With warm weather here, you might be thinking about adding a patio cover to protect you from the sun.
But shade isn't the only reason for a patio cover. You might want one to give you more privacy, to shield you and your outdoor furniture from rain and to expand your living area outdoors.
The right patio cover can do all that and more. But it takes planning, and you have to decide whether you want to have one built by a professional or do it yourself.
A first step is to be sure it's permissible to have such a cover.
If you are in a homeowners association, call to find out if there are limitations. You also need to check with your local government's building department, which can tell you whether you can build on the site and what guidelines you must follow.
In many cases, construction of a patio cover requires a construction permit, approval of the plans by the building department and inspections by local government personnel.
Don't let all this scare you. If millions of people have done it, so can you. Here's a rundown of what to consider.
The reasons for building a patio cover will influence the type of patio cover you'll build, the materials you choose and the style.
For instance, the most frequent reason for building a patio cover is for the shade it affords. Ideally, you want to let in some sunlight, but not enough to make it a problem.
Many patio covers use wooden frameworks, with sizes of lumber ranging from 2-by-2s to 2-by-10s. You can also shield your patio from overhead sun by using latticework, but that won't shield your patio from the rain. To do that you will need a solid roof. Such a roof can match the roof of your home, using the same materials, or be a contrasting accent.
A solid patio roof also would give you privacy, especially if you live below a neighboring home.
With new developments in patio covers, consumers can have the best of both of these designs in shutter-style roofs. These operate much like an indoor window shutter. Some operate manually. Others are motorized and can be operated by remote control. There are high-tech models that work automatically to compensate for bright sun or rain.
Most patio covers are made of wood, but an increasing number are being constructed of aluminum and PVC (polyvinylchloride plastic) and fiberglass.
The advantage of using wood is that a patio cover can be made into almost any design. The disadvantage is that wood takes occasional maintenance.
If you want to minimize maintenance, look at aluminum and the PVC covers. A new type of aluminum cover - one brand is Alumawood - uses aluminum that looks like wood. The disadvantage of these materials is that the choice of off-the-shelf shapes and sizes is limited, though growing.
The patio cover materials, the side of the house where you want your cover, the type of patio foundation you have and building-code requirements all play a part in the way the patio cover will be constructed and the way it will be attached to the foundation.
Some building codes require a vertical support embedded in concrete. Other codes might specify that a support be attached to a concrete foundation with a metal strap bolted to the concrete.
Because of the variety of patio covers, it's almost impossible to get an average cost for a patio cover.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
A wooden patio cover might cost 20 percent to 30 percent less initially than the same size aluminum cover.
Aluminum and other alternatives to wood cost less in the long run because little or no maintenance is required.
Buying a patio-cover kit online and building it yourself or having it done can cost $600 for an 8-foot-by-8-foot cover to about $1,300 for a 12-foot-by-12-foot cover.
Make sure you understand what's included and what is not. Also figure in shipping and what your local government requires in the way of permits.
Then talk with patio-cover contractors or lumber yard and home-center salespeople and compare.