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Time to plan the perfect patio

One of the most important elements of any patio is the type of floor you put down or the finish you choose to cover up an existing patio floor. Not only does a patio floor need to blend with the style of your home, it also has to be practical and easy to maintain.

In a small townhouse garden, replacing lawn with a patio is one way to cut back on garden maintenance. If you plan the design to incorporate plenty of shrubs and foliage there's no reason why you can't have a beautiful garden without lawn. Click here to see more images of this patio design.

Faux stone or cement pavers add a wonderful rustic effect in a small courtyard, townhouse garden or a corner set aside for a patio. These pavers come in many shapes and sizes and are easily laid as a DIY project.

A patio should offer a place to entertain or just be able to relax. If you plan to use the patio in the evenings, add plenty of illumination for effect, safety and security.

Natural stone, such as slate, might be more expensive than other options but definitely add value and last a lifetime. Treat natural stone with the appropriate sealer to enhance the beauty, offer protection, or add anti-slip properties.

A timber deck or patio area of interlocking wood panels integrates the use and relationship of the exterior with the functions of the interior. By using interlocking panels, these can be removed for access to the space below. This could be an important factor when siting a patio over areas such as sewer lines or access panels.

A solid wood deck is beautiful to look at, but bear in mind that it will require regular maintenance. Left untreated, our climate tends to ravage rather than age most timbers used for the manufacture of a wooden deck. An alternative to wood is to look at composite decking, which offers a similar look and feel - without the maintenance.

Building your own timber deck can be done as a DIY project, or you can let the professionals do it for you. It all depends on the budget available - or the time you have to spare if you want to take on this project. Click here for details on how to build a deck in a day.

A brick patio remains one of the more affordable options for laying down a patio. Whether you use new bricks or source reclaimed bricks, you can design a modern or traditional patio using bricks or brick pavers combined with other elements.

A brick patio is a project that can be tackled by anyone wanting to build their own patio. Brick is naturally non-slip and, if left untreated, will age naturally over time. What's nice about a brick patio is that you can choose from a wide range of colour choices and textures to match your style.

Combine brick with slate or concrete for a more modern or contemporary look.

If you decide to lay your own brick patio, consider whether or not to set on a concrete slab or lay on a sand base. While a sand based patio is the easier option, laying down a slab and then bricks is definitely a more permanent and hardwearing surface.

Formed concrete planters take centre stage in the concrete patio, yet the look is contemporary without being impersonal. Cleverly placed landscape lighting creates visual drama for evening entertaining.