If you are in either the beginning stages of building out your patio, then you know how exciting the design and layout can be. Think about it. You are creating what will be a place where you can come to rest and relax with friends and family for years to come. And, if you do it right, your patio will get better with age.
The reason that your patio space will look better with time is because of your landscaping and other elements that you add to liven up the place. A brand new patio looks, well, brand new. If you want yours to have a little old-world charm and distinguishing characteristics you can either wait for a period of years or you can get the look from the early on stages. Now, you