How to Build a Patio With Pavers
A patio can be a relaxing oasis in your front or back yard. Adding attractive patio furniture and plants adds curb appeal while making it a comfortable place to unwind with friends and family. One of the most popular and elegant patio designs is a patio with a single stone slab of concrete or pavers -- a pattern of squares (made from either concrete, stone, marble, brick, or other materials) that form an eye-catching design.
If you’re planning on building a patio of your own, you may also want to weigh how complicated it is to build the patio, how long your project may take, and cost.
The average cost of building a brick patio ranges between $1,000 and $2,000. The cost of your patio may depend on the type of pavers you choose, so be mindful of the material cost when budgeting for your project.
As for timing to complete your project, building a brick patio may require a timeframe of 2-3 weeks, if you’re an experienced DIYer and have capable help. If you’re inexperienced, the project may be spread over 2-3 months. Building a patio with pavers isn’t a difficult project, but it does require a lot of time and patience to build properly.
If you are planning on installing a concrete patio below the position of your stair landing, you will need to adjust your stair design to properly land on your new patio once it has been completed.
A basic overview of planning an easy DIY patio involves the following steps.
- Plan your patio design and materials
- Choose the location
- Assemble your tools and materials
- Stake the patio perimeter
- Decide how tall your patio will be (based on your soil)
- Establish a level base for the pavers (using an excavation tool)
- Lay a fabric groundcover
- Put down gravel
- Top with sand
- Add edging
- Outline where the pavers will go
- Lay the pavers
Tools Needed to Lay A Patio
As you’re gathering your equipment in preparation, the tools you’ll need to lay a brick patio include:
- Mason’s string
- Tape measure
- Chalk line
Materials Needed to Build a Patio
Materials you’ll need to build a patio include:
- Wooden Stakes
- Landscape fabric
- Edging Material
Steps for Building a Patio & Installing Pavers
Before you build your patio, it’s important to measure your space and find out if you need a permit to build a brick or stone patio. While there are some differences with laying brick or stone, the overall steps are the same and it starts with creating a design and a good foundation.
Step 1: Design Your Patio Layout
What type of patio do you want to build? Do you want to build it with brick or stone pavers? Stone pavers come in a variety of materials, ranging from limestone to cobblestone to flagstone to concrete.
The term “paver” refers to the way the material is cut -- which is flat and thin. These stones are designed for patios and walkways. There are dozens of options that vary in cost and size so it makes sense to visit a stone supplier to get an idea of the type of paver you want.
Once you have an idea of the aesthetic, it’s time to formally design your new patio’s layout. Decide on your patio paver design to create a pleasing aesthetic. You can sketch out your DIY patio design for later reference or look online to see if there is a design you’d like to copy for your own backyard patio.
Step 2: Gathering Materials
In addition to purchasing pavers, you’ll also need sand, gravel, and landscape fabric to go underneath the pavers and establish the foundation for your patio.
The surface level of your patio may be built of brick or stone, but it’s what goes below that surface that will make sure your patio looks good and gives you years of enjoyment. Proper preparation of the ground with landscape fabric keeps out weeds. Layers of sand and gravel create a foundation for drainage. Together, these materials create a stable and long-lasting base for your patio.
The staff at your local home supply store can help you decide on the right amount of materials for the size of your patio and arrange for delivery to your home, making the process easier. Be sure to take accurate measurements of the space and photos of the type of design you’re planning.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll discuss concrete pavers because they’re easier to work with especially if it’s your first time building a DIY patio.
Step 3: Define The Space
Beyond putting thought into an attractive design for your patio and observing how the light will hit it at several times throughout the day, you will want to confirm that the area where you plan to build your patio is actually viable to build on.
Choose an area with good drainage and contact your local utilities company to make sure there are no pipes, cables, or wires underground that could be damaged when you start digging. Once you’re certain it’s safe to proceed, outline the area where you want to situate your patio with a measuring tape, wooden stakes, and mason’s string. You can use your trowel to dig the space by hand and place the stakes.
Step 4: Map Out Your Materials
Now that you have an idea of the size of your planned patio, you can better determine the amount of building materials you’ll need. From brick or concrete pavers to gravel and sand, you’ll be dealing with heavy materials, so it’s a good idea to enlist some help building your paver patio if you can, asking a friend or partner to assist with the task.
Step 5: Establish the Slope
Proper drainage will help your new patio last a long time. Assess the terrain where you want to build your patio and establish the drainage path for rainwater runoff. Place stakes in the ground to showcase the direction and tie strings to them. Check that they’re level.
Continue marking 10 feet along the planned slope and pull the string taut. This will be your guide to dig an inch lower after every 10 ft. interval for water runoff.
Step 6: Establish Your Patio Depth and Foundation
Measure your paving stones for your patio height. Then, leave another 6 inches for your foundation, depending on your soil. Wet and low-lying areas will require a thicker sand and gravel base than well-drained soil. However, it’s common to dig 6 - 10 inches to lay your foundation. If you’re not sure about the soil in your yard, check with a soil engineer.
