How to Build a Patio: 10 Steps to Elevate Your Outdoor Space

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated October 27, 2022
Child sitting in backyard
Photo: iStock / Getty Images

DIY your way to outdoor wining and dining

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Sick of looking at a plain dirt backyard? It’s time to elevate your outdoor experience by learning how to build a patio. With the help of natural stone, brick, or concrete slabs, you’re just one weekend away from a serious DIY backyard upgrade. 

How to Prep for Building a Patio

Before learning how to build a patio, you’ll want first to plan the look and design of your patio or deck. You should also consider the ways in which you want the patio to be used: Is it mostly for entertaining? Will you cook there? If you have kids, you may want to select a less-slippery material, like rubber pavers or a penetrating paver sealer, that helps minimize slipping. 

Choose the Location

Patios are normally located right off the back of the house, often leading out the back patio door. This is especially useful for highly trafficked patios, where you’ll be going in and out with plates of food or watching the kids play. 

However, you can choose a spot in your backyard that makes sense for how you plan to use your patio. If you plan to cook meals there, you may want to be close to the kitchen for easy clean-up. Alternatively, if you want shade for reading a book in the morning, select a site under a big tree. 

Consider Drainage

Opt for a higher spot for your DIY backyard patio. While you will grade it so water easily runs off without pooling, a low spot can encourage a build-up of moisture that can lead to problems with mildew and mold.

Mark Utility Lines 

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

Once you have figured out the location and know you won’t hit any cables, use stakes and string to make an outline of your patio’s area.

Consider Add-Ons

Do you love to host parties or plan to use your new patio often? You might want to hire an electrician near you to get multiple outlets strategically placed for music, speakers, fans, charging devices, and more. 

Choosing Patio Materials

It’s important to choose the best material for your pavers based on your lifestyle and budgetary constraints when learning how to build a patio. Besides budget, which will be your main guiding principle when choosing materials, consider how your patio will be used and by whom, if it gets very hot where you live, or if the materials need to withstand freeze-thaw cycles. 


Concrete pavers are a simple, affordable option for any DIY patio. You can opt to keep the concrete’s gray color, or mix it up with some dye in a fresh hue. Concrete is long-lasting and durable, but you’ll need to reseal it every three to five years to prevent cracks. 

Since concrete can be a difficult material to work with, consider hiring a local concrete patio contractor to help you build a patio. Concrete patio pavers cost $2 to $7 per square foot

Natural Stone 

Natural stone pavers, such as those made from slate or travertine, are often more expensive than other materials but offer unique elegance. They’ll set you back $7 to $16 per square foot. Composite pavers are a new option, made from recycled materials such as old tires. 


Bricks can be placed in various patterns to give some oomph to your patio flooring, and this classic option can last over 100 years. Make sure to select brick that has been rated for outdoor use in your particular climate. Real clay brick patio pavers cost $4 to $8 per square foot

How to Build a Patio

Man laying pavers
Photo: Ivan Kmit / Adobe Stock

You can build your DIY backyard patio in just one weekend with some patience and careful measurements. Here’s how to build a patio you and your family will love. 

Mark the Site

Make sure you are committed to the location of your patio, and then mark it off with stakes and string. Use a line level to ensure the string running between stakes is straight.

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. 

Plan for a Slope

Ensure water drains away from your house. Using wood stakes and string, map out the edges of your patio, accounting for 1 inch of slope for every 4 feet. If you have an 8-by-8-foot patio, you'll want a gradual 2-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. You can also use a story pole to mark the slope.

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.

Place the Edges

Using aluminum or plastic edging, mark where the backyard patio ends.

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.

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.

Spread and Screed Sand

After your base is in place, add a second layer of support with 1 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 1-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.

Lay Your Pavers

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 basket weave design. Not only does a pattern give your DIY 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. Within your design, consider a spot for a backyard fire pit 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. 

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. After installation comes the fun part—it’s time to decorate and furnish your new patio.

DIY vs. Hire a Pro

Now that you know how to build a patio, you’ll need to decide if this is the right project for you. Working with heavy building materials isn’t for everyone—and does pose safety risks. If you aren’t experienced in this kind of project, hire a professional to help—mistakes can lead to pavers shifting and cracking over time, costly repairs, and injuries. 

 The cost of a DIY backyard paver patio is between $1 and $35 per square foot for the materials, with an added $10 to $20 for any hardscaping required.

 To hire a pro to build your patio, contact at least three local patio companies to compare quotes. The cost to install a patio is $10 to $50 per square foot—including materials and labor. 

Frequently Asked Questions

If you choose to leave gaps between your pavers, you can grow some ground cover plants between them for an organic feel. Look for plants such as creeping thyme, dymondia, jewel mint of Corsica, or clover.

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