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HOME IMPROVEMENT : Large Patios Can Open the Door to Enjoyment, Higher House Value


Margit Haupt says her husband, John, wanted a large patio for their home in a rustic area of Yorba Linda because "we entertain a lot and when you have 20 or 30 people here and half of them are kids, you need to have space for them."

But the design of their two-story house presented a problem.

Access from the patio to the kitchen seemed impossible since the kitchen is on the second floor of their home; the second floor is at street level.

But Doyle Lau of Patio Masters in Yorba Linda had a solution: a 1,600-square-foot, split-level patio.

French doors at the Haupt home now open onto a wide balcony with a large wooden patio cover, ceiling fan, redwood floor and staircase that leads down to a redwood deck near a pool.

The area underneath the balcony is enclosed with lattice work and serves as a storage area. In some instances, a second-story balcony can provide a roof for a fully shaded patio below.

The Haupts' split-level patio cost about $36,000, according to Lau.

There are plenty of less expensive materials and designs for patio covers and floors that still result in a home improvement the whole family can enjoy while enhancing a home's value.

The most common patio surfaces in Orange County are concrete, concrete with brick accents, pavers and redwood. Their costs depend on the size of an installation and a variety of options.

Concrete, for instance, is more expensive per square foot for a small area and less expensive per square foot for a large area. Concrete slabs with a simple finish are about $3 to $4 a square foot, according to Terry Pedicone of Orange County Patio Co. in Anaheim. A 12-foot by 12-foot concrete patio slab might range from $500 to $750, he says.

"Concrete stamping" creates the illusion of brick or stone. Francis Sullivan of Sullivan Concrete Textures in Costa Mesa says a concrete slab is poured, then a color hardener is troweled into the surface of the concrete. A tool like a giant cookie cutter is then stamped into the surface of the concrete to look like brick, cobblestone, slate, sandstone and flagstone.

The cost per square foot depends on the size of the area being done, the pattern and other features, but Sullivan says a patio with concrete made to look like brick will cost about one-third less than a patio made with real brick.

Most contractors say brick is rarely used as the sole material for patio surfaces anymore but, rather, as an accent, because of its cost. Brick ribbons around the edge and through the center of a concrete patio would be an additional $9 to $15 a running foot, according to Alphy Lawrence of Phoenix General Custom Construction in Anaheim.

Pavers laid over discolored or cracked concrete can give an updated look to old concrete. They are $12 to $15 a square foot installed on a concrete base, Lawrence says.

People who want to revive an old concrete patio may want to consider a process offered by Exterior Concepts/Futura Stone in Santa Ana. "Futura Stone is a natural river gravel mixed with an epoxy resin applied over existing concrete sub-surfaces," says Mike Fahmie, president of the company.

The process costs about $3 to $4 a square foot.

Redwood is also used for patio floors. Hillside decks with supports underneath are a good way of extending a patio area on lots that have a steep hillside at the back. Lau says wood decks start from about $12 to $15 a square foot.

"A typical back yard nowadays looks incomplete without a patio cover," Pedicone says. "It looks like something is missing."

Patio covers provide shade during hot summer months and can lower temperatures inside a house. The Haupts' air-conditioning bill decreased after their patio cover was installed.

Most covers are made of Douglas fir, though sometimes the support posts are redwood. The "open lattice"--single pieces of wood spaced apart--and the "diamond lattice"--with the top constructed of squares of pre-made lattice work--provide the same amount of shade, about 60%.

Solid wood roofs are constructed when homeowners want to protect patio furniture from the elements. Custom wood covers cost about $10 to $16 a square foot.

Covers are painted or stained, usually to match the color of a house or its trim. Sometimes patio covers are topped with tile to match house roofs.

An unusual wood cover is offered by Linn and Chris Horn of Southwest Design Center in San Clemente. Their concept of a patio cover has portals (attached covers) and ramadas (free-standing covers), popular in the Southwest. The posts and the latilla --wood pieces across the top--are lodgepole pine. A transparent sealer with natural color pigment, such as a whitewash, is used as a finish. No straps or bands show because all the metal is hidden inside. The cost is about $15 a square foot.

Acrylic fabric awnings also can make attractive and colorful patio covers. A fixed awning for an 8-foot by 10-foot patio might cost about $800 to $1,200, depending on style, choice of fabric and other factors, according to Roberta Desmarais of Pacific Awnings in Irvine.

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