Try using precast concrete patio blocks for this purpose. They are available in various sizes and colors.

First level the area with a slight grade for drainage. Next excavate to a depth that will accommodate the thickness of the block plus a 2-inch layer of sand. (If you are using block 2 inches thick, that would be 4 inches.)

Position the block in any pattern you like -diagonals, squares, etc. - and tamp them close together. Brush sand over them to fill any spaces that remain between units. You can even place the blocks in individual holes and let grass grow between them, if you prefer.

A solid concrete slab will give you the smoothest patio. You can paint lines on it, and use it for shuffleboard, badminton or other games. If you make your patio of concrete, remember to reinforce it. Although concrete is a durable material and can carry heavy loads (such as a 2-ton car), it cannot resist stretching or pulling forces. And it's these forces that can cause unsightly cracks.

Concrete is subject to tension as soon as it is placed or poured. When it begins to set up, the mass tends to shrink and this causes tensile stresses. Constantly thereafter the slab is subjected to tension. Each change of temperature and humidity causes expansion or contraction, and each contraction exerts forces that can cause cracks. To avoid them, use steel reinforcement of welded wire fabric.

This material consists of a series of crisscrossed steel wires, welded at the intersections, and usually furnished in 5-foot-wide rolls. It looks like fencing. Wires used for patios and driveways are usually spaced in 6-inch squares, and are about an eighth of an inch in diameter. When embedded in the concrete, the network of steel wires distributes tensile stresses and minimizes "pull" which would damage the slab.

When a crack does form in the concrete the steel wires embedded in the slab hold its edges together so that it is hidden. The slab continues to act as one unit under loads. There is no tendency for its pieces to vary from this level and develop uneven surfaces in the patio or driveway.

Now all that remains is to purchase some attractive outdoor furniture to complete your patio.
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