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Brickwork in the Garden

Updated on May 31, 2010

No doubt about it, brick is beautiful. It's one of the oldest building materials. It's classic and timeless. Now more than ever, people are starting to landscape with brick. It can be easy to do, as long as you have the proper instructions, proper tools, a little spare time, and some extra brawn. And even if you choose to let the pros do the work, you'll have a better idea of what to expect.

Whether it's paths or patios, there is a brick to complement your garden. Brick is durable, natural, ages beautifully with time, and comes in a spectrum of color and texture. But before you pick your paver, you must know that not all brick is created equal. It's important to make sure you know what you're buying, because you get what you pay for.

For this project, we're using clay pavers. And I've got to tell you, I thought all brick was brick, but there is a definite difference. I think in most people's minds, a paver is a concrete paver. But as a matter of fact, clay pavers have been around a lot longer. Choose clay pavers because, generally speaking, they're stronger, they come in a wider variety of colors, and if you don't want to do any maintenance, they're an excellent choice!

Three easy patterns that you can use are: basket weave, running bond, and herringbone. Let’s use herringbone for the patio below.
 
Prep the Area 

You need to start by prepping the area. The first task is to remove 7 inches of soil so that the brick will be flush with the house. Be sure to mark underground lines before digging in. After leveling out the area and outlining it with spray paint, it's time to lay the base layer.

Lay Crushed Stone

The cushion for our patio is crushed limestone. The first step, of course, is to put the crushed limestone down.

Compact the Crushed Stone

Does your crushed stone layer seem a little bumpy? You'll have to get rid of that using a plate compactor, which you can pick up at any rental center. Use that to flatten your crushed limestone. At least 4" of limestone will be needed for the bottom layer. You'll want to add about 2" at a time, compacting the limestone in between each layer.

This is a critical step, because if it's not done right, the bricks will move over time. Now you're ready for the sand, which you'll do in sections.
 
Add Sand and Level 

The idea here is to use the pipes as a guide to create an even 1 inch layer of sand. Lay out the 1 inch pipes and arrange them so that they slope away from the house. That way, rain will wash away from your finished patio.

Add the sand between the pipes, and lay the 2x4 over the top of the pipes. Now pull the 2x4 over the pipes, dragging and smoothing the sand as you go. Fill in any empty areas with sand, and smooth with the 2x4 until the sand is even. Remove the pipes and repeat until the entire area you plan to pave is even and smooth.
 
Set Up a Plumb Line

Now, the easy part of the job: laying the brick! First of all, start back in a corner. It's the easiest spot to start with this particular type of pattern. Set up a plumb line to keep things square with the house. That way you know that once the line is straight, then everything else will be straight. 

Lay the Brick

The pattern on the edge serves as a border around the whole patio. It's called a soldier course, and it's basically some bricks lined up next to each other. On the inside we have a herringbone pattern, which is a very simple pattern to lay. It's just a brick laid in each direction, end-to-end. As you lay the brick, try to alternate the colors of the pavers as you go. 

Fill the Holes 

Don't worry if your pattern leaves holes that require half a brick. There's an easy solution. You can rent a tub saw, which cuts the brick like butter! Fill in the holes, and you're ready for the next step. 

Install Plastic Edging 

Plastic edging helps keep the pavers in place and keeps them from sliding sideways. The key here is to sink the edging about ½" lower than the brick. That way, it's hidden when covered with mulch. Then, use big metal spikes to anchor the edging into place. 

Layer Sand Into the Cracks 

The last step is to sweep sand into all the cracks. It's important to spread enough sand so that it gets deep inside the cracks between pavers. Using the compactor will help the sand settle and stabilize the bricks. Repeat this process about three times, until no more sand can get inside.

Take it from me, if you plan to tackle a job like this, stick with straight corners. Circular patios are best left to the professionals, since they have a more complicated layout (and because the bricks need to be cut with a circular saw). Embellishments to your new patio might include medallions, which are cut and laid into the patio, and stoops which can be dressed up by attaching pavers with an exterior construction adhesive. Good Luck!

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