When it comes to building patios, there are so many options that it can make your head spin. There are concrete, square pavers, round pavers, notched pavers, and even stone materials like flagstone. Although they all very in price, the quality and look will change dramatically based on the type of material you choose. Spend a little time to learn about the how and why to use each material before you plan your patio and it will make implementing the design that much easier.
The most popular option for patios is using concrete or cement. This usually requires a thorough knowledge of the pouring and leveling process and can be time intensive for those that don't know what they are doing. Although it probably the cheapest option and is somewhat durable, using concrete for a patio can limit the design and style you are able to choose from.
Another popular form of patios is paver patios, which are small brick like masonry pieces that can be assembled like a puzzle to create any look you need. Pavers are generally purchased individually or by the pallet. Like concrete, you can generally create any shape you need with pavers, but depending on the style you choose you might need to spend some time planning the placement. Pavers come in nearly all shapes, including round, square, and notched, but there is no set style or combination you have to use. You can combine small and large or notched and square pieces even, but the devil is in the details. Make sure you lay them out beforehand so you can be sure the design will work.
Pavers are generally installed by grading the land underneath and laying a base layer of gravel and/or sand. Once you have created a level surface, you can start to lay them out piece by piece. Be certain that they are level though, because any inconsistencies will cause pavers to stick out or trip people if they are not paying attention. Pavers can offer a beautiful rustic look when installed correctly and are even used for walkways and driveways for those that can afford them. They are generally a bit more expensive than concrete, but the look is more than worth it.
Lastly, if you have a high budget, you can use stone to build a patio. Stone is more difficult to work with because it is heavier and irregularly shaped, but upon the proper implementation of stone you will have a marvelous look that no other material can achieve. Stone is the most expensive of the materials, but is also the most durable. Flagstone is by far the most popular stone used for patios because of its price and availability, but if you have the money and the patience, you can find much more extravagant materials.
Like a deck, building a patio is an external modification that can reap huge rewards when done properly. If done poorly, then you will have the opposite effect, which is why it is important to do your research before planning and buying materials.