What size should your patio be? The primary design guideline is to make your patio large enough to accommodate the activities on your final planning list. If you desire a large, second dining room table, for example, you'll need more space than you would for a simple bistro set.
Our planning tips are here to guide you through the patio sizing process. We have ideas for planning, testing the site, utilizing space, and more.
Get started with a sketch. Assign each activity to a different part of the patio. Allow ample space for the activity itself, traffic flow through and around the area, and outdoor furniture, which tends to be larger than indoor furniture.
If the patio you've planned isn't large enough, expand it or look for ways its spaces can serve double duty. Perhaps one corner of the family dining space could serve as a secluded retreat. Often just moving a chair can make a small part of a larger area feel more secluded.
Then give each area its own identity. Separate areas visually and physically with planters, trellises, benches, or a change in decking pattern. Structural changes make even stronger distinctions. A T-shape patio or different levels with connecting steps naturally divides spaces you can identify for various activities.
Test Out the Site
To see if your proposed patio is large enough, rope off the area or mark it on the ground with chalk or upside-down spray paint. Then move in the furniture and equipment you'll have on the patio.
If you haven't purchased the furniture yet, use interior furnishings and add about a foot more space for each item. Figure about 2 feet square for each outdoor chair, plus about 1 or 2 feet to push back from a table.
If the patio is large enough, step back and consider its scale. It should look proportional to the house and grounds. Small patios usually do not pose a problem—they're less likely to be built next to a big house. More common is a large patio that overpowers a modest home. Start with a design that fits the uses you envision, then fit it to your budget and terrain. When you finalize the size of the patio, draw the plan on paper.
Fit Function to Footage
Many patios have plenty of square footage but end up feeling cramped because they weren't planned with traffic and activity in mind. These general guidelines will help you avoid this problem.
For a dining area for four people, you'll need about 10x10 feet. For six to eight, make it 12x12 feet. To accommodate a typical round table with six chairs, provide a circular area with a diameter of at least 9 feet. A rectangular table requires an area 5 to 6 feet wider and longer than the table. A simple cooking area with a grill and a small table usually needs an area about 6 feet square. Provide more room if there will be a counter, island, or large table.
For a single reclining chair, allow an area 4x7 feet. For two reclining chairs, allow 7x7 feet. A conversation area for three to six people requires a 10x10-foot space. Pathways from the door to the stairs and between activity areas should be 3 to 4 feet wide at all points.