A few weeks back, we laid decking tiles over the grass as a sort of makeshift patio. We were hoping to be able to make use of it this spring and summer – at least until we were able to put in something more permanent. Unfortunately, the patio was pretty soft and settled a lot whenever it rained out. So, in order to make the most of our backyard this summer, we decided to bite the bullet and make a more permanent solution. Incorporating all the decking tiles we’d bought, we came up with a plan:
The plan actually ended up changing a bit. That top right corner represents where we’d put our fire pit. I sort of underestimated its size when coming up with the sketch, so the sketch shows planters incorporated on the sides. In reality, we only had room to fit the fire pit – no planters. We’d put stone pavers in the top right under the fire pit for safety purposes.
We had previously removed all the lilies and grass in the area where we wanted to put the patio, so all we had left to do was stake out the size we needed. The patio would measure 6×6, and we wanted to border the whole thing in landscape timbers in order to give the pavers and deck tiles something to restrain them and keep them from shifting. So, taking into account the size of the landscape timbers, we needed a 6’7″x6’7″ square area. We measured the ground and staked the corners with wire hangers bent straight.
We also tied string from stake to stake to mark out the size of the square. Next, we dug straight down about six inches, trying to keep the bottom of the newly dug space as level as possible. We were working with ground that sloped a little bit to begin with, so we had to work to create a level surface. This was really the hardest part. It was a lot of digging, and creating a flat, level surface underneath was quite a task.
Once the surface was dug, we laid out the tiles on the garage floor and cut the landscape timbers to fit around the perimeter. We mitered the corners of the timbers and attached them together with four inch deck screws.
Once the frame was built, we laid it in the patio area to make sure it fit, then we dug around the sides a bit until it was in place.
Next, we took a lot of sand (A LOT OF SAND!) and spread it around the base of the newly dug patio area. We tried to lay a couple of inches, then smooth everything down and ensure it was level. Keeping everything level at this point is pretty tough, too. We found it best to use a four foot long level and continuously scrape at the top layer of sand to get a smooth, level surface.
To tamp the ground, we made a tamper out of a 2×6 attached to a longer section of 2×4 and pressed the sand down firmly after each 1-2 inch layer we laid.
Do this many, many times with a lot of sand! I think it’s smart not to skimp on this part, because the firmer, more solid foundation the patio has, the more likely it is to stand up over time. To give you an idea of how much sand goes into this, we used about 2,500 pounds of sand!
After we tamped, smoothed, leveled, and did it all over and over again, we finally had a nice, solid surface and could begin laying pavers and tiles. We started with the pavers which were about twice as thick as the deck tiles, actually. After laying the pavers, we actually had to add more sand to bring the deck tiles up to the same level.
Once all the tiles and pavers were in place, we swept a fine layer of sand across the top to ensure that sand got in between the cracks, keeping the pavers from shifting in the future.
Finally, we sprayed the whole surface with water, to settle the sand and pavers a bit and to make more room for more sand. We actually didn’t get to this last part of sweeping more sand in yet, but here’s the wet-down roughly completed version of our new patio.
All we have left to do is sweep a final layer of sand between the cracks and tidy up the area around the patio (replant grass in the mud by the border, etc.). We’re that much closer to a fun and functional backyard!