I know I don’t have to sell you on the virtues of patios. Very few things enhance an outdoor space to the degree that a well-constructed patio does. And luckily, there are dozens of ways to construct them.
If you’re building a patio from scratch, this is really an opportunity to express yourself and personalize your outdoor area. But if you’re on a budget like many of us are, you’re likely wondering how to do this without breaking the bank.
So, what is the cheapest way to build a patio?
The cheapest way to construct a patio is to fill the space in with gravel or decomposed granite and add a modest amount of pavers or interlocking tiles to put below your outdoor furniture. If you do this yourself, it can be under $1 per sq. ft. Hiring someone to do it for you might double the cost.
However, there are more things to consider than just cost when picking out your patio build approach. Let’s dig into the specifics together.
- Patio DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
- Sizing Your Project
- Different Material Costs
- Stamped Concrete
- Other Ways to Save Money
Patio DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
Creating a DIY patio is certainly an option for many people. However, when determining whether you should hire a professional or try to do it yourself, be sure to consider the value of your time, tools necessary, your level of expertise, the lack of insurance, and the possibility of waste.
Professional solutions are generally more polished and should come with a general expectation of satisfaction. Most reputable contractors are insured and will be able to reimburse you or fix shoddy workmanship.
With that being said, after you buy the tools, spend the time, and potentially slip up a few times the cost may rise above what you find comfortable!
Sizing Your Project
Naturally the bigger your patio is, the more it’s going to cost. This is an unavoidable fact of the business.
However, that increase isn’t always linear. For example, doubling the size of a paver patio is going to cost much more than doubling the size of a poured concrete patio. The reason? Much of the cost of labor in the latter is around the transport, mixing, and pouring of the requisite concrete.
On the other hand, the labor when installing a paver patio is centered around the installation of each individual paver.
You should carefully consider the amount of space you need and try to determine what kind of things you can live without. As an idea, perhaps you can shrink the overall size of the patio but create a border of lava rocks around the perimeter.
The name of the game when making things cheaper is finding small enhancements and thinking outside the box.
Different Material Costs
Plainly put, different materials will each have different costs. While this is an obvious statement, let’s dive into each material to see how it would impact the price of a patio build. You may find that it’s worth increasing your budget.
Concrete as a material isn’t very expensive, averaging between $4.25 and $6.25 per square foot (source) poured. However, concrete patios require grading, the installation of a sub-base, reinforcement, and finishing. These added factors elevate the cost to $5 to $15 per square foot (source).
On average, a poured concrete patio costs $2,937 (source).
Concrete patios are tried and true and are generally what most people go for. However, they’re still fairly expensive and can look more plain than some people prefer. Luckily, you’ll always have the option to stain the concrete another color if that strikes your fancy.
However, some folks prefer a more ornate patio setup. Let’s explore some other options.
Stamped concrete patios involve every component of a simple poured concrete patio, but have the added overhead of the coloring and stamping process. This stamping process adds an additional $8 to $20 per square foot (source). This means you can expect the cost of stamped concrete patios to be $13 to $35 per square foot.
As you can see from the above picture, stamped concrete patios can often emulate the regal appearance of tile at a fraction of the cost. After sealing and staining, many stamped concrete patios look even better than their tiled counterparts.
But what if there was a middle ground between the two? Let’s read on.
Paver patios can be economical, with materials often costing less than $2.40 per square foot (source). However, the pavers themselves can be as expensive as you’d like and can require additional labor based on the size of the patio. Because of this, a paver patio installation costs anywhere between $10 and $17 per square foot (source).
A paver patio is typically cheaper than stamped concrete or tile and can look amazing. Additionally, paver patios are durable and tend to last a long time with proper maintenance. We actually wrote a deep-dive on paver patios vs. stamped concrete patios if you’re interested in learning more.
Much like stamped concrete, tiled patios require the same base construction steps as a concrete patio. And also like stamped concrete, they end up costing more. It makes sense — you’ll have to tile over the concrete.
In addition to the base $4.25 – $6.25 per square foot cost, you’ll pay an extra $0.50 – $10 per square foot for the materials, and up to $20 per square foot extra for labor. This means you can expect to pay $4.75 (if you do it yourself) to $36 per square foot for a tile patio installation. (source)
There’s usually no substitute for tile, although stamped concrete can come close. But the added cost isn’t worth it or feasible to many folks (myself included). This is definitely not the budget option.
As I stated at the beginning of this article, gravel and decomposed granite are the cheapest material to build your patio. If you built the patio yourself and didn’t accent the space with pavers, you could spend less than $0.50 per square foot! (source)
Now, this comes with some caveats (of course).
Gravel is a terrible surface to place outdoor furniture upon (just like grass, although we’ve shown it’s possible). If you desire patio furniture in your outdoor space, you’ll absolutely need to accept the gravel with pavers. Naturally, this will increase the cost.
Additionally, pea gravel is easily kicked and dug into. If you have kids or pets, you’ll likely be in for a mess!
Other Ways to Save Money
While gravel patios are certainly the easiest to construct, there are other ways to save money on your patio build. For example, you can avoid the big name stores like Home Depot and Garden Center and seek out surplus centers.
Another idea is to call a patio contractor and ask if you can buy scrap materials from them for cheap.
If you decide to hire out the work instead of doing it yourself, be sure to ask the right questions of the contractor you choose. This can save you hundreds of dollars. We wrote an article about those questions not too long ago — find it here.
Whichever way you choose, we wish you luck!