A recent patio remodel added a fireplace, additional seating areas, and a louvered roof to keep it all dry. The remodel made it a multi-use space, and we use it much more now than we did before.
The early days: a concrete pad
The story of our patio is one of evolution. When we bought our house twenty years ago, the patio was a rectangular stamped concrete pad off the back door, with no landscaping and no shade. We had a toddler and a newborn, and didn’t have time for more than throwing some patio furniture back there.
I don’t seem to have many pictures of the patio those first few years because, you know, I had a toddler and a newborn. Here’s said toddler blowing bubbles on the patio. You can see that it is just a pad of stamped concrete with some furniture thrown on it. But it has a really cute little boy on it, so who cares that it has no landscaping or shade?
Eventually we did care, as a patio with no shade can be pretty miserable. And I come from a long line of expert gardeners, so I needed some landscaping.
The first remodel — a pergola and some landscaping
A pergola provided the filtered shade we were seeking. And our contractor built scalloped beds around the concrete pad to add softness and interest. We planted climbing hydrangea next to the pergola posts, as we wanted a flowering vine growing up and over the pergola.
Here’s the bubble-blowing toddler, now 5, with the newly-landscaped patio. That tiny plant at the post is a climbing hydrangea, which grows very slowly. It took about 12 years for it to reach the roof of the pergola. But it is a fabulous plant. It loses its leaves in the fall, and you are left with a beautiful twisty vine, which you don’t cut back. In the spring, you get new green leaves, and then white hydrangea blossoms.
Flash forward twelve years:
The climbing hydrangea is up to the top of the pergola, and the rest of the landscaping is filled in. We hung annual baskets from the pergola, and filled pots with showy flowers. My friend Kelly (of Kelly’s Salad: Southwestern Flavors with a Cilantro/Lime/Jalapeno Dressing fame) gave me Shasta daisies out of her garden which spread and bloomed like crazy.
Ornamental grasses, ground cover and other perennials filled in the blank spots, and we had a pretty lush patio. So what more could a girl want?
I really loved it the way it was. But we thought we could make it better. First, although the pergola had aged beautifully and provided the filtered shade we were looking for, a pergola is basically open, and lets in the rain. Our patio furniture cushions seemed to always be wet, so we rarely sat out there.
Second, although the landscaping enveloped the patio and made it feel like a cozy outside room, it was a relatively small cozy outside room. We had room for a 6-top dining table and a 4-top conversation area, and that’s it.
Third, I’m always cold. From Labor Day until Memorial Day, it’s just a little too chilly in Cincinnati for me to sit outside. If only I had a fireplace to warm things up a bit! So we embarked on:
The second remodel: more seating, a fireplace, and a retractable roof
We determined that we are staying in this house (at least part-time) for many years to come, so we decided to make the backyard be what we really wanted. First step, the ability to entertain more than eight people.
Expanded seating area
The original stamped concrete had become discolored and was looking dated, so we determined that we would install a different flooring. Our contractor, Mark Koeninger KPS Architecture and Landscaping, suggested a wonderful concrete tile that looks like aged hardwood. Also, it could be installed over the existing concrete slab, which would be less costly and messy.
They covered the existing patio with a layer of sand to create a level surface, then carefully laid the concrete tiles on top.
We loved the finished look of hardwood, with the versatility of concrete.
Since we were changing the flooring, it would be a simple matter to expand the square feet. We had the space, it would just require transplanting some plants and moving some beds.
This is the patio before the renovation. We decided to expand the patio over the beds in the front of this picture, where the boxwood shrubs are.
Here is the same view with the expanded patio. This added enough space for two additional conversation areas.
We considered a fire pit instead of a fireplace, but landed on a fireplace because we wanted to divert the smoke up and away. We built the fireplace on the back edge of the patio, between two of the pillars for the roof.
Mark and his guys were so careful and meticulous, we did not lose a single precious climbing hydrangea during this whole process. As they had taken about 15 years to reach their full glory, that was an important consideration. We love the finished look of the fireplace.
The aged wood of the pergola was very pretty, and the climbing hydrangeas had reached the roof line and were spectacular. Our problem was rainy days, resulting in wet cushions on patio furniture. But I also liked having the open roof, and getting filtered sun on the patio. What a dilemma!
We visited the Home and Garden Show and discovered louvered roof companies — the perfect solution. The louvered roof can be open to allow sunshine, a breeze, and rain through, if that’s what you want. Or with the push of a button on the remote control it can be closed up so that it is watertight, and looks like a solid roof.
We loved the look of our aged wood pillars, and I couldn’t bare to tear out the hydrangea plants. We determined that we would remove the existing roof of the pergola, and use the existing pillars to hold the new louvered roof. This is an overhead view of the louvered roof with the louvers open.
The next pictures shows the roof with the slats open. You can also see the aged wood pillars and cross-supports from the original pergola.
Now on rainy and snowy days we close the louvers, and we have an absolutely watertight enclosure. You can even sit underneath and read in the rain, in front of the fire. It is very cozy!
The louvered roof has not been without challenges. We had initially powered the opening mechanism with a solar battery. We had some problems with the solar power, and eventually hard-wired the controller. Also, we have lots of trees in our yard, and our very friendly and invasive squirrels have decided that the gutter system around the roof makes an excellent spot for nests for their babies. (Gross. Not cute or fun. Trust me.). Regardless of those challenges, we have really enjoyed the addition of the louvered roof.
The newroof, the fireplace and the additional seating area has greatly increased the functionality of our patio. Now it’s a great spot for a glass of wine with friends, or to hunker down with a book and a cup of coffee on a chilly fall day.
For more stories about renovations, please see:
- Condo Bathroom Renovation: Before and After
- Condo Kitchen Renovation: Cool Shades and Warm Sunshine
- Non-Invasive Facelift for the Kitchen and Family Room