Installing Our (First) Patio

This past weekend we were so incredibly lucky to have two consecutive days of perfect patio-building weather. As you know, it has been hit or miss with NC weather this winter. Mainly misses. Today it is back to a winter advisory alert! Why does it always seem I preface home improvement blog posts with a weather report?

When the weather is just right, January, February, and March lend the perfect timing for outdoor improvements because I want to be able to enjoy the space come spring! This year, we are thrilled to move forward with improving the area between the parking pad and back door. We had seriously considered installing a deck, but ultimately (and happily) settled on building a patio instead.

Here’s a reminder of what the backyard looked like when we first purchased the house in January 2013:

Backyard in January 2013

Thankfully, last January and February were extremely rainy and icky. You may be thinking “thankfully?! I thought you loved gorgeous no-cloud-in-the-sky seasons all year round?”. I am thankful because were able to quickly determine that we had major drainage issues! Which I am even more relieved to have figured out a year ago because we immediately installed French drains directly underneath where we built our patio this weekend.

Drainage is key for any homeowner. I strongly advise anyone who wants to construct outdoor amenities to first ensure that storm water is being properly drained. </psa>

Drainage improvements

Ok, now to the fun part of actually putting in the patio.

The first step to installing a patio with pavers is to Google “how to build a paver patio”. 🙂

There are so many great resources out there between YouTube and DIYnetwork, but we went with the Lowes.com instructions. Ben and I took measurements and sketched out the schematic. Then we chose our patio paver style and went with allen + roth Allegheny Concrete Countryside Patio Stones. Since we wanted to mix things up, we bought both the 6×9 size and the 6×6 size. Picking out the stones really isn’t as difficult as it seems. There are so many options, but I would suggest to anyone to just go with your gut!

To determine how many stones needed, most normal people would continue to Google “patio paver calculator” or something of that nature. Ben used his freakish brain to calculate that we needed 166 bricks of each size to cover the approximate 100 square foot area of patio. After a quick fact-check, we were ready to go.

Once we were in the Lowe’s store, figuring out how much we needed of everything else was easy thanks to helpful packaging and Lowe’s employees! Here’s a breakdown of everything we purchased during our first trip to Lowe’s…

  • 200 6×6 paver stones @ $.79 each
  • 200 6×9 paver stones @ $.99 each
  • 400-sq-ft roll landscape fabric @ $40
  • 50 bags .5 cu ft paver base @ $3.80 each
  • 6 bags .5 cu ft paver sand @ $3.97 each
  • 2 40-lb buckets of polymeric sand @ $19.98 each
  • 10 6-ft paver edges @ $6.27 each
  • 5 8-packs of paver edge nails @ $4.28 each

After carting (and fork-lifting) everything up to the register, the tricky part was actually loading it into an accommodating vehicle to transport it all home! Luckily my father-in-law has a heavy-duty truck that was able to haul it away. But it was definitely put to the test what with 2,000 lbs of paver base in the bed! I think we’ll give his truck a rest next time and pay the $79 delivery fee.

If you are planning on building your own patio as well, consider the tools you will or may need, including:

  • Various shovels
  • Work gloves
  • Garden rake
  • 3 prong rake
  • Scissors
  • Garden clippers for unruly roots
  • Shop broom
  • Tamp
  • Rubber mallets
  • Level and Square
  • Hacksaw for trimming the edging
  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Carpenter pencil
  • Wheel barrow
  • 2×4 for screeding and spacing
  • Spotlight for working after sundown
  • Willing and able family members
  • Elbow grease
  • Pizza
Told ya! It was a beautiful day for patio-building!
Told ya! It was a beautiful day for patio-building!

Once everything made it back to the house in one piece (including the truck), it was time to start digging out the patio area.

Digging is one of the most strenuous chores in my opinion. I have hauled more dirt in the last year than I care to disclose. Moving dirt (and clay!) is hard because there is no way of disposing of it and there are only so many bald spots in our yard to fill in! We did discover some buried treasures such as remnants of a fish tank (don’t worry, the fish found a safe new home last year). Since there had been a few paver stones lying around, there was also some leftover gravel we dug up that we were able to recycle when putting down the base. The section had to have enough room for about 4 inches of paver base + 1 inch sand + 2 inch thick brick. As I said before, drainage is very important, so we were mindful of our French drain while digging as well as the general grading of the area.

Patio Building Step 1: Dig out area

Laying down the Landscaping Fabric

Laying down the Landscaping Fabric
Evenly raking the Paver Base + Recycled Gravel
Evenly raking the Paver Base + Recycled Gravel
Tamping down the base
Tamping down the base
Checking the measurement and level of base
Checking the measurement and level of base

It was around this point when we had to call Ben’s parents and ask them to pick up more gravel on their way over. Better to over estimate in this type of situation.

Installing plastic edging
Installing plastic edging
Spreading sand over the base
Spreading sand over the base
Evening top layer of sand while laying bricks and setting them with a rubber mallet
Screeding top layer of sand while laying bricks and setting them with a rubber mallet

When it got down to the pattern of our patio, we kind of flew by the seat of our pants. The plan was to create a border around the patio and fill it in with a running bond. The 4-ft area outside of the fence was left up to chance.

Our patio design involved curved areas, so bricks had to be split. Sometimes they were split nicely...sometimes not so much!

Our patio design involved curved areas, so bricks had to be split. Sometimes they were split nicely…sometimes not so much! But we got creative with placement of the scraps. We learned to save the split bricks for last to see where the gaps occurred along the edge.

Yet again, another Lowe’s run had to be made. We actually ran out of bricks! Ben and his dad picked up 60 more bricks of each size. Once the bricks were all filled in, our parental workers clocked out for the day and the sun went down. Ben had anticipated working into the night and bought a spotlight. It only took about 20 minutes to figure out how to set it up, but without it, our work wouldn’t have been complete by day’s end.

Working into the night!

Meticulously spreading the polymeric sand into the crevices.
Meticulously spreading the polymeric sand into the crevices.

The polymeric sand stains the paver bricks, so we were very careful spreading the sand by hand into the nooks and crannies.

Giving it a final misting.
Giving it a final misting.

Patio 15And voila! The patio is all set in time for spring…err…more winter weather!

Top: January 2013, Bottom: March 2014
Top: January 2013, Bottom: March 2014

Patio 17

Patio 18Finally, we can get to our back door without worrying about icky mud, slippery bricks, and uneven ground. We’re very happy with how our DIY walkway worked out, and can’t wait to build our SECOND patio in the next couple weeks! In the meantime, I’ll also be busy sprucing up the landscaping surrounding this walkway.