So the sun has come out early this year, just in time for us to start discussing BBQs and outdoor areas. Over recent years, we have found that clients are spending more and more time and money focusing on their gardens and outdoor space. Gone are the days of just laying a garden to lawn, a raised flower bed here and there and a small patio area for a table and chairs.
Pergolas, hot tubs, sunken trampolines, fire bowls, BBQs and man-sheds are the watchwords of today's garden discussions on site. And why not? Even in London where space is at a premium, having a well designed and built outdoor space can mean another vast area for dining, entertaining, relaxing and even working. The choices are endless and the design decisions are vast so for now we are just going to focus on the area normally immediately outside of the rear doors which is the patio area.
We often find that clients go through the design process and they have nailed down the style and finish of the patio doors, the type of threshold they want to have into the garden and even had a thought about the patio surface finish. However they have put to the back of their mind how they really want to use the immediate space outside of their new sliding/bi-folding/Crittall doors. This area has the potential to be used for a lot more time than just the spring and summer months if designed and built right so here are some things to consider from a build point of view.
1. Excavate levels. Any patio will likely require the excavation of levels to ensure whatever finish you require has sufficient substrate to support the new floor finish. Normally this will be a screed or perhaps a reinforced concrete slab. It is important to get some of these works done before finishes start internally. Moving debris and heavy materials through new doors and across new floors increases the risk of damage and if you decide to go for a thicker flagstone tile with 150mm build up underneath that can add up to a few skips of soil that will need moving. At this stage you also need to know if you want a flush threshold between the internal and external levels or a step down into your garden. Below is an example of the same tiles being used internally and externally which makes the space feel continuous
Designed and Built by BTL Property Ltd
2. Retaining walls - You might be living on a sloping site where the garden falls away from the rear doors or your neighbour's garden levels are lower on one side of the house. This level change may require some retaining walls to be built to retain the mass of materials within the patio area. An engineer might need to specify extra reinforcement in the retaining walls. This means more foundations and brickwork which are better built earlier in the project. It also means liaising with your neighbours if the wall is to be built along the "party" line as the foundations will sit astride the party line.
3. Drainage. Any patio will likely require some kind of drainage to stop water pooling on the surface of the patio. Sometimes it might be possible to set the patio on a fall away from the patio doors so that the water drains naturally into a flower bed or lawn but in a smaller London garden covered in hard standings it is likely that the water will need to drain into the sewer system. The aco drain is a popular and effective choice in this case and is easy to maintain and clean through. Concealed linear drains like the aco hex drain can also be used. These look better but are more difficult to maintain as they sit below the finished floor. In the below photograph, the tiles were laid to fall into the centre of the patio where the rainwater drains into the concealed aco hex drain.
Designed by A3 Architects. Built by BTL Property Ltd
4. Electrics. Any electrical cables need to be armoured and are best laid below the finished floor to hide them away. If you require complicated lighting the circuits need to be thought out for where you want to control them from, to which lights you want to adjust (downlights, up lights, up/down lights, wall lights, flood lights, stakes, brick lights, recessed lights, LED strips etc.) Importantly any external sockets are on a separate supply and need to be isolated separately at the consumer unit. Lighting is another area of design all together so let's just leave this discussion there!
Designed by Granit Architects. Built by BTL Property Ltd
5. Audio visual. Outside speaker's cable and locations need to be considered. External televisions need to be concealed so they are weather tight in enclosures and/or removable so they can be moved into position. If you want to work from home and sit outside you might want an internet connection and power supply.
6. Plumbing. The minimum requirement will be a garden tap for watering the plants and occasionally cleaning down the patio but you might want an irrigation system, water features, a garden sink etc so get these services tied down when you are thinking about the kitchen services as running a cold water feed to the back of the garden after the tiles have been laid will be too late
7. BBQs and gas fireplaces. BBQs can be hardwired and built in features running off a gas supply. If you want your BBQ to be run off natural gas ie from the mains supply then you will need to have an internal isolator valve and external isolator valve before the BBQ/fire table. Depending on the type of BBQ or fire table you choose, a specialist leisure certified gas engineer will be needed to commission the system. Again - if you want an external natural gas feature then start the conversation early as services need to be run and covered correctly. If the BBQ runs off LPG bottles then take as long as you like…
Designed by Shape Architecture. Built by BTL Property Ltd
8. Floor finish One of the final pieces of work outside will be to fit the finished floor. This could be a whole host of different finishes but assuming this is going to be a patio we are normally talking about natural stone tiles, man-made slabs, polished concrete, timber decking or even walk on glass if there is a basement underneath the garden. We have worked with all of these finishes and they all have their merits. For now though we will leave you with a picture from one of our favourite projects that makes you want to spark up the BBQ and sit around the table with friends and family.
Designed by Granit Architects. Built by BTL Property Ltd
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