The key to getting ahead of patio costs? Calculating the size of your space and using online calculators to price materials.  
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Aside from style alone, few people know how to choose between stone, brick, or concrete pavers for their patio. But making the right estimates and consulting with pros before buying can save you both time and money.

When it comes to landscaping expenses, installing a patio will likely make a big dent in your budget. A standard patio ranges between $800 and $4,500, though the size of your yard and patio might dictate the materials you choose to work with and thus how much money you will spend. Calculating the quantity and the cost of materials needed for your patio can feel intimidating, but some basic information will help make your project much easier. 

vegetable garden brick patio cedar planter
Credit: Caitlin Atkinson

Price a basic patio at the bottom of your budget.

A plain concrete patio can cost around $6-$12 per square foot. Colored or customized concrete can be as much as $20 per square foot. Get fancy with bluestone or travertine pavers, and expect costs to surpass prices for sandstone in some markets.

Installing a plain concrete patio is typically going to be the rock bottom of the budget; prepare for that properly by using online calculators to correctly estimate this baseline figure. Omni Construction calculators, Lowe's Paver Calculator, and Home Wyse are good places to start. Fill out your zip code and the size of your space, and these tools will estimate the cost of paver, labor, supplies, and equipment. These comprehensive tools help you see if there's room in the budget for finer materials to make your patio dreams come true.

Know exact measurements.

To estimate the cost of a paver patio, you first have to find out the number of pavers that you need. You can determine the number of pavers that you need by identifying your desired patio size. Measure the length and width of your patio in feet. Multiply the width by the length to find the square footage (E.g., width x length = patio sq ft.). Assuming the width is 12 ft., and the length is 10 ft., 12 x 10 = 120, and your patio size is 120 sq ft.

Next, identify the paver size. Keep in mind the length and the width of your bricks or paving stones in inches. You might have to cut some pieces to make them fit perfectly; be sure to use the right tool to do this, so you don't damage valuable materials. It is suggested to add 5-10% more pavers to replace any that are mistakenly broken. Divide the total patio size by the paver's surface area, and you have the material costs. 

Properly price installation.

Labor estimates are wildly unreliable. Plan to hire a professional to install the paver and ask them to walk through your space to get a realistic quote. Not only does their rate depend on the size of the patio, but also on how much time is needed to complete the work and how many people are needed to finish the job. The location and even the weather conditions could transform costs. Ask the installers to price their work based on your materials. They usually need to lay deep sand and gravel before setting brick and stone pavers, so that time counts too.

Although some materials require less prep work, others make for a time-consuming job given your yard configuration. Only professionals can share the cost of renting any tools they might need but don't already have. Ask for a complete quote that covers this. If your vision involves installing fences, retaining walls, or other boundaries, there might be additional costs and a city permit to consider.

4 Tips for Avoiding Costly Patio Mistakes

Consider the origin of the material.

Source your materials locally as much as possible. Building materials are heavy commodities and cost much more to ship from a distance. When sourced locally, the cost of transportation from the manufacturing plant to the project site is lower. Also, you can avoid extra costs that could arise from interstate trade and taxes.

Weigh the pros and cons of a concrete patio versus a paved patio.

In simple terms, solid surfaces easily succumb to cracks and do not fare well in areas with strong weather variations. Although it is more budget-friendly to opt for a concrete patio, it might cost more in maintenance or replacement costs over the long run. On the other hand, clay bricks or natural stones might cost more now but are durable enough to last many years to come.

Pay attention to paver base depth.

Typically, the base depth for pavers is approximately 9 inches to accommodate any kind of paving stone. But different paving stones and materials require different depths, and the kind of soil in your yard could also change these numbers. Talk with the pros before making a guess.

Ask around.

Just like you would when planning for a major purchase, shop around before deciding on one kind of material or professional landscaping company to build your patio. Compare costs and quality. Check online reviews for contractors before committing to this big-ticket purchase.

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