DIY Patio Installation – How to Build a Paver Patio

Building Steps on a Slope

As mentioned in my prequel post, we bought a house that had a very large overgrown garden that was completely engulfed in blackberry bushes. We decided to remove the blackberry bushes and what do you know, there was an old patio under there! We removed about 500 bricks and sent them away in the dumpster!

After all that clean up, we installed a 16′ x 16′ (ish) patio. It was a lot of work, but well worth it! You might be wondering, how do I install a paver patio? Well, here’s how our patio installation went. Next to getting the layout,  dimensions, depth and pitch just right, I think the hardest part was moving 10 tons of gravel and sand from the front of the house to the back. But, we were able to get it all done in one weekend. We had the gravel delivered at 8am on Saturday (in the rain) and we finished installing the patio at 8:30pm Sunday night!

How to Build a Patio

  1. Plan your patio – measure twice, dig once!
  2. Dig out the base – make sure there’s room to accommodate gravel, sand and pavers.
  3. Compact soil, add landscape fabric. Add base gravel and compact every 2 inches.
  4. Screed Sand – use your screed poles to screed a 1 inch layer of sand.
  5. Lay pavers – lay your pavers directly on the sand.
  6. Add edging – your edging should hold your sand and pavers in place.
  7. Compact the pavers – use the plate compactor on a low throttle to compact your pavers (check manufacturer specs)
  8. Add sand to joints – fill your joints with sand.
  9. Landscape – add the finishing touches.

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How to build a paver patio

For our 16′ x 16′ patio we needed 8.5 tons of gravel and 1.5 tons of sand. We used every bit too. I didn’t even have enough sand left over to make horseshoe pits :( . We also used 196 16″ x 16″ L-shaped concrete pavers which weighed 33 pounds each.

What does tons of gravel look like

Laying the lines for the patio is a very important part of the installation. If you don’t start with a plan, things can get messy, quickly. We ran a center line from our deck to beyond where we planned to build the patio. Then we measured 8 feet on either side of the center line to create a 16 foot span. We measured 25 feet from the deck on both sides to mark the the closest corners of the patio and then 16 feet out from there to mark the far corners. Note: The square we dug out was almost 17′ x 17′ because the base needs to go at least 3 inches further on all sides to accommodate the paver edging and provide a nice wide sturdy base for your patio.  Now we dig!

Laying lines for a patio paver

Dig the patio base – make sure it’s level (or pitched for your project). That will make the whole job go smoothly. We dug out enough ground for a 7 inch gravel base (the base depth depends on your climate), 1 inch of screened sand and 2.25 inch high pavers. The total was 10.25 inches from the bottom of our dug out area to the top of our pavers.

For the base layer we used a product which consisted of 3/4″ crushed stone and stone fines, called twin pack. Some other people called it stay pack, it’s probably called something different in your area so check with your quarry. Don’t buy from a box store – a quarry is much cheaper! We first laid a very thin layer of the gravel (twin pack), less than 1 inch deep and spread it around. We used the plate compactor to compact this light layer and the sub-soil. The thin layer of gravel helped the plate compactor move easier on the sub-soil. Tip: Compact the crap out of it! Run it over the whole area at least 3 times. Compact, compact, compact! 10 times is better! The base is the whole project, if your base is weak – your patio wont last! Compacting a patio base

Next you want to add landscape fabric to help keep any weeds or plants from coming up through your patio. Some people say it’s not necessary, but after removing ten million blackberry bushes – it’s worth the few bucks in landscape fabric. Then, add your base gravel in 2 inch layers, rake it smooth, level and compact it with the plate compactor several times. Wetting the base a little bit (wet but not muddy) helps it compact nicely. Remember, compact the crap out of it! You want to continuously check your lines and make sure you are still on track for your pitch. We used the 8 foot / 1 inch pitch method. Our patio is 16 feet, so our pitch is 2 inches from one end to the other headed down hill. You don’t want your patio to collect water, you want it to shed water easily.

Adding gravel base for a patio

We were on a roll and forgot to take pictures of compacting each layer and screeding the sand, sorry – we wanted to get it done! After compacting each layer of gravel, making sure your pitch is correct (and correcting it, if it’s not), you’re ready to screed a 1 inch layer of sand. We used 3/4 inch PVC pipe (1 inch outside diameter). We laid two pipes 6 feet apart, filled in between and over the pipes with sand. Then, using a 2×4 as a screed board, scrape it across the pipes making a smooth one inch layer of sand. We repeated this until the whole patio had a 1 inch layer of sand.

Below you can see the first few rows of pavers set onto the sand. Some people say to compact the sand before laying the pavers down, the manufacturer for our pavers recommended lightly compacting the pavers after they’re put in place and not compacting or touching the sand before putting the pavers down. Just put the pavers on the sand and tap them into place with a rubber mallet. You may be able to see where our screed polls were running left to right, we filled these and any other voids with sand and smoothed them out as we moved along laying the pavers in place.

Screeding sand and installing paver patio

Almost there! Just a few more rows left!

Laying a paver patio

8:30 at night, we finally finished laying the pavers!

Finished laying patio pavers

Okay, so the patio wasn’t 100% completed over the weekend, but I contest that if it wasn’t for the rain Saturday morning we would have completed it with ease. Monday night we spent two hours installing the paver edging, compacting the pavers and adding polymeric sand to fill the joints and lock the pavers together.

Now, onto landscaping! Next, we finished clearing out and raking down the rest of the garden area, sowed the grass seed and dug out the walkway to the patio (check it out here), which will be crushed stone. The type of grass we have is Kentucky Blue Grass, so we used Kentucky Blue Grass Seed. We used a hand spreader to crank out the seed and covered it with straw to help prevent the ground from drying out too quickly. Check out the progress below.

DIY Installing a Paver Patio

If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments section. We’ve been plugging away on the back yard. We put in steps <– that lead from the deck to the patio.

We’ve completed the project! Check out our Finished Backyard Makeover!

DIY Patio finished