Tips for DIY Patio Additions

Creating an outdoor living space is easier than you think. Use these tips to build the perfect patio.
By: Mariel Wineberg

Adding a patio is a relatively inexpensive and easy way to create a low-maintenance outdoor living area for entertaining or relaxing. While there are contractors who design and build patios to fit into an existing landscape, do-it-yourselfers may find laying a patio to be easier than expected. There are, however, some general guidelines to follow when designing and installing a patio.

Choose a Patio Location

The first step is to determine where to locate the patio. Some questions for consideration are: How accessible should the patio be to the house? Is a shady or sunny patio preferred? Will the patio location fit in with other landscaping plans for the yard?

Some people like patios close to the house, maybe near French doors or sliding doors that open off the kitchen or living room. Other people prefer to tuck a patio into a wooded corner of their yard.

While some people prefer shaded patios to sunny ones, patios that never receive sunlight usually don't dry completely after rainstorms. Sometimes algae will grow on the damp stones.

After a location has been chosen, plot out the shape and size of the patio. It is helpful to stick tomato stakes into the ground and run string borders to help visualize the finished product. After plotting out the area, take measurements so the amount of materials needed for the project can be quickly calculated when talking to the supplier.

Choose the Materials for the Patio

There are many durable products that can be used for a patio, from pavers to stone. These products offer a wide range of colors, textures and patterns to choose from. When deciding upon one, consider how each would fit into the existing or planned landscape. Also remember that some products are easier or less expensive to install than others. And when making cost comparisons, try to determine the total price for the paver or stone, and any gravel, sand, concrete or mortar needed for construction.

Perhaps the easiest product to install is a paver. Pavers can be made from brick or concrete and they come in a variety of colors and shapes. While a concrete paver is more durable than a brick one, brick pavers are still durable enough for a backyard patio.

You may want to use brick pavers over regular bricks because pavers don't have holes through their centers. While the holes give regular bricks strength when used for a wall, they absorb moisture when placed flat on the ground. Water that gets into these holes will freeze and thaw, and this can eventually crack the brick.

The standard brick paver is 3 5/8 inches wide, 7 3/8 inches long and 2 1/4 inches deep. But some pavers are "Z"-shaped while others look like a hexagon or a ping-pong paddle. They come in several earth-tone colors.

The concrete pavers are generally the same size as the brick pavers and come in colors ranging from light gray to dark charcoal, orange to deep red, and even cobalt blue to green.

Concrete pavers can take more pressure per square inch than brick pavers and do not absorb as much moisture. Concrete pavers are so strong they can be used for airport runways and roads.

Create the Patio

Brick and concrete pavers are installed the same way. First, dig out the plot for the patio and place a wooden frame of 2x4 boards around the edges. Then cover the area with mesh that will keep weeds from growing between the pavers but will allow moisture to seep into the ground. Afterward, lay down a bed of gravel and then a layer of sand. Tamp the sand and then smooth it by resting a notched 2x4 on either side of the plot and dragging it across the sand.

It is easiest to work from the unsmoothed side of the patio plot. Smooth a small area, lay some pavers, smooth another small area and then repeat the two tasks until the patio is complete. The pavers can be laid in a variety of patterns and most suppliers have diagrams.

After the pavers have been laid, pour sand over the patio and then sweep it into the cracks between the pavers. Next, tamp the pavers, and then shore up the edges of the patio with salt-treated landscaping timbers or with cement that can be covered over with a layer of soil. This will lock the pavers into place.

The work of putting in a patio should pay off not only in enjoyment, but also in the resale value of your home.

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