Step 7: Excavation
To build your brick or stone patio, you’ll need to move about 16 feet of dirt. You can do this by hand or you can hire an excavator. You’ll also need a place to put all the dirt you move. Some people use this dirt to create raised planters. If you don’t have room for it, consider sharing with a neighbor for their own landscaping purposes or you can rent a dumpster to carry it away.
Step 8: Compact the Soil
Check with your local home supply store for a “tamper,” a tool with a flat bottom that packs or “tamps” down soil or dirt. A tamper will help you establish a smooth foundation by compacting the ground after you’ve removed dirt and soil. Once your ground is level, you’re ready for the next step.
Step 9: Lay the Gravel and Landscape Fabric
Landscape fabric keeps your patio weed-free and prevents weeds from springing up between any spaces in your brick or stone pavers design. Landscape fabric also keeps the pavers in place as part of your sand and gravel foundation. Your fabric should extend past the patio edges. Unroll a generous amount of fabric, extending 6 inches or more beyond your patio and use wooden stakes to hold it in place. Later, you’ll trim the excess.
Next, you’ll fill the area 2 inches of gravel to hold down your landscaping fabric.
Step 10: Smooth the Gravel
Use a plate compactor to tamp down the first layer of gravel. Then, spread the second level and tamp it down, too. Wet the gravel and start in the center, then work your way out and cover the entire area. Next, you’ll add the sand, which help the paving stones stay in place.
Step 11: Lay the Edging and Screed the Sand
Frame the patio with aluminum edging. It’s both lightweight and durable. Use a tape measure and level to coordinate the edging so it’s even before nailing it into place.
Lay ¾ in. iron pipes under the string. You want them to protrude above the stones ⅜ in. Then, pour your sand onto the area in between the pipes. Next, you’ll drag a 2 x4 across the pipes to level the sand. Then, you’ll remove the pipes and fill the trenches with sand. This helps the pavers stay flush.
Step 13: Lay the Border
Whether you’re using stone or brick pavers for the patio border, measure a few of your stones or bricks to determine their average size. That way, you’ll know how tall your patio will be. Then, stretch strings across the patio to indicate the height. You can tie them to the wooden stakes. Remember to allow for the brick thickness plus an additional inch for the sand foundation. Shimmy a paver into the sand around the perimeter. Then, add another paver and another. If needed, add more sand as you work. You want your border stones to be held in place by the sand.
Step 14: Level the Stones
Once you’ve installed pavers around the edge of your patio, measure them with a level to see if they’re even. If they’re uneven, gently tamp them into place.
Step 15: Snap the Baseline
Draw chalk lines in the sand to indicate the design of your pavers. This will give you an outline to follow as you install your brick or stone pavers.
Step 16: How to Install Concrete Pavers
Start at the baseline and lay a row of pavers. Align the first paver with the next and continue making sure you lay them tightly together. Keep going until your patio is complete.
Step 17: Assess the Cuts
Your pavers may not fit at the edges and that’s ok. Use a marker to draw a line where they’ll need cutting. Then, use a masonry saw to cut the bricks where you marked them. You can rent a masonry saw or electric tile cutting saw. Use protective eyewear, gloves, and ear protection. Once your pavers are cut, you can chip the edges with a hammer to keep with the natural feel.
Step 18: Make it Sturdy
Fold additional landscape fabric lengthwise and edge the perimeter. Then, pack dirt around the edges to hold in place. This will also help hold the pavers in place.
Step 19: Tamp it Down
Use the compactor again to even the bricks and embed them firmly in the sand. If you have thin pavers, skip this step as it may break those pavers. Otherwise, keep the compactor moving evenly over the top of your patio.
Step 20: Pour (More) Sand
Add sand between the bricks. Dump more sand on top of your new DIY patio and sweep the sand into the areas between the pavers. Keep tamping, leveling, and adding sand until the areas between the pavers are full. This is an important step and the sand will essentially serve as a “glue” that holds your pavers in place.
Step 21: Seal Your Patio
A water-based sealer will help protect your patio. It hardens the sand so it stays in place and doesn’t wash away when it rains.
Step 22: Choose Patio Furnishings
Couches, chairs, coffee tables, and more -- there are almost endless types of patio furniture made with outdoor use in mind. Think about what would create the most relaxing and enjoyable outdoor environment for your patio. The right furniture sets the tone for your patio: Do you want a casual wicker look or do you want a hardwood like teak? Consider what works with your home and budget, as well as your tastes.
Step 23: Landscaping
Like patio furniture, your landscaping and decorating ideas will affect its appearance. Depending on your needs and budget, you may opt for potted plants you can move around and change out seasonally or add walkways and shrubbery.
Laying a brick or stone patio will add enjoyment to your outdoor living space. It does require planning and heavy lifting but is well worth the effort. When building a patio, it’s helpful to have an able-bodied assistant or two help measure and move heavy materials like pavers, sand, and gravel.