A patio can make or break your backyard. It provides a spot for grilling, a safe spot to set up a portable fire pit, or a surface for an outdoor dining area. A patio is so important for a lot of homeowners that they just don’t feel like their backyard is a backyard without one.
If you don’t have a patio, there’s no need to spend a lot of money to have one installed. You can cut labor costs and do it yourself! You don’t need much skill, experience, or money to install a backyard paver patio. Just follow these simple steps.
Plan Your Patio
Before you hit the hardware store, you need to do some planning to make sure your new patio will look nice and meet your needs. There are four primary decisions you’ll need to make in this planning stage:
- How big is this patio going to be?
- What shape will it be?
- What kind of pavers will you use?
- What paver pattern will you use?
If you know how you’re going to use your new patio, figuring out how big to make it should be fairly straightforward. A 6’x8’ patio should be enough for a bistro set. Do you want room for a grilling station or outdoor kitchen? If you’re getting a sizable grill, like one of these Traeger grills, you’re going to need enough room for the grill itself, plus a grilling station of some kind. You’ll probably also want a dining table and chairs that can seat four to six people. That will require at least 10’x10’ of patio space. Do you want to build a fire pit? You’re going to need about 15’x15’ of patio space just for the fire pit and seating, unless you plan to get one of those moveable fire pits.
Once you know how big you want your new patio to be, choosing the shape, type of pavers, and paver pattern should be easier. These are largely a matter of preference, although you should definitely choose pavers made of a material that can handle the temperature extremes they might be subject to in your area. Try not to get too ambitious with your paver pattern; complex ones can be fiddly, so a simpler pattern may be best. And while some homeowners try to avoid having to cut pavers by building a square patio, you may have to end up cutting some of them either way.
Get the Right Equipment
You’ll need to rent a plate compactor to build your new patio, but for the rest, you can use hand tools. You’ll need a shovel, a heavy-duty rake, a measuring tape, a leaf blower, a rubber mallet, a hand tamper, a four-foot level, a carpenter’s square, and a broom. You’ll need a circular saw with a concrete blade to cut pavers. You’ll also need a couple of lengths of one-inch PVC pipe and a 2”X4” plank.
Have Your Materials Delivered
Pavers are heavy, so it’s best to have them delivered. You’ll also need a fair amount of landscaping sand and gravel. Make sure to grab enough landscaping cloth to cover the whole patio area. You’ll also need jointing sand, some furring strips, landscaping paint, and string.
Prepare the Space
Once you have all your equipment and materials ready, prepare the space. Start by marking out the boundaries of your patio. If it’s going to be a square or rectangular patio, use the furring strips as stakes and run the string between them to mark the edges. If you’ve got your heart set on a curved or circular patio, you can use a long garden hose to mark the edge. Take your landscaping paint and mark the edge of where you’ll dig to — put this line at least six inches outside your patio boundary line, so you have room to install paver restraints to hold your pavers in place around the edges of the patio.
Now you can start digging. Add seven inches to the height of your pavers — that’s how far down you’ll need to dig out the dirt and sod to make your patio level with the ground. Make sure to slope the surface away from your home at a grade of one inch every four feet, so the patio has good drainage. Attach a one-inch-thick block of wood to your four-foot level to measure this slope. Once you’ve dug out the entire space to the right depth and slope, lay down your landscaping cloth. It’s okay if it hangs over the edge a bit.
Install the Foundation and Pavers
Your patio will need a seven-inch foundation consisting of six inches of gravel and one inch of sand. Use your rake and shovel to spread two inches of gravel across the whole area, then wet it with a hose and compress it with the plate compactor. Do this three times for the six-inch layer. Make sure to check your slope throughout the process.
To lay the sand, place the lengths of PVC pipe across the gravel foundation, a few feet apart. Use them to gauge how deep your sand is. Use the two-by-four to level out the surface of the sand.
Lay your first rows of pavers around the edges of the space, and work your way towards the middle. Install your paver restraints around the edge of your patio space after you’re a few rows in. Pound in the stakes about every foot or so to support the paver restraints. Make sure to keep checking your slope as you lay the pavers. You should also be checking that the tops of the pavers are level. Use your mallet to tamp down any pavers that stick up, and lift low-lying pavers by adding more sand under them. Use the straightedge of your level to make sure your rows are straight, if you’re making straight rows. Leave about ¼ inch between each paver.
Put on the Finishing Touches
With all the pavers laid, it’s time to add the jointing sand. Use your broom to sweep it into the joins between your pavers. Tamp the pavers with the hand tamper to settle the sand. Repeat this until the cracks are full. Then you can blow off excess jointing sand with the leaf blower. Make sure you clean the tops of your pavers carefully; leftover jointing sand will mar their appearance.
When you’re satisfied with your patio, spray it with water to activate the jointing sand. Let the sand cure for 24 hours, and then you’ll be ready to use your new patio!