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5 new ideas for patios

A spacious patio
hikesterson/Getty Images
A spacious patio
hikesterson/Getty Images

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It’s no surprise that 90 percent of homeowners use their outdoor spaces more now and have been since the pandemic started. So many of the remodeling trends for 2022 involve renovations and upgrades to the surrounding grounds.

Particularly the patio. Once a humble little patch of brick or concrete, it’s now evolving into a full-fledged al fresco living space. Here are five new ideas for patios that can help you explore the possibilities.

Turn the patio into a warm retreat

Three-quarters (74%) of U.S. households use their patios for relaxation, according to a 2021 survey for the International Casual Furnishings Association (ICFA). And what can be more relaxing than sitting around a fire? To that end, add a fire pit.

Though fire pits’ popularity has been raging for a few years now, the latest thing is one that doesn’t smoke. “The new smokeless fire pits use the science of secondary combustion to burn off the majority of the smoke particles produced when burning wood,” states Lauren Tingley, owner of the home-ideas blog Simply Well Balanced. “This process prevents many of the problems associated with regular backyard fire pits: 1) huge wafts of smoke and 2) the strong smell.”

Many landscape contractors (the go-to professional if you want to install a customized, permanent fire pit) are also seeing an uptick in seating walls to ring the fire pit — freestanding blocks of stone (traditionally) with a flat top that sit a few feet off the ground.

Make it a party patio

One-third of the respondents in the ICFA Outdoor Trend Report wanted to use their patios for serious entertaining. “Build around your BBQ to create an outdoor kitchen,” recommends Justin Syens, a realtor for Oakwyn Realty Ltd. “It’s not as expensive as it looks and is a total mentionable feature in resale.”

The most elaborate kitchens come with sinks, countertops, mini-fridges and ovens (along with the grill or cooktop). And don’t forget the drinks. Nothing says fun times more than an outdoor bar.

Want some entertainment? “Outdoor TVs integrated into your design is a real wow factor,” Syens says.

And no party is complete without decorative lighting. String lighting has been around for ages, but is more practical these days: Look for rechargeable (ideally solar-powered) ones that are also waterproof.

Make it a work patio

For those working from home, why not do so in the fresh air? No reason a patio can’t become a home office.

When setting one up, you’ll want to switch from your traditional indoor office furniture to outdoor options made of rust- and fade-resistant materials. Particularly stylish these days: Rounded forms such as bistro tables and egg chairs. And to make them more ergonomic, make sure they’re the right height, and add a seat cushion and lumbar support.

You might also want to consider a Wi-Fi extender, which boosts your router’s Wi-Fi signal, enabling you to access the same high speeds you had indoors.

You’ll also want to add shade for your computer and phone to prevent them from overheating. Kyle Tobin, owner of Lawn Savers, a Toronto-based landscaper, suggests, “include a canopy that will reduce glare and protect your eyes, making it easier for you to see your computer screen.” On the laptop front, you’ll want to have a cooling pad available when the temperature rises, for the computer to rest on. Some models even come equipped with speakers and USB ports.

And don’t forget about power sources. You can add an extension cord or use a portable power bank to keep your devices powered.

Create a garden patio

You can sit amid the flora even in a tight space with a vertical garden, a vertically suspended panel on which plants grow using hydroponics. From tiered hanging baskets to repurposed ladders, these gardens come in a variety of styles, sizes and types. You can grow flowers, herbs or vegetables — shielding you from the high price of produce. Native plants benefit birds and pollinators, too.

Vertical gardens generally run you $150 to $300. They’re pretty low maintenance. One tip is when you set one up, check the bottom of the planter; if it doesn’t come with drain holes, you’ll need to drill them.

Make it a multiseason patio

Increasingly, as part of the outdoor room concept, homeowners want to use their patio to its fullest potential even when summer bids farewell.

You can keep guests and yourself nice and toasty with an infrared heater during the crisp autumn months. Not only are these safe for wood patios, but you can also build them into the design. You can buy quality models for a few hundred dollars.

You can also shield your guests from the elements via pergolas (structure consisting of columns that support an open or covered roof) or trees. Pines and evergreens, in particular, can help protect you from showers or winds.

Of course, enclosing the space allows you to use your patio all year round. Full-bore enclosures, with insulation, can be costly, however, with the average price about $17,000. If costs are a concern, one compromise might be simply erect walls or freestanding fences and a roof around the patio instead — you can make these with curtains, bamboo, weatherproof woods such as cypress or redwood, or steel for the ultimate durability. They won’t help during the dead of winter, but they’ll extend the patio’s seasonality, especially if you’re willing to don a sweater or jacket in fall or spring.

The bottom line on patio ideas

Most homeowners want to improve their patios for fun and functionality. But a little bump in home value never hurts. New or upgraded patios rank among the top 10 on the list of value-enhancing/prospective buyer appeal features, according to the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ “2018 Remodeling Impact: Outdoor Features” report.

Which patio ideas yield the best return on investment? Outdoor kitchens are high on the list. While the average outdoor kitchen costs $14,000, you’ll recoup 71% of your spend, according to the “Top Agent Insights Summer/Fall 2021 Report” by HomeLight. Attractive, practical landscaping — like adding trees for shade — also enhances a home’s worth.

Then, there’s outdoor lighting, the top outdoor upgrade among renovating homeowners, according to the 2021 U.S. Houzz & Home Study. It adds a unique design element, it’s functional, and it typically repays 50 percent of its installation cost.

Written by
Sean Jackson
Contributing Writer
Sean Jackson is a creative copywriter living in Florida. He’s written articles for Realtor.com, CNET and ZDNet.
Edited by
Senior homeownership editor