The patio that does it all

This summer, our big project for the dreamhouse is to add a patio. We’ve been back and forth on what to do in the backyard. We’ve already added a fence, a playset and two vegetable gardens but

The Rivercrest Firepit Kit from Unilock
The Rivercrest Firepit Kit from Unilock

we still need something right off the back of the house for grilling and relaxing. Almost our whole first summer in the dreamhouse, the backyard was still rocks and dirt and I was suffering from sandworm anxiety. That’s the fear that if you try to go out of the house for any reason, the sandworm from Beetlejuice will show up and chase you back inside. But seriously, it was dusty and dirty from all the construction going on in the neighborhood. I had a newborn baby. So I pretty much holed up inside for the whole summer. Anyway, I took that emotional turmoil and started making plans for the house. I dreamt about paint and wallpaper that I’ve still not thrown up on the walls. However, my most prized accomplishment of that summer was when I drew up a dream patio plan. It was complete with landscaping ideas.  The plan for the patio had two levels. The upper level, just off the house, had room for the grill and a bistro set. A step down led to two circular areas on either side. One for a firepit and one for traditional outdoor dining.


I don’t know what ever happened to that original drawing, but I’ve been able to recreate it somewhat to scale on a copy of our plat of survey.

At the time, I couldn’t imagine that we would be able to afford anything so elaborate. At least not in one shot. It is our dream patio. The patio that does it all.

Patio Plans
Drawing we submitted for approval of our patio from the Home Owners Association


We had no idea what it would cost or what material we wanted it built from. My first instinct was pavers. But they’re sooo expensive and my patio plans seemed massive. We started thinking that maybe the upper level could be a deck. So last Spring, we had someone come in to talk to us about building one. He talked me out of a couple of the features I had in mind, which felt a little like defeat. But don’t worry, he swapped them out for upgrades that would cost me even more. Uh… that, along with the size he wanted to build, left me with a pricetag that was a little overwhelming. A DIY deck was not on the table. We would only be able to work on it on the weekends and it was just way too big of a task for us with the two small kids around. Building a deck would only be one phase of my plan and it wasn’t our first choice, so I went back to the drawing board.

I knew pavers would be way too expensive so that pretty much left concrete. I didn’t even know if we could do what I wanted with concrete but it wouldn’t hurt to ask. We decided last summer to just save up as much money as we could and start calling around the following Spring. At one point, I was talking with a landscaper who gave me a price for pavers and it wasn’t awful. He estimated it would be about $20 per square foot. It was doable, but then talking with people who had gotten pavers, I always got the same story. They’re a lot to maintain. They shift and weeds can still grow up between them. But they look so beautiful, I know. Yet I love the look of stamped concrete too. Turns out our next-door neighbor ended up getting a beautiful stamped concrete patio. I worked up the nerve to ask her what she paid for it. She was happy to share her story and pass on the name of the contractor. I was surprised and relieved to hear her final price. Well, why not give him a call? I had one guy coming the next day to quote me on that original dream plan, so why not see if this guy could come out too. I even called up a third contractor just to compare.

Flagstone pattern, light colored stamped concrete
The color and pattern of what we are looking for in our dream patio.

I know that prices are different all over the place and I don’t really feel comfortable divulging all of the dirty details, but let me lay this down for you in a way I think will convey our confusion and frustration.

Guy #1 – Construction Company: I got their info from a mailer. They’re a local company offering patios, driveways, etc. He can do the concrete but not the concrete blocks for the seat walls and firepit. He’s quoting me $22 per square foot for the stamped concrete alone. He knows a guy who can do the

The Rivercrest Wall from Unilock
The Rivercrest Wall from Unilock

concrete blocks and he’s estimating about $2000 for that. I was floored. I never imagined that stamped concrete would cost more than pavers and all the price estimators online priced stamped concrete way lower. It felt like highway robbery. And sexism. I was borderline offended but so glad I had two more guys coming to quote me on my dream patio.


Guy #2 – Foundation & Excavation Company: I got their number from Home

Steps built from the Rivercrest wall blocks from Unilock
Steps built from the Rivercrest wall blocks from Unilock.

Advisor. This guy was super professional. He sent me a real nice invoice. Hequoted me for the whole job so it’s harder to estimate what he’s charging for the concrete but if I take off $2000 for concrete blocks from his quoted price, he’d be charging me $14.50 per square foot. That’s way lower than Guy #1 and a lot closer to what I was thinking. I’m feeling a little better about thewhole thing at this point, but I still want to wait and see what my neighbor’s guy is going to come in at.



Stamped Concrete boder
An example of a stamped concrete border.


Guy #3 (A.K.A. My Neighbor’s Guy) – Concrete Company: This guy does concrete. Patios, overlays, repair, basement and garage floor epoxy, you name it. He’s local and he’s experienced, but just starting out on his own. He owns all his supplies to keep his prices low. He’s also super nice and respectful. He understands exactly what I want and even offered additional suggestions. His quote of $11.16 per square foot came in at close to half of Guy #1. And all I have to do to know his work is quality is walk next door and admire my neighbor’s beautiful patio. He has a friend who will come in to talk to us about the seat wall and firepit so we’ll get an estimate from him at that point, but we are sold.

We are so close to our dream patio, I do not know if I will believe it when it’s here.

Stay tuned!