Step 1

Framing Patio With String Lines

Frame Outer Edge of Patio

Frame Outer Edge of Patio

Use 2x4 lumber to frame the outside of the patio. The inner dimensions should be 16’ x 16’ to allow for eight squares running along each side. Excavate 2 inches down on the inside of the patio and a little past so the framing pieces will be recessed as well. Use stakes to secure the lumber so it sits 4 inches high and make sure it is level and straight.

Add a screw every 2 feet on all sides of the patio frame. Run string lines from one end of the frame to the other every 2 feet. Run this from left to right and top to bottom to create a grid pattern for the squares.

Step 2

Build Square Frames

A chessboard consists of 64 alternating squares. To achieve this pattern, you'll build 32 frames, which will end up being the sod squares. Use 2x4 lumber to create square frames that measure 2' x 2' on the outside of the square and 4 inches tall. It is important that you carefully measure the frames; the outside of the boxes will serve as the concrete frames once they're set inside the patio.

Step 3

Install Square Frames

Install the first frame on one corner. Set the frame so it sits right up against the outside perimeter frame. Pound in stakes on the inside of the frame, lift the frame up to the height of the string line and screw in the stakes to hold it in place (Image 1). Install one of these square frames in every other box in the string line grid (Image 2).

Step 4

Pour Concrete

Pour concrete into the squares that don't have stakes in the middle of them. The concrete will go in the open areas between the square frames so they measure exactly 2' x 2'. Once the squares are poured, trowel the top until it's smooth (Image 1). Add a powder color hardener over the top if you would like a pop of color and trowel it in until it's incorporated. You can choose from a number of different finishes. The easiest finish is a broom finish, which is achieved by dragging a clean broom evenly over the top of the concrete. This patio was finished with a concrete stamp.

Once the concrete has set up about 24 hours later, remove the frames (Image 2). Add a sealer to protect the concrete (Image 3).

Step 5

Install Sod

To keep the maintenance low on the patio, install a double-dwarf fescue sod. This variety grows slower than others so it doesn't need to be mowed as frequently.

To install, fill the open boxes halfway up with soil and unroll the sod right on top (Image 1). Use a sod knife to cut off the excess so it fits into the square (Image 2). Push the sod into the soil below so it makes contact. Water the sod often until it's established and wait to mow it until it doesn't pull up when you tug at it.

To blend this patio in with the landscape, install the lower-maintenance sod all around the new patio.