11 Tips for Building an Easy DIY Backyard Patio

Jenna Jonaitis
Written by Jenna Jonaitis
Updated March 11, 2022
Child sitting in backyard
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Whether you dream of sipping lemonade in the sunshine or inviting friends over for a barbecue, there are big payoffs to having a patio. If you’re building the patio yourself, you’ll want to keep a few key things in mind to ensure your patio is beautiful, functional, and long-lasting. Follow these expert tips when building your own paver patio

1. Mark Utility Lines 

Before you begin digging and leveling the ground for your patio, ensure there are no buried lines or cables you’ll be disrupting. If you’re unsure where your utility lines might be, call or contact 811 online a few business days prior to starting your project. They’ll send workers to mark your utilities.

2. Clear the Ground Area

To prepare the patio area, remove the grass with an edging tool or sod cutter, and take out any roots or stumps that are in the way.

3. Plan for a Slope

When building your patio, you want to ensure water drains away from your house. Using wood stakes and string, map out the edges of your patio, accounting for an inch of slope for every four feet. If you have an 8-by-8-foot patio, you'll want a gradual two-inch slope going in both directions away from your house. 

The string line should represent the slope and will be your guide throughout the project. 

4. Flatten and Level the Area

Grade the dirt so it's parallel to your string lines. Depending on the type of paver base and pavers you're using, plan to dig anywhere from 4 to 7 inches deep. You want your pavers to sit at or slightly above ground level.

After you dig, use a hand tamper to compact the dirt and make a firm base for your patio.

5. Clean and Touch Up Siding

Now is a great time to clean or repair any of your home's siding around the patio. Depending on the type of siding, you may want to powerwash it.

6. Lay Down Fabric Weed Barrier

Roll out a fabric weed barrier across your patio area to keep weeds from popping up between your pavers. Overlap the rows of fabric by 2 to 3 inches for full coverage.

7. Put Down Paver Base

If you're using a gravel patio base, put down between 4 and 6 inches of gravel. Ensure the gravel aligns with the slope you marked with your string.

As an alternative, you can put down interlocking paver base panels instead. They are lightweight and easy to install, but more expensive than gravel.

8. Spread and Screed Sand

After your base is in place, add a second layer of support with one to 2 inches of builder's sand. Work in sections to ensure the sand is level with your slope. You can use a piece of rebar or one-inch pipe to create manageable sections. As you pour the sand into the area, pull a two-by-four across the top to level and screed the sand.

Move the pipe or rebar as you work across the patio. Pour and screed the sand in sections until the whole patio has a firm layer of sand. Fill in the gaps created by your pipe with more sand.

9. Lay Pavers

Man laying pavers
Photo: Ivan Kmit / Adobe Stock

Your first line of pavers should be along the edge of your house. Place your pavers in a pattern, such as in a herringbone or basketweave design. Not only does a pattern give your patio character, but it also increases its strength and stability. Order pavers in different sizes and shapes, so you have to make fewer cuts and can fill the entire space of your patio.

Within your design, consider a spot for a firepit or other specialty space, such as an outdoor kitchen

As you lay your pavers, use a level to ensure you're creating straight lines and that your bricks are flush on top. Your pavers should be no more than 1/8 inch apart. 

To fill in final gaps, cut your paver stones with a concrete saw or diamond blade on an angle grinder. Sometimes wetting the stone makes for easier cutting. 

10. Install Patio Edging

Once some of your pavers are in place, install edging or restraints along the perimeter of your patio. An edge restraint keeps your patio structurally secure, so your pavers don't shift over time.

11. Pour in Polymeric Joint Sand

Spread polymeric joint sand across the surface of your patio. Work the sand into the paver gaps with a broom. Use a hand tamper to settle the sand between the bricks. Blow off excess sand with a leaf blower, so there's no sand residue on top of your bricks.

Activate the sand by misting the entire patio with a garden hose. Push away excess water with the leaf blower, then allow the sand to cure for at least 24 hours.

Would you rather skip the DIY patio? Contact at least three local patio companies to compare quotes. If you prefer a concrete patio, find a local concrete patio contractor for your project. After that, comes the fun part—decorate and furnish your new patio.

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