A patio gives you the best of both worlds: a sturdy foundation for setting up your grill and outdoor furniture, plus exposure to the great outdoors.
Traditionally, many patios are made of poured concrete. But patios made of brick, stone, or concrete pavers add visual interest and are more in line with the principles of green building. These materials are generally set in a gravel and/or sand base, rather than set into concrete. When rain hits the patio, it is free to pass through the sand between the stones, bricks, or pavers, soaking into the ground. This helps replenish the ground water.
Laying brick, stone, or pavers is also more DIY-friendly, depending on the size of the stones you choose. And you could save half the cost over having it done professionally.
According to DIY or Not, a mason or patio specialist will charge about $2,300 to lay a brick patio that is 15 by 20 feet, or 300 square feet. On the other hand, if you do it yourself, you can expect to pay about $1,100 and spend about 45 hours on it.
Here are some details on each method.
Some people choose to hire professionals for this project because of the labor involved. It takes a lot of strength to lay a patio; if you have a bad back or trouble with your knees, this project could be even more difficult.
A professional will first work with you to determine the location and size of the patio. Next comes digging out the sod (if there is already lawn where the patio is planned). This can be cut into and lifted out in manageable squares so that it can be reused in other parts of the yard. Likewise, any foliage can be relocated.
This step is followed by digging out the space down to a depth of 7 inches or more, depending on how much gravel and/or sand will be used as a base, and the thickness of your brick, stone or pavers. Landscape fabric laid over the dirt helps keep weeds down, but allows water to percolate through.
Next, a retaining strip may be added on the perimeter, and the area filled in with about 3 1/2 inches of drainage gravel and about 1 inch of sand. The gravel allows for good drainage, and the sand on top allows for easy placement and leveling of your brick, pavers or stone. This combination of drainage materials is not set in stone (no pun intended!), and different professionals will have different opinions on the best mix. Oftentimes, the combination depends the thickness of the materials you use or on geology and geography and the nature of the dirt.
After all that laborious preparation, the fun part arrives: laying the brick, stone or concrete pavers. Some stones are harder to work with because their surfaces aren't completely level. Uniform bricks or pavers don't present that challenge. For bricks, plastic grid trays help create straight alignment. All of this will be factored into the cost of the job.
Once the materials are set properly, workers will pour sand over the whole surface; the sand will settle down into spaces between the bricks, stones or pavers, and provide a permeable grout line. A spray of water and more sand helps ensure a the grout areas are filled.
See a video of building expert Ron Hazelton laying a patio of pavers.
Thinking of DIYing it? Aside from the existing physical ailments described above, there are a few other considerations:
- If you live in a location that has hard or rocky soil -- as opposed to sandy or loamy soil -- digging out the new patio will be more difficult.
- Avoid any electrical or plumbing lines under the surface as you dig.
- The patio should slope away from the house so that rainwater drains away from the foundation and not toward it. A slope of 1 inch for every 8 feet of patio is sufficient.
To do this job yourself, and potentially save about 50% of the cost you'll need the following tools and supplies:
Bricks, stone or concrete pavers: There are so many beautiful pre-cast pavers available that it will likely be difficult to make up your mind. Flagstone and standard red brick are popular options. $1 to $10 per square foot
Tape measure: A good, sturdy tape measure is indispensable when building a patio. If you have a cheap, flimsy or small measuring tape, now is a good time to invest in a higher quality tool. $10 to $35
Work gloves: You'll be handling a lot of rough materials on this project, and so a good pair of work gloves will get you through with minimum damage to your hands. $2 to $50
Kneepads: You must use knee pads to protect your body from harm during this project. If you've never used knee pads before, you might not realize the comfort and functionality they bring. $4 to $15
Grade stakes: These come in handy for marking the circumference of your future patio. By marking it out with stakes and creating a border of simple string, you can get a sense of your patio. $4 for 12 pieces
Framing square: This tool helps ensure that the corners of your patio are truly square. This is especially important because the pavers, bricks or stones you use also have square corners and you want everything to line up correctly to avoid an amateurish and sloppy look.
Shovels: You'll need good shovels to both dig out the sod and soil at your patio site, and to fill it back in with gravel and/or sand. $10 to $30
Wheelbarrow: This project calls for a lot of moving materials around, so you should have one or more wheelbarrows handy. You'll be moving around bricks, pavers or stone, as well as sod, dirt, sand and gravel. $40 to $120
Edging: Depending on how you build your patio, you will need some kind of edging to keep the bricks, pavers or stone pieces from migrating. One type of construction calls for a perimeter of landscape timber secured to the ground with rebar, while another kind of construction calls for L-shaped metal edging secured to the ground with metal stakes. About $2 per foot
Landscape fabric: If you were putting down a poured concrete patio, you'd have little worry about weeds growing up in the middle of your patio (unless the concrete cracks). But with brick, pavers or stone laid on a bed of gravel and sand, weeds will be a concern. You could of course just drench your patio with an herbicide every now and again, but that is bad fro you, your family and pets, and for the earth. A much better and greener solution is to use landscape fabric underneath the gravel. It's porous enough to allow rainwater to filter down and refresh the groundwater, but not allow weeds to grow up through it. $15 for 50 feet
Sand and gravel: After you've dug out your patio side to the desired depth, you'll need to create the base with gravel and then a layer of sand. Less than $5 per 50 lb. bag
Tamper: Once the gravel and/or sand bed is poured, those materials need to be tamped down so they provide the most solid base possible. If you skip this step and lay your surface materials over loose fill, the bricks, pavers or stone may settle unevenly, giving your patio and awkward and unprofessional look. This tool helps you tamp down the sand or gravel. $30