If you’re fortunate enough to have a home with a patio, you’ve probably been using it more than ever. Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to spend more time at home, outdoor living areas have afforded homeowners and renters a measure of freedom. Patios have become a place where we can relax, exercise, meet with friends, or start a new hobby like gardening.
In fact, patios have been rising in popularity for a while. Since 2012, the share of new homes being built with patios has been steadily increasing, according to the National Association of Home Builders. And existing homes without patios added them in record numbers during the pandemic, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In January 2021, there were 1.8 million permits issued for outdoor living spaces, a 22.5% increase year over year.
Whether you’re planning on staying in your home or selling it, your patio’s micropatch of real estate is more valuable than ever. We spoke to experts to learn how you can improve your patio space, with a range of time constraints and budgets in mind.
If you have 5 minutes
Just five minutes of patio cleanup will make a world of difference.
“Sweep away all of the dirt, leaves, and debris,” says Greg Bond, owner of Easy Sell in Orlando, FL, which rehabilitates and flips about 20 homes a year in the Sunshine State.
You can also take the time to uproot weeds and use a wet rag to remove cobwebs from siding on the house.
You could also use the time to install new lighting.
“String and lantern lighting is an inexpensive way to elevate the space” and add an element of whimsy, says Shaun McCarthy, a franchisee and owner of Handyman Connection in Colorado Springs, CO.
Cost: String lights and lanterns are about $25-plus
If you have 30 minutes
With just a half-hour, you can seriously upgrade your patio with one new power piece and a little elbow grease.
Hanging chairs have become a hot seller as more people seek cozy comfort as they spend time outside. There are a range of options, says Holly Meyer Lucas, team leader of the Meyer Lucas Team at Compass in Jupiter, FL.
“It’s one of the fastest ways to spruce up the outdoor space for people without a lot of time or money on their hands,” she says.
Opt for a Scandinavian-inspired egg chair or a more traditional porch swing style.
Cost: $400-plus, depending on style
Now, look down. Are there any hard edges of the patio that need sanding, rusty nails that need to be replaced, or weeds that need to be pulled?
Phillip Ash, founder of Pro Paint Corner in Falls Church, VA, recommends tackling all of those, and adding new mulch to any garden beds around the patio to add a feeling of “freshness and vibrance” to the patio.
Cost: Sandpaper is $10-plus; mulch is $15-plus
If you have 1 hour
“I’ve found that permanent water features are universally adored,” says Nick Drewe, the CEO of Victoria, Australia–based Wethrift, an e-commerce platform devoted to consumer savings.
In addition to the design benefits, studies have shown that the sound and appearance of running water in fountains can reduce stress.
“I suggest adding one with clean lines, no gargoyles, and nothing over the top,” Drewe says.
Cost: Simple water features are $200-plus
Another way to celebrate the great outdoors with sophistication and restraint is by installing large statement planters and potted plants.
“This is fast and can be a very economical way to drastically improve the patio’s livability and even increase resale value,” says Kris Lippi, a licensed real estate broker and member of the Forbes Real Estate Council in Hartford, CT.
There are many options for pots and planters, so choose a few based on your own style—and don’t be afraid to grab ones with color and texture.
Strawberry plants, begonias, and roses are all beginner-friendly flora that will brighten your patio and put a smile on your face.
Cost: Planters are $20–$100; potted plants are $5-plus
If you have 3 hours
Three hours gives you enough time to give your patio a deep clean. “Remove all of the furniture and rent a pressure washer to get rid of built-up dirt, mold, and algae. You should also use the washer to remove dirt and cobwebs from the side of the house around the patio,” says Fred McGill, CEO and co-founder of residential real estate tech startup Simple Showing in Atlanta.
Cost: Renting a power washer is $30-plus per day
If you have a weekend
With a full weekend, you can take on several of the tasks above, plus one of the projects below (or both if you have helpers).
Installing an extension of your kitchen outside is trending, says Meyer Lucas, and it’s not as difficult and time-consuming as it sounds.
“There are several DIY versions that don’t involve hiring a contractor and can be installed in a weekend,” she says.
You can add a modular kitchen with shelves and a sink, an outdoor serving cart, or even an outdoor refrigerator.
But if you want to go all out with a river-rock backsplash, TV, pizza oven, or working sink, you will likely have to hire a professional contractor (unless you’re truly handy).
Cost: Modular kitchens are $600-plus; serving carts are $100-plus; outdoor refrigerators are $500-plus
The farm-to-table movement has come to the patio, says Christa Hyland, a licensed real estate salesperson at Howard Hanna in Saratoga Springs, NY.
“Small vertical or potted gardens are a great option for people who are new to growing food to try it,” she says.
Free-standing or leaning vertical gardens can be used to grow herbs, greens, pole beans, peas, tomatoes, and even vining crops like cucumbers, squash, and melons. Elevated planter boxes, raised beds, and small pots also provide manageable spaces for growing chili peppers, beets, onions, radishes, and other vegetables that will add color to your space and nutrition to your diet.
Cost: Vertical garden supplies are $150-plus; raised boxes and beds are $75-plus; pots are $10-plus