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Before you renovate your patio, make sure you know all the flooring options. From stone to brick, these five materials are sturdy and great looking -- but only you know which one is the perfect fit for your yard.

composite decking patiosCan you tell that these decks are both made of composite decking? Photos: This Old House

Do you feel like you just don't know where to start when it comes to your patio? If you're suffering from a bland concrete slab or a blanket of grass, there are a number of outdoor decking and patio options that are easy to install, beautiful to look at and long-lasting. Don't let another summer go by hanging out in the driveway -- you can create the perfect space for entertaining, you just need the right footing.

1. Wood or composite decking. Decks are probably the most popular outdoor addition that a homeowner can create that also is one of the biggest bangs for your buck. Choosing between wood and composite decking can be difficult, as there are pros and cons to each. Composite decking is a newer innovation, made of a combination of plastics and recycled cellulose-based fillers such as wood fibers from recovered saw dust and bamboo. Wood decks are made of, well, wood. You can refinish a wood deck, but you cannot do so with a composite deck. You will need to re-seal a wood deck each year. Both materials are very durable, but wood may become victim to mold, rotting or termites whereas composite decking may stain or warp in intense heat.

A cedar or redwood deck costs roughly $18 to $22 per square foot, but a more inexpensive choice would be southern yellow pine at $10 to $15 per square foot. In comparison, composite decking is about $20 per square foot. These prices include installation.

2. Concrete pavers. Concrete was the most popular outdoor patio material for many years. However, in this day and age, concrete options have expanded far beyond the single slab. Concrete now comes in various sizes and shapes, and you can even stamp your concrete with different patterns.

Concrete is very affordable too, around one-fifth less than natural stone pavers, running anywhere from $1 to $3 per square foot compared with $7 to $10 for natural stone. However, concrete is slightly less durable than natural stone. Keep in mind: it can crack, so purchasing and saving a few backups pieces is a smart move!

patiosDeck tiles work on top of just about any surface. Photo: Handy Deck Systems

3. Wood deck tiles. If you can't have a raised deck, or you are going for a slightly more modern look deck tiles might be the best solution for you. They are called the "instant outdoor floor solution" not only because they're fast, but they're very easy to install. Most companies offer wood deck tiles that just snap and click together. You can now even get them in FSC-certified lumber. While these deck tiles are usually pre-finished it is important to oil them every 6 to 12 months to keep them looking new.

The costs vary depending on the manufacturer, but typically plain deck tiles run anywhere from $7 to $12. You can also get them in wood composite.

4. Stones and pebbles. While this might seem fairly old-school to you, stones and pebbles are making a comeback. Not only are they easy to install (as long as you can sweat it out shoveling and wheeling them into your yard), they're easy to maintain, are kid- and pet-friendly and work well in just about all weather conditions. In modern gardens and yards, pebbles are a must-have. Plus, there is something so tranquil and zen-like about using stones in your landscaping.

brick patiosA brick patio is a timeless option for an outdoor space. Photo: Corbis

Stones and pebbles are calculated by the pound or ton and vary in price depending on the type of stone and the size. You can usually grab a bag of river pebbles from your local hardware store for $5 to $7, but if you're doing a large project like a patio area, consult your local nursery or landscape company. Don't forget to measure first!

5. Brick. Nothing seems more beautiful and timeless than well-laid brick. However, this little red buddy can be quite a challenge. For one, brick patios can be plagued by salt stains, moss and weeds, and on top of that, they're expensive to lay. The can get very hot in the summer, and can be difficult to sweep or shovel. However, bricks are a very eco-friendly material. You can even get historical or used bricks from builders or construction companies. Also, check sites like Craigslist -- you might luck out and get an entire patio's worth of brick for free (as long as you haul it away)! Your local home improvement store probably sells them for around $0.35 to $0.65 per brick.

Love the outdoors? Go beyond the brick or get some shade on your new patio with these fun patio umbrellas.


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