Building and buying

Patio construction: planning, implementation and costs

Thomas Bott

The sun is shining, it’s warm outside and you finally have some free time: it’s the perfect moment to organize a barbecue and relax in the fresh air – and best of all on your own patio. Whether you build it yourself or have the work done by a professional: constructing a patio doesn’t usually take long or cost the earth. This makes creating a patio worth the effort. Find out about the requirements, the points to consider and the construction process here.

A wooden patio with furniture and plants in front of a wooden house.
© Getty Images

In this article

Building a patio: the right planning

Check the legal requirements

Before you start planning a patio, you should check the applicable legal regulations in your canton of residence. A building permit may be required in certain circumstances. This is especially the case if site alterations are necessary or if you wish to add a roof over the patio. The requirement to obtain a building permit is governed by the relevant cantonal building law. If in doubt, we recommend that you always contact the relevant building authority or municipality.

Choose the right material

The choice of material is another important point. Wood is very popular and is easy to process as a raw material. Decking is available in a variety of wood types, grains and shapes. Wood also radiates a certain warmth without heating up too much. However, it requires complex maintenance. If you don’t take enough care of a wooden patio, it will age quickly and can even splinter. When wet, the material also tends to become slippery. The same applies to solid wood.

A good alternative could be a wood polymer composite (WPC). Decking exists in the form of patio boards or tiles, offering even more possibilities for the design of your patio. Although WPC looks quite similar to natural wood, it is more durable. It does not require extensive maintenance, does not splinter, and the risk of slipping is lower. However, the colors fade over time when exposed to direct sunlight.

The last remaining option is to use stone. You have the choice between natural stone, concrete and ceramic. Natural stone is available in the form of slabs and tiles, while concrete can be poured to your own requirements or purchased as slabs. Ceramics are usually sold as tiles. All three materials are very durable, easy to clean and weatherproof. However, they share a common problem: building a patio out of stone is a complex task.

A covered patio with a view of the mountains.

The direction the patio should face is determined first and foremost by the position of the sun. However, a magnificent view can also be an argument in favor of positioning a patio in a certain way.

Determine the best orientation

The choice of orientation plays a decisive role in how you will use your patio area. Anyone who likes to sit in the sun until late in the evening should build a terrace on the south side of their house, as this is where the most hours of sun are guaranteed. You can watch the sun rise from a patio that looks east – ideal for starting the day. In the west, you can make the most of the daylight for a long time, even after work. We do not recommend a patio facing north. Unless you like it cool – or there is an unbeatable view in that direction.

Patio construction: base, substructure and patio

Ensuring a level base for the substructure is important for the construction of a patio. This can be achieved relatively easily with gravel or sand. The substructure will be built on top of this layer. If you are planning a wooden or WPC patio, concrete slabs or paving stones can be used as support surfaces. Support beams are then placed on top, arranged in parallel to each other at equal distances. An initial plank in the middle of the patio, mounted at right angles to the supporting beams, serves as a starting point for resting the other planks. Once these have been laid and screwed together, additional planks follow at the edges to finish off the sides.

Designing a stone patio is a little more complicated than when using WPC and wooden planks. In most cases earthworks are necessary to create the foundations. Mixing and pouring concrete, and laying tiles or slabs on top, is time consuming. It is always worth hiring a professional who will have not only the necessary expertise, but also the right equipment.

A stone patio in front of a wooden house. A family is sitting at a table on wooden benches.

A stone floor is durable and will ensure a high-quality finish, but it should be laid by professionals.

Planning checklist for building a patio:

  • Obtain information on building regulations
  • Define the orientation and size
  • Check the substrate for stability and steepness
  • Apply for a building permit if necessary
  • Choose the building material
  • Mark out the future location of the terrace
  • Decide between hiring a company or self-construction
  • Compare and hire workmen if necessary

Costs: how expensive can it be to build a patio

The cost of building a patio depends on various factors. One of them is the choice of material. Concrete or inexpensive wood from local stocks, such as Douglas fir, pine or larch, can be purchased from around 20 francs per square meter. If you opt for natural stone, high-quality wood (for example garapa or teak) and WPC, you should expect to pay at least 120 francs per square meter. Don’t forget to count the additional cost for the substructure and any necessary tools. If you hire a professional for the work, additional hourly rates for travel and work averaging 80 francs an hour will be charged.

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