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Backyard Renovations - How To Build A Patio

Updated on October 27, 2015
RedElf profile image

Elle Fredine (RedElf) photographer, published author, educator. Can't use it as is? Fix-it, adapt-it, and do-it-yourself whenever possible

Looking out over the old back patio from the kitchen window last summer, I could see every crack and crumbled spot. Every crevice seemed to be sprouting its own family grouping of dandelions and narrow-leaved hawk weed.

The crevices in the tilting, broken slabs, finally damaged beyond repairing by long-gone frosts, had progressed past unsightly and were now flirting with downright unsafe. It was definitely time for backyard renovations - time to replace the patio. Visions of a beautiful new brick patio with retaining walls and a curved flagstone garden path danced in my head.

We contacted our ever-friendly contractor, master of home renovations, to see what our remodeling guru thought our best options would be. We had kicked around the idea of a stamped concrete patio, but were reluctant to simply replace the old cement patio with a new one, even though that was our most cost-effective option.

Patio Heaven
Patio Heaven


The time we spent searching online and trudging from store to store looking at the products that were available seemed never-ending.

In the end it paid off though, and by the time we had found a product that was within the budget and something we both liked, we had learned a lot about the various materials.

The large pavers are certainly faster to lay than the small bricks, and there are some lovely patterns available. They are also reasonably cost effective.

We had experienced some problems with frost close to the house, though.

The old pavement was cracked and heaved up in many places, and we didn't want to have to re-seat large pavers almost every Spring.

We eventually decided on a brick patio. We opted for the slightly more expensive cobblestone style brick pavers.

We liked the rounded, weathered edges and the color blends suited the old house quite well.

The final shape was a flowing curved profile, taking up more space than the original.

It was planned to be deeper on one side to accommodate the BBQ, and a patio table and chair set.

The side under the kitchen window would remain about the same size as we had plans for eventually building a deck and three season sun-room off the dining room.

We also decided on a round medallion pattern for the center of the larger side of the patio.

It would be a perfect focal point for the table placement, as well as echoing the curved edge and the elegant curved, raised planters that were planned for that side of the new patio.

The Proper Bed for Paving Stones
The Proper Bed for Paving Stones
Basics of Laying Pavers
Basics of Laying Pavers
Removing the sod form the area to be bricked
Removing the sod form the area to be bricked
Leveling the sand
Leveling the sand
Smoothing the sand bed with a hand trowel
Smoothing the sand bed with a hand trowel
Laying the brick
Laying the brick

Destruction first, then construction...

Whether you decide to use a recycled paving product or natural brick and stone pavers, your approach will be relatively the same in terms of site preparation.

After the remains of the old patio had been jack-hammered out and the rubble was hauled away to the recycle center, we were ready to begin leveling the bed. As well, the outline for the new edge was marked on the lawn.

Starting at the outside edge, we removed the sod and excess topsoil. The good black dirt was retained to be spread on the garden, but the clay and gravel went into a pile to use for leveling the base.

The most important factor to keep in mind was the need for proper drainage. We needed to maintain at least a 3 degree slope away from the house. In the end, the house side of the patio was a consistent 2" higher than the finished outer edge.

Once the base is scraped down, leveled and tamped, a heavy felt or landscape fabric is often laid.

As the native soil was a heavy clay, and weeping tile had already been installed around the house, we opted to omit the felt layer.

The native soil was heavy enough to discourage weeds own its own, and drainage was not at issue.

We then laid a 6" deep bed of pea gravel, which was carefully leveled and tamped. Then that was covered with a thick, 2" layer of fine sand.

We used a huge leveling tool like the one in the picture to make sure the fine sand was evenly distributed and level, then we rolled it and added a bit of extra sand here and there to bring it back up to grade.

Finally we were ready to begin laying the pavers.

We had already worked out the pattern on heavy brown paper using the actual size of the pavers.

Using string lines attached to stakes, we laid out the large grid, and centered the brown paper pattern, pushing a metal garden stake through the center.

Carefully removing the paper, we folded it in half and then repositioned it in the center, so that it covered a half of its original area.

It made a perfect guide for laying the first few courses of brick circles, and for keeping us on track for the overall size.


Finishing Up...

Each paver was tamped and leveled in place, and the level of each course of bricks was carefully checked.

As well, we worked on large pieces of 5/8" plywood that we laid over the bricks and moved around as needed to avoid exerting too much pressure in any one spot.

Once all the bricks were in place - a second weekend effort (the first weekend had been devoted to preparation) - we used stiff brooms to brush the remaining sand over the pavers, making sure to fill all the cracks evenly.

All that was left after that was the final cleanup and celebration.

We did wash down the patio and re-sand it once the first weekend, and made sure we had a wheelbarrow full of fine sand handy for the odd bit of crack filling that was inevitable.

Since the patio was laid though, we have only had to replace a couple of bricks.

One broke when a large, hot BBQ grill was dropped on it, chipping off a corner. The other fell prey to a metal snow shovel before we learned to sweep the patio regularly - not a bad total for the effort involved.

