When designing your outdoor living space, don't be afraid to dream big – landscaping, furniture, shade areas… everything. Just make sure all of it is properly supported.
"When it comes to patios the most important part is the subgrade – the part you don't even see. You want to make sure your foundation is well compacted and grades away from your house so you don't end up with water pooling on your new patio. This is what will make your investment last a long time," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.
With a solid foundation in place, you can get creative with look and style. A good designer will use materials that complement your home and neighborhood.
"Many people are spending more time outside enjoying family and friends and a patio can be a great investment. But, what many people don't realize is that it can also be done on a budget. Consider options like concrete or crushed stone or even brick can be a very economical choice," Hicks explained.
"My strong guidance would be when you enter into this thought process, be open to various materials. If you are speaking with a talented designer, then you will likely get a couple of guiding tips on what surface may work best at your place," said landscape architect Randy Sorrell.
Providing shade on your patio is also important. Pergolas and large trees are great design elements, but less expensive options are available.
"If you really need substantial shade, the cantilever umbrella is unbelievable! These things are 11, 12, 13 feet in diameter and it just creates an entire outdoor room of shade. I love ‘em," said Sorrell.
If you plan to be in your home a long time but can't afford all the amenities you want at once, Hicks recommends spreading out the project – and the cost – over time in two or three phases. The key is finding a quality landscape architect you trust who will be around for the duration.