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Building a Patio the Right Way

Professional Construction with Brick Pavers, Concrete, a Ground-Level Deck, or Stones

© 2012 by Shawn Kabrick; All rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without the webmaster’s written permission.

A patio awning and patio furniture; photo courtesy Lilsarahp

A patio awning and patio furniture; photo courtesy Lilsarahp.

This article was updated on 02/21/20.

There are many different types of patios with options designed to satisfy every taste and budget. Some say the primary advantage of adding a patio to your property if you have a very small house is that it will expand your living space. The right building method depends on the particular patio you choose because each type requires a slightly different construction approach.

Following are some of the most popular patio types and how they should be installed.

  • Brick Paver Patios —

    Some homeowners prefer brick patios for their solid, level surface and design flexibility. There are seemingly endless types and shapes of bricks available, so creating a unique look that fits the style of your home is easy to do.

    Also, if you decide to expand your patio in the future or need to replace a portion, you can do so with this type of patio without causing noticeable seams or a patchwork appearance (assuming you use the same type brick). If you have the storage space and the budget it doesn’t hurt to buy a couple of extra pallets for this purpose; lot colors can vary.

    Building a brick patio is just one of many DIY projects that average DIYers can tackle if they have the necessary materials, some willing helpers with strong backs, and the patience to get the job done right — it’s a lot of hard work! For this type of patio to lay flat and look uniform, a well-compacted foundation is essential (you don’t want anything sinking or shifting later).

    It requires a lot of sweat and time as you must remove all grass, roots, humps, and bumps. But don’t take shortcuts because this step can make or break the quality of your patio. There are two acceptable methods for building a brick patio — flexible pavement (dry-laid method), or mortared pavement.

    Flexible pavement is faster and simpler to put down and makes it easier to expand or repair your patio. On the other hand, mortared pavement is more difficult to install, but it tends to last longer.

  • Concrete Slab —

    Concrete is definitely the most commonly used patio material because of its low cost, easy maintenance, and variety of options. Since it can dry to any shape, you can do a basic rectangle or incorporate curves and circles into your design.

    Also, with the ability to stamp, stain, and add other decorative elements to your concrete, you don’t have to settle for a boring gray slab. The downside of concrete is it tends to crack over time, and it’s difficult to add on or repair concrete without getting a patchwork appearance.

    Although building it yourself is possible, a concrete patio isn’t a suggested DIY project for the average homeowner unless you have some experience.

    Depending on the size of your patio, you may need a substantial amount of concrete and trying to pour your whole slab quickly and evenly (you don’t want part of it to harden before you’re done) using a small cement mixer is impractical.

    Also, concrete requires leveling, making joints, the removal of lumps and bubbles, and curing, all of which are best done by a skilled hand. Note: it is important not to have any trees close because eventually the roots will tear it up. But if you must have trees for shade or privacy, ensure that the roots are not close and install root barriers around the perimeter.

  • Stone Paver Patios —

    Stone comes in a wide range of colors and sizes, which presents many design options. Commonly chosen stones are river rock, flagstone, and cobblestone. Similar to brick, you can create a one-of-a-kind patio that is easily added onto or repaired.

    Quite a few homeowners prefer it for its natural look, ruggedness, and ability to work in formal or informal settings. The downsides are that it's sometimes uneven, and weeds and grass can easily grown between the cracks. This problem can be controlled with the regular application of grass or brush killer but please do not opt for Round-Up due to health risks. A better choice is agricultural grade vinegar--it is safe for children and pets.

    Like brick, you can lay stone using either mortar or a dry-laying method; however the dry method is likely easier for DIYers since it gives you time to tinker with the stones without worrying about the mortar drying.

    No matter which method you choose, having well-compacted, even ground is critical, and you have to repack the ground after every layer of substrate you add (sand, gravel, etc.).

    There might be some unevenness in the patio (especially if you’re aiming for that rustic look); however, keep in mind that it should not be from bumpy ground (which can cause stones to crack), but only from the different thicknesses and shapes of the rocks. Always be sure that you don’t introduce a tripping hazard.

  • Traditional Wooden Patios —

    A wooden patio is essentially a ground-level deck and is preferable to those who’d rather build than dig (although there is some digging involved), and generally like the look and feel of wood.

    Also, it’s easy to repair a deck; (just remove and replace any damaged boards), and you can add on or change its appearance any time you want. Still, some shy away from decks because of their maintenance needs (annual pressure washing and sealing) and their higher cost as compared to concrete.

    A wooden patio is constructed similarly to any other type of deck and is something a homeowner with the proper tools and know-how can do on his own.

    It’s best to clear the land before starting the project, so you don’t have to worry about weeds coming through the wood and you can create an even surface for your deck piers. Also, even when your deck is “ground level”, the wood should not physically touch the ground or moisture will cause the wood to rot. There are some composite materials on the market today that can minimize this problem.

Regardless of the patio you build, always ensure that it slopes slightly away from the house to avoid water pooling and seeping into your home’s foundation. Some DIY types may feel confident handling such a project on their own, but if you’re not sure about something, always contact a professional for assistance. A patio is a significant expense and you want to be able to enjoy it for years.

Finally, don’t forget to check your local building codes during the planning phase and allow for the cost of building permits in your construction budget. I hope this how-to article on planning and building a patio the right way has inspired you to tackle the project yourself! If so, I would appreciate you sharing this page with your friends. Thanks for visiting; we are all on this journey together!

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    About the Webmaster:

    Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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    Article © 2012 Shawn Kabrick.