© 2008 by Raymond Alexander Kukkee
Here is another wonderful home improvement project that can make your back yard more functional, offer more value and aesthetic appeal, and even make your weekends more fun. Perhaps you have already discovered you need a beautiful, functional patio to entertain a handful of friends, or perhaps you want to set up a barbecue for twenty-five or more special guests.
In building a DIY patio, size actually makes little difference, the pride and achievement experienced from building even the smallest patio can last for many years. The simple procedure to build a concrete-paver patio is essentially the same as building other sand-based patios. Regardless of size, you can do it yourself.
What is the best material for a patio? Why Concrete Pavers?
There are many choices, but concrete pavers are one of the most popular. Concrete pavers are one of the best materials offered and commonly available. Concrete pavers are highly durable, user friendly, and simple to install. They are less expensive than flagstone or costly slate. If you do choose concrete pavers, be assured you have made an excellent decision.
Concrete pavers are a perfect choice for the construction of a patio, walkway, or even a parking surface, –and out-perform ordinary brick for durability. Why? Using a vibratory casting process, concrete pavers are specifically manufactured to be more dense and harder than brick, and provide a more durable, long-lasting and attractive surface . Pavers can also be obtained in numerous colours, shapes and sizes.
Before you actually begin construction, a few important decisions must be made.
Location, Design, and Size
Let’s think carefully about location, design and size. How big should your patio be? If you entertain small groups of four or five people at a time and have an ordinary patio set, lounge chairs and barbecue, a patio that is 16 x20′ might be more than large enough.
If you entertain 20 couples or larger groups at a time, it should be sized more generously. Do consider taking the opportunity to plan a two -stage construction project if your project is very large. Doing so may help keep the project fun instead of tedious. Use a thoughtful choice of colour and contrasting accent colours as desired to maximize the appeal and give your project a personalized, but professional look.
What shape will your patio be?
Commercial pavers come in different shapes, the most common being square and rectangular. Do familiarize yourself with the shapes and patterns required to most easily achieve the proposed shape of your project. Some designs may be interlocking. Squares and rectangles can be sized specifically to match pre-selected pavers, so simplify the project to avoid cutting.
Round and curved surfaces are more challenging, requiring shaped pavers installed in a specific sequence. Consider all design possibilities carefully before ordering your pavers, and do draw a plan with measurements clearly marked to enable the simplified ordering of the correct number and shape of pavers . Base your calculations on the square footage required. Your paver supplier can offer help in ensuring the correct pavers and supplies are on hand for your specific project.
Location is critical.
To have direct access to a doorway from a patio can be extremely helpful in entertaining, but also consider the additional landscaping possibilities and improved traffic patterns both in the yard and on the patio itself offered by choosing a short access walkway built of similar pavers. Consider future aesthetic possibilities, screening options with bushes, fences and other criteria for privacy as desired. Consider the present or future location of shade trees. Careful placement of a patio can also eliminate worn pathways across grassy areas to and from other areas of the yard.
Other considerations include the obtaining of any building permits required, required clearance to lot lines, and verification of the location of any buried utilities in any area proposed for excavation.
Tools, materials and supplies you will need to start building:
- Wooden pickets or stakes
- Hammer, mallet or sledge hammer
- A carpenter’s line and line level
- Garden rake
- A shovel ( a sharp, flat spade is optimal for this application)
- Alternative methods of excavation if the project is large. A tracked mini-excavator can save a lot of time and energy.
- Sand (Construction sand, clean, free of rocks, roots, and trash)
- Gravel (Uniform, free-draining gravel with no large rocks or stones)
- Pavers Concrete pavers of choice including special concrete edgers if available.
- Framing material if used. Framing materials may be dimensioned lumber (2×4), landscaping timbers, concrete retainers, or other commercially available edging.
- Carpenter saw (If using wooden framers)
- Straight edge or suitable screed for leveling gravel and sand
- Galvanized nails or appropriate fasteners, such as screws
- Ground fabric
- Laser level or transit level (if available)
- Vibrating plate packer (If available)
Let’s build the patio !
1. Lay out the patio using pickets and a line or suitable string. If necessary, re-think and adjust the design now instead of later to save a lot of work. Evaluate the impact of the location carefully at this stage. If you are satisfied with the location and size on site, check all of the measurements to ensure accuracy. Establish corner stakes, driving them solidly into the ground.
2. Remove the sod or grass surface and topsoil. Use the sod or other purposes, to repair damaged lawn, build up low areas, correct drainage as necessary, or fill holes.
3. If your pavers are 2″ thick, excavate to a depth of 10-12″. That depth will allow 4″-6″ of gravel and a 4″ layer of bedding sand.
4. Rake the bottom of the excavation and install a 4″-6″ layer of gravel. Screed the gravel; that means level it carefully. The gravel will allow drainage . DO consider installing a French drain from the excavation if the area is low and may drain poorly, prior to installing the patio. (See “How to build a French Drain”)
5. Install the ground fabric on top of the gravel to prevent any emergence of sprouts from roots, or weeds.
6. Install the 4″ layer of sand. Level and compact it carefully, using a plate packer if available. Screed the surface smooth with a long 2×4″ or straightedge, and add or remove sand as required.
Hint: * Remember, compacting the base gravel and sand at the time of installation will result in less settling in the future. Inadequate compaction will allow individual pavers to settle unevenly, requiring eventual removal and filling at a later date. Wet the sand for optimal compaction, and add or remove sand as required to ensure proper bedding of individual pavers.
7. Do verify the surface will be as close to level as possible prior to beginning the installation of the pavers. To check the grade of the sand bed, use several pavers laying on the sand bedding as representative markers. Set up the laser level or transit, or use a line level from from paver to paver. A very large patio may have a minor slope to accommodate drainage, depending upon the location and lot characteristics. If the slope will be too steep to be comfortable for the proposed uses, do consider building on two separate levels suitably divided by a step, or in the extreme, include a low retaining wall between the levels if required. (See “The ABC’s of Retaining Walls and How to build them”)
8. Install treated wood 2×4 frames or landscaping timbers if desired, or approximate the outer location of the edging pavers. Verify all measurements.
9. Lay out the first row of pavers to a line installed across the excavation and proceed with the subsequent rows, ensuring the lines stay straight.
10. Hint: * If you are building a circular patio, install a picket approximately in the center of the site. Using using a line that is equal to the length of the radius of the proposed circle, mark the circle on the ground. If you ” lose” the center of the circle later, you can easily find it again. To do so, mark an arc in the sand from one side of the circle to the other side with a string equal in length to the radius by using a picket as the pivot point at any location around the perimeter. Scribe an arc across the circle from one side to the other. Move the picket to the first intersection mark you scribed on the perimeter and scribe another arc from side to side. Where the two arcs intersect in the middle is the precise center of the circle. Lay the correct paver at that point and proceed to lay out pavers as per your patio design.
Worthy of Note**
* Caution: If you are installing pavers around an important tree, DO take the time to mark a circle around the tree that approximates the drip line of the crown of the tree or close to it. Pave only to that point.
**Paving over the roots of a mature tree can, and often does kill the tree. Tree roots also increase in size and will eventually heave or displace the pavers if the tree survives having it’s roots paved over. Plan on using loose mulches around the tree, or plan for grass or flower beds close to the tree trunk instead.
11. Bed each paver unit with a firm tap from a rubber mallet as you go. If any pavers are low, remove them and add more sand. The objective is to have the top surface uniform in height when fully seated and compacted.
12. When all of the pavers are installed, pour sand on the surface and brush it into the cracks with a stiff-bristled broom. (Depending on paver design Water the patio lightly to help wash the sand into the cracks if necessary).
13. If you do have a vibrating plate packer available, run the plate packer at low speed carefully over the finished surface if possible. Doing so will help level the pavers, compact the sand in the joints, and reduce settling in the future.
14. Complete edging, and backfill any spaces around the perimeter.
15. Install landscaping, sod, bushes, or walkways as desired.
Now you can haul out the barbecue and set it up. Have a patio-warming party. It’s time to put your new patio to good use. Relax and enjoy!
Is that Incoming I hear?
Photo credits Wikimedia Commons