Food & Drink

Turn a basic patio into inviting space

Increase your home’s living space by expanding outdoors. A successful outdoor makeover places an entire outdoor “family room” well within reach of even a modest budget.

Savvy suburbanites and urban dwellers alike are creating outdoor living areas that complement gentle breezes and mild temperatures by adding accent touches such as fountains, fire pits, shade umbrellas, colorful pots and plantings that take full advantage of cozy outdoor space.

Here are eight projects, none more than $850, that will have your standard 10-by-10-foot cement patio looking like a million bucks.


Perhaps the most desirable element for any backyard patio is shade. Unfortunately, it’s the one component that can often be a budget buster.

One cost-friendly solution is Garden Treasure’s extra-large 10-foot round standing umbrella with a hand-crank opener. It casts a wide shadow and is vented to resist strong winds. Retails for $278 at Lowe’s,

Pergolas add structure and may offer shade if positioned correctly or fitted with fabric shades or a flowering vine such as Carolina jasmine, says Darin Brockelbank, a local hardscape designer and owner of Metro Greenscape. “Custom-built pergolas will run about $30 per linear foot for cedar,” he says.

A less costly alternative is a prefabricated 7.6-by-10-by-10-foot freestanding pergola. This heavy-duty steel frame structure comes fitted with UV-protected sling fabric to offer full shade and comfort. Retails for $588 at Lowe’s,


Concrete stain is a great way to jazz up a drab cement patio.

A quick wash and dry of your existing pad, two coats of stain from a garden sprayer, and for less than $75 your cement pad will have an entirely new look. Many natural earth and desert tones are available, or you can go bright and vibrant. Combination stain and sealer start at about $30 per gallon retail, and garden sprayers cost about $30.

Accent touches like large planters offer a dramatic effect on a small patio. Most garden and home improvement stores offer large (25 gallon or greater) ceramic pots. Pick matching pots with dramatic colors/textures or go for neutral tones. Be sure pots have drain holes, then fill halfway with gravel for drainage. Then, layer in soil, trailing vines for the edge such as sweet potato or vinca vine, and tall sweeping grass, such as sawgrass or pampas grass, in the center for a windswept effect. A $500 budget for pots and plantings should be plenty. Rountree Plantation Nursery,; Pike Nurseries.


A bubbling fountain creates soothing white noise, attracts birds and creates the illusion of a natural water source right in your back forty.

Blue Max Materials offers custom “bubbling rock” fountain components that contain natural stone or stone groupings that are pre-drilled, an AquaBasin reservoir to hold a supply of water and a pump for circulation.

Depending on size and grouping, $700 will buy a substantial starter package.

Frontgate’s Angel Wall Fountain brings the sound of running water to your yard with water flowing from the elegant angel’s mouth into a decorative basin.

The 13-by-7-by-23-inch fountain is easy to install and clean. Retails for $399.


General Shale offers do-it-yourself FPL-100 stone fireplace kits with sitting walls.

The stone is actually weathered concrete block and lined with fire brick. Detailed installation guides, all materials and even a video come with the kit. It’s typically a weekend or two project, according to Scott Clark, a district manager with General Shale. Retails for $849, plus $149 per 3 feet of sitting wall.

Fire pits that double as s’more stations are popular for extending summertime warmth through chilly fall evenings. Local family-owned supplier Johnson Concrete offers both square and round fire-pit kits that range from $320 to $389.99, with six color options. “These can be installed easily within a couple hours,” said sales rep Ricky Jones.