Plan Your Patio According to Size
Picture this: a fourth of July dinner party planned on a warm summer evening, guests should be arriving soon and you’re getting out the plastic lawn chairs. Suddenly, you realize that a table of six won’t fit on your patio. What do you do? Leave a few guests to sit on the lawn, excluded?
In a previous article, we looked at hardscape materials, and what one might use to create, among other things, the perfect patio setting. Today we’ll be covering the next important step — dimensions. From your patio’s standing area to the seating arrangement, you’ll want to know sizes in advance – this way, you can purchase the right amounts and measurements of hardscape materials. Planning ahead will save you money and prevent future headaches and hassles, so be sure to take the time you need up front to do it right the first time.
What size patio is best for your back yard?
Your patio can only be as large as the surrounding space. A spacious yard obviously gives you much more to work with. If your yard is on the smaller side, then chances are you won’t be able to hold a huge patio and still have room for greenery out back. Measure your garden’s perimeter to determine how much area you can devote to a patio before setting any plans in stone.
Consider the number of members in your household. In all likelihood, these are the people who will be seated on the patio most frequently. Thus, plan first and foremost for a patio that is big enough to accommodate your immediate family or whomever you live with. If you entertain frequently then perhaps a patio slightly bigger than the number of residents would be the best solution for you.
Factor in “personal space.” Any one person would ultimately need about 5 feet of space to be comfortable standing, but sitting in a chair is a bit different. Now, imagine two people in chairs, they both will need some space to move about freely and not feel cramped. You might even want to do a “test run” of your patio space area by recruiting a few family members or friends to help you determine how much space is needed to be comfortable.
Think about perspective. When people take their seats on your patio, will they be sitting in the blinding afternoon sun… or are they able to relax under a cover of protective shade? What’s the view from where they are? Is it a lovely backyard scene, or are they at the edge of the spot where you keep the not-so-fragrant trash bins? If your backyard happens to sit upon a hill overlooking the ocean or the city, then perhaps the patio should be placed where the view is the best.
What about room for accessories? Will umbrellas solve the blinding sunshine issue? If so, how many can you fit in the space that’s available? When considering patio size, realize that the area will be occupied by more than just a table and chairs. Include things such as a barbeque, umbrella, or anything you plan on using for entertaining or making a visitor’s stay more enjoyable.
What to do about a small yard? A patio setting for two people is probably the best option for a very small yard. Of course, you might expand to a setting for four if you’re willing to sacrifice the planting bed area as a tradeoff for more space to entertain.
How to measure for correct patio space:
For a small patio for just two people and no table you will need at least 5 feet by 5 feet. Consider a standard chair to be about 2 feet by 2 feet.
If dinner for two is more your style, you’ll need to factor in a table between the two chairs. A smaller table can be about two feet by feet and range to even 3 or 4 feet around, depending on your needs. At least 6 feet by 4 feet is needed if you plan to have a table and chairs with your patio.
What about large family gatherings?
Obviously, the greater the number of guests, the more patio space you’ll need for everyone to be comfortable and at ease. A standard chair will be about 2 feet by 2 feet, and since this table will need to seat upwards of 4 or more people, it should be larger than 2 feet by 2 feet. This illustration shows a table for four people. Each chair is about 2 by 2 feet and the table itself could be 3 by 3 feet. Remember as well that you’ll need extra patio space around any table or chair so that no one will fall off the patio and there will be enough room to move about freely. The minimum amount of space for a four person setting is 6 feet by 6 feet. The numbers around the table show the preferred amount.
Perhaps after-dinner drinks on the patio with a few close friends is more your style. In this case, a setting with four chairs and no table should suffice. However, even without a table, you’ll still need to leave some room for people to walk around and not trip over things or each other (especially if they’ve been imbibing a bit!). A good guideline for a patio for four people is about 7 feet by 6 feet.
Party of six:
The next biggest size of tables that you’ll find in most patio furniture stores are for parties of six. Granted you could fit more people around a table with some creative seating arrangements; however, we are merely looking at what is most practical and comfortable. You might be able to cram a few extra tots around the edges of the table, but what if it were a more formal party where you didn’t know people well and wanted to make sure everyone felt at ease in their own space?
A table of six will mean you need at least 4 feet around per chair and at least 8 feet or more for the table, not to mention wiggle room.
In this example there is a picnic table, rather than a conventional table with chairs around it. At a picnic table, the seats will be longer than wider, and in this illustration the bench is 1 foot wide by 5 feet long. The table itself is about 6 feet long by 5 feet wide. The minimum amount of area needed would be about 7 feet long by 6 feet wide. But the preferred area is 8 feet by 7 feet.
What about a less traditional patio setting?
These days, couches, coffee tables and lounge chairs pass for “less traditional” patio furniture. This type of arrangement is starting to catch on, and you’ll usually find a few different examples of this style of seating at your local home improvement store. What we’re looking at here are alternate possibilities for a wide variety of people.
Lounge chairs, in pairs of 2 or 4, offer a unique way to relax in comfort and style while enjoying the beauty of the outdoors. A lounge chair is simply a longer chair that is low to the ground so you can “lounge” or lay back on it. The typical lounge chair will need to accommodate an average-sized adult person, so it should be at least 5 feet long and 2 feet wide. Also, leave some room between each chair so that people get up or lay back down without disturbing the other guests. You might even place a little stand between each chair.
If you’re concerned about having enough room between lounge chairs, consider the example pictured. Three lounge chairs fit nicely onto the 15×10 foot patio, and there is even room left over for an umbrella and a small table. Remember, the more space you allow for your patio, the more options you’ll have when you think of redecorating or changing the arrangement.
The last example is of two chairs and a couch. In this illustration, there is allotted a large amount of open space for almost anything one can think of, perhaps a fire pit or a small table, even an umbrella. The more room you allow for on your patio, the more you can add to it.
Remember that all these suggestions are merely loose guidelines to contemplate when planning your patio setting. Consult with a professional before drawing up plans and searching around for materials.
Ask the Builder: Patio Sizing Tips. This site offers plenty more good tips to consider when planning and sizing your patio.
Concrete Network’s Seating Chart. Use this handy seating chart to help you map out your patio plans successfully!