No-Fuss Materials: Built-in Base
Why: Mortared to a wood, concrete-block, or precast-concrete frame, it looks like and lasts as long as natural stone but is simpler to DIY because it's lightweight and easy to cut.
Price: $5 to $25 per square foot uninstalled
Why: Affordable and a cinch to maintain. Requires careful prep, and you may have to cut bricks to fit. But if you've got basic masonry skills, it's a good weekend project.
Price: $3 to $6 per square foot uninstalled
Why: Troweled onto a wood, concrete-block, or precast-concrete frame, it's a hard-wearing and flameproof finish that comes in colors.
Price: $4 to $9 per square foot uninstalled