A lovely "ancient cobblestones" effect
A lovely "ancient cobblestones" effect

© 2009 RedElf


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    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      So glad you enjoyed the hub - have fun with your yard project!

    • A Hightower profile image

      Alexis in Brooklyn 

      8 years ago from New York, NY

      This is a great Hub and I will definitely be using the information in my own yard! So well done. Many thanks!

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      Hi, PiaC. Thanks - with our weather today, I am more inspired to lay ON the patio :D Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting

    • PiaC profile image


      8 years ago from Oakland, CA

      I love the step by step guide! I am suddenly inspired to lay down a patio :)

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for the idea, eLightspot, and thanks for stopping by to comment.

    • eLightSpot profile image


      8 years ago from Enid

      Great step by step, I think everyone appreciates you sharing! In your next hub, you should talk about installing the lighting on the patio as well.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for stopping by to comment, A1- Fire Pits. I have included your comments below without your link

      Al- Fire Pits 16 hours ago

      A fantastic hub. We have to replace a concrete slab in the backyard this coming summer. I was going to tackle it myself, after reading your hub I'm going to give that bit a lot of thought. i'm not sure if I'm up to it. Thanks for some great ideas.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much - and good for you! The brick can be a lot of work, but it certainly makes a great addition to any yard ;)

    • Sandyksk profile image

      Sandy Jauregui 

      8 years ago from Sanger

      Amazing! We also did our backyard this last spring, all by ourselves...3 tons of bricks...3 tons of sand...3 turned out amazing...we love it. I love your yard...I know how much it takes to do it. It's worth it, every brick. :)

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Canada

      I would love a paver driveway someday! Thanks for stopping by to comment, garoutfur.

    • garoutfur profile image


      9 years ago

      Great hub and thanks for doing all the research. Pavers are a personal favorite of mine. I use to sell pavered driveways; they always looked killer.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Canada

      Pavers Over Concrete 3 weeks ago

      Diggin the hub redelf.

      ...and thanks for your comments, Pavers!

      Thanks so much, ASFA123! So nice of you to stop by and comment.

    • ASFA123 profile image


      9 years ago


    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much, Granny's House. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Granny's House profile image

      Granny's House 

      9 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

      Great hub I will book mark

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Canada

      Hi, Michael. So glad it was helpful - there's a lot of info on line, but I got most of mine from my son, the ex-brickie ;)

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 

      9 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      Great informative hub! I am about to do a project like this ....Thanks!

    • profile image

      What's News 

      9 years ago

      I like the herringbone design. Great hub I rated up.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Canada

      Ooooh! I would love a flagstone patio. Some day! Thanks so much!

    • relica profile image


      9 years ago from California

      Great instructions. I put a flagstone patio in a few years ago, and it was a lot of work. I did all of the proper prep work and installed gravel and sand, and I have not had any type of drainage or pooling problems at all, even in really strong rains. I still want to put in a pavers patio, so I have bookmarked your hub. Thanks for the great info!

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much - we had a couple of years to work on the project ;)

    • Neverbetter profile image


      9 years ago from Albany, NY

      Awesome hub! I love the DIY hubs about home improvement. You obviously put a lot of time into this one....excellent job!

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Canada

      Ty, Ty, my son laid brick sidewalk and patios for a summer so we got the real skinny on how to accomplish this.

    • Enelle Lamb profile image

      Enelle Lamb 

      9 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Will have to bookmark this hub for the spring ;) great job and awesome info for the d-i-y in all of us!

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Canada

      Patios can be big or small projects and look fabulous once they are done - good luck to you, Artemus Gordon - are you also a fan of Wild Wild West?

    • Artemus Gordon profile image

      Artemus Gordon 

      9 years ago

      I need to do something outside my back door. I would like to have a deck, but worry that it would need too much care. So I will probably end up with a patio.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Canada

      Thanks again, Candie V. Wish I could be there to enjoy it, LOL, but come on over anyway - there's a picnic table in the yard of the apartment building!

      Thanks so much, Joel! We were very lucky that my son had spent a summer laying brick walkways, etc., for a construction company.

      Thanks so much Beth100. So glad you enjoyed the Hub!

    • Beth100 profile image


      9 years ago from Canada

      Nicely written. I've forgotten how many different patterns one can make with's been a while. Thanks for the refresher course! BTW, beatuiful patio!

    • Joel McDonald profile image

      Joel McDonald 

      9 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Wow! Very informative post for the Do-it-yourselfer! Thanks for the post! I wish I would have read it when I re-did my patio myself about 15 years ago. (It was hideous within 2 years after I redid it, and when I sold it, that was the new buyer's biggest complaint.)

      You've earned yourself a thumbs up AND a new fan!

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 

      9 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      RedElf! I love your new patio! Brick just makes it feel like you've put a lot of thought into your patio, not just a plain, poured slab! I'll be over for a BBQ next summer!

      PS.. check your email in-box!! Hugs!!


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