Yourself a Patio!
Reprinted with permission from
the June 1989 issue of The Family Handyman.
Using several easy techniques
available pavers, you can create an attractive
outdoor living area.
By DUANE JOHNSON TFH Editorial Staff
Step out onto a nicely
designed patio and you'll agree that it makes both an attractive
and practical addition to a backyard. An extremely diverse range
of patio stones, some natural but most factory-made, let you stretch
your imagination to come up with a unique design that fits your
home. The result is a comfortable place to play, barbecue, garden
or simply relax in the sun (or shade).
Building a patio as
large as ours (12 ft. x 16 ft.) is a big project and requires
some technical experience in leveling and making square comers.
There's a good deal of muscle work too, lots of digging and shoveling.
But when it comes to setting stones into the patio mosaic, even
the kids can help out. Allow several weekends to complete a patio
this large, one for laying it out and excavating and the other
for setting the stones. The materials for this patio cost $700.
You'll find a patio
easy to design. Simply lay out its approximate dimensions with
along clothesline. Adjust the shape, add paths if you want, and
sift though details like plantings, borders and slopes in the
yard. Take a sketch of your plan (with rough dimensions) to a
landscaping specialty store or home center. You may want to call
and ask a professional landscaper where to find a good patio product
There are two material
choices you need to make: the patio stones and the border. Patio
stones come in many shapes, colors and sizes. For easier pricing,
compare their square-foot cost. Depending upon your region, this
should range from $1.50 to $2.50. Borders may be made from treated
lumber, plastic, stone or metal and, of course, vary in price
also. Be sure that the border you pick will retain your particular
For our first step,
we laid out the rectangle which most closely approximates the
patio's finished shape. Notice how the actual border (the dotted
line) doesn't follow the rectangle exactly; we added the variations
To guide accurate
stone laying, it's important to establish parallel sides and 90-degree
comers. You can make an accurate 90 degree angle using the"3 -4-5
triangle" method. Begin by measuring 3 ft. along a straight base
line, in this case the house. Then with two measuring tapes and
a helper to hold the ends, measure 4 ft. from one end of the 3-ft.
line and 5 ft. from the other. Drive a stake where the 4- and
5-ft. marks meet. The angle opposite the 5-ft. side will be 90
With a string line,
extend the 4-ft. side of the triangle to establish the patio width.
(For large patios, you can be more accurate by doubling the triangle
sides to 6-8-10.) Drive stakes at the four corners.
an adequate patio slope so rainwater will drain. Find a long,
very straight 2x4 on which to set your level, and establish a
level plane between the comer stakes. Intermediate stakes placed
every 6 to 8 ft. simplify this process, and later will be used
as guides when making the patio perfectly flat. Mark the slope
on the stakes on the low side of the patio, allowing about 1 in.
drop for every 8 ft. away from the house. Mark the proper level
on the intermediate stakes as well.
Third, decide your
patio height. We wanted ours to be 8 in. below the first tread
of a stairway. The patio height also should be even with, or slightly
above, the surrounding ground so that water drains off into the
the patio shape deeply enough for the packed aggregate base, sand
and patio stones. Use the reference lines on the stakes to properly
slope the bed.
As you might expect,
the secret of a long-lasting patio lies in a good base for the
stones to rest on. How thick a base depends upon the soil; low-lying,
wet soils need a thicker base than well-drained soil. Three inches
of well-compacted, crushed stone should be enough. However, the
type of base material available varies from region to region.
Local patio stone dealers can recommend a suitable base and help
you figure how much you'll need. They'll also help gather and
perhaps deliver your other supplies - washed concrete sand, edge
restraints and patio stones. Seriously consider home delivery.
Remember, this stuff is heavy.
The mechanical vibrator
plate ($60/day rental) in saves a lot of hand labor when compacting
the aggregate base. Later, you'll want to pack down the pavers
too, so it will be well worth the rental fee. It's a heavy machine,
for adults only, but is quite easy to use. For very small patios,
a hand tamper, will be enough. (You can make one by nailing two
12-in. squares of 3/4-in. plywood to the end of a 4x4.)
It's worth being a
little fussy about flattening the base and making sure it slopes
just right. Your patio surface will conform exactly to the surface
of the base, showing every dip and rise
Next, nail down your
edge restraints, being careful to accurately follow your string
lines. Add in the edge variations for plants, curves, etc. Some
edges can be adjusted later, especially in narrow areas, to avoid
extra stone cutting.
Add the sand and screed
it smooth in about 6-ft.-sq. sections, laying the pavers before
smoothing the next section. We used interlocking concrete pavers,
also available in several other shapes and colors. Notice the
specially cast edge pieces, which help minimize cutting.
Should you find the
patio stones not aligning, stop and find the problem. Check the
starting comer to make sure it's exactly 90 degrees, and adjust
the edge restraints if necessary. Successively tapping each new
stone in the same direction with your hammer handle may correct
the problem as well.
When cutting the final
edge pieces, cracking the pavers with a hammer and a wide mason's
chisel will work for simple crosscuts. But for angled cuts and
finer fitting of curves, you'll need to rent a tub saw with a
diamond blade ($35 - $40/day rental). It's quick and accurate.
Be sure to wear safety goggles when cutting or hammering stone.
Finally, set the pavers
firmly into the sand with the vibrator plate, using a mallet and
wood block to set hard-tin-each areas. Sweep sand into the surface
cracks and vibrate them a final time, sweeping more in as necessary.
The sand tends to wash down after a few rainstorms, so keep some
extra handy to refill the gaps.