Never done it before, nor anything like it, but what I read convinces me I can. I’m looking at a 10x20 space, and leaning towards doing it with pavers, though I’m not in love with my choices in that area at Home Depot and Lowe’s. Flagstones look nicer, but working with mortar makes it easier to screw up.
I would recommend pavers. Much easier to work with and there’s a lot of different styles.
The two keys are foundation and edges. Make sure you dig down and put in a good, level bed of gravel and sand and/or stone dust. And rent one of those masonry saws to cut all your edge pieces (much faster and neater edges than a hammer and chisel) and then use one of those platic edging things to keep all the pavers in place.
I didn’t use an edger (just the lawn) and my edge pieces sort of rolled out of alignment over the years.
My dad didn’t dig a deep enough foundation for his and frost heaves made the patio uneven after a few years.
The problem with pavers and really any stone or block is that the surface isn’t smooth. There are plenty of cracks to catch a toe or shoe in and trip, and it’s difficult to roll stuff over them, and tables and chair may not sit flat. None of those things bother me that much though. Flagstones provide larger flat surfaces, and are easier to dry lay and adjust, then grout in the joints after they’ve had time to settle. Another option is pressed concrete. It’s just a concrete slab, and then you have mold you press down into the still wet concrete to create a pattern. It can be wood grain, or made to look like bricks or stones. But to do it yourself you’ll have to mix a lot of concrete. I haven’t done this myself so I don’t know what the logistics of having a truck come in to pour a whole slab and then pressing the whole thing. A similar system uses a mold to pour concrete into to make it look like individual stones or blocks. You can even mix different colored batches to create an effect.
An entirely different direction to go is a ground level deck. Use pressure treated or composite materials with just a few inches of air space over a bed of gravel underneath. Some people embed their joists in gravel or sand an build right at ground level, but I don’t know how well that works out. I’m planning to put a ground level deck in for the outdoor kitchen I’m building. I’ll probably do stone later on, but it’s a quick way to get something in place.
Mixing, moving, and just plain old leveling concrete is WAY more work than most people realize. And if you mess it up you’ve got one nasty mess that ain’t easy to fix. Not saying not to do it. But definitely hook up in real life with somebody who HAS before you attempt it.
Oh, and if you go the wood deck route, use high quality long screws, not nails.
I had the same bright idea as you once! God I was so idealistic then. I thought it would take a couple of weekends but it ended up taking 2 months. For some idiotic reason I wanted to reconnect with my cave man ancestors and do it all using only hand tools. Near the end of the project I broke down and rented power tools to finish the job. So lesson 1 - don’t skimp on power.
Before I did any construction I bought one of those programs that let you draw your house and yard in 3D so you can visualize what you want to do. I strongly suggest you do this as well. When I plugged in my first idea for a patio I was surprised how bad it looked. On the computer I was able to play around with different shapes and sizes until I found one that seemed to balance nicely with my house - I’m still very pleased with the shape I came up with.
Like you, I decided to forego concrete in favor of a gravel and sand base. My yard sloped slightly so I used landscaping blocks to outline the edge (my patio is curved) and to help level out the patio as the yard sloped down. The foundation of the edge is at least 4 inches underground and resting on a 3 inch thick bed of decomposed granite. After 9 years I still don’t see any movement on the edges so that seems to have been pretty successful.
The inside of my patio rests on a base of decomposed granite (4 inches thick) with 2 inches of sand on top. On top of the sand I laid flagstone. The very edges of the flagstone that rest on top of the edge stones are mortared (but more on this in a moment). The interior I used sand to fill in the gaps between the stones. With water and time (and more sand) the sand compacts to form a nice hard layer between the stones. These stones also seem to have stayed pretty level (as level as flagstone can be) over time.
I’ve encountered 2 major problems with my patio. First, weeds. Every year they grow between the stones and they’re very hard to control. I have to consistently go out and just pick the weeds directly. The year long roundup doesn’t work on the patio because (I think) it just soaks through the sand before it does its trick. Second - my edge stones. I’ve replaced the mortar 3 times and I still can’t get the flagstones to stay down. As others mentioned above, I believe this is because the patio expands and contracts with the seasons which wears the mortar down. It’s very frustrating and I’m beginning to think I need to redo the insides completely.
If I could do it again (and I am) I’m going to pull out the sand and replace with concrete to give the stones a more permanent base with grout filling between the stones. I believe this will solve my edge problems and better control weeds.
There are rewards with building your own patio as well. The first weekend after I finished the patio I had a lot of friends over for a BBQ - it was a lot of fun to enjoy it on a patio I built by myself. Things are far more satisfying when you’ve invested a substantial amount of sweat equity.
Took around 3-4 weeks of weekends. The prep was the time consuming part. I probably took less than 6 hours to actually lay the pavers, cut the edge pieces and put sand in all the joints. I didn’t manage my volumes very well and had to make a bunch of trips for sand/gravel/pavers.
I disagree that pavers are uneven. Mine is still pretty much as even as the floors in the house. No tripping hazards and the furniture is only slightly uneven to sit on.
Check out your local building supply shop - they may have recommendations on a wholesaler for pavers that could prove a significantly cheaper option than Home Depot/Lowes. I’m planning on doing this next summer (budget won’t fit it this year), so please keep this thread updated!
My experience as well, except that mine is bigger Took me most of the summer working an hour here and an hour there, all by hand.
Getting concrete to where I wanted the patio was too much trouble, which is why I went with pavers. Getting all the sand and pavers was also a lot of trouble so I called in some friends and family to carry a few loads from time to time.
Advice: Level, get your slope right, level, check your slope, level again. Plan it out ahead of time. Don’t skimp on the base, 4 inches is the minimum I seem to remember. Invite your friends over - they work for beer. Lift with your legs, not your back.
Yes, the granite was compacted. There was a business near me that specialized in stone and they calculated how much granite I needed based on the dimensions I provided. When they dropped it off I thought they gave me way too much - that is until I started compacting it. It’s amazing how dense that is when set.
The mortar I used was type S - I mixed it to roughly the consistency of soft butter. I didn’t put any wire in with the mortar and didn’t think of that - does that help hold it in place? Similar to reinforcing concrete?
I’ve heard of wire being used. I can’t personally attest to it being effective. I forget what type S mortar is. You probably want something that isn’t water permeable. I think the idea is to clear out a deep channel in the cracks that goes under the stones, then pack in the mortar. I think wire would help a lot, but sometimes there are non-obvious concerns. But I’ve seen plenty of patios with stones set on sand and joints mortared that last for years. Not sure what you mean by soft butter, but a common mistake is getting the mix too wet.
I’ve got a full week free, and I’m hoping to knock it out in one go.
I love brick pavers, but the house is brick, and I think it would look too uniform; sort of like a denim shirt worn with jeans. I was thinking about greyish pavers surrounded by brick trim, but that’s probably making things too complicated for myself.
Maryland suburbs of DC. House is on the outside curve of a U-shaped street, so I have the big fan-shaped backyard.
One story house, a small rectangle set lengthwise in the yard. Back door set all the way to the left side, opening onto a very small deck. Lower part of house exterior is brick, upper part is white vinyl siding.
Budget is $1000-1500. Time budget is a bit more squished. We move into the house 7/23, and I will have about 6 days 7/29-8/3 to crank out the lion’s share of the work before commencing an intense grad school program. I would really, really like to have it all done, or nearly so, in one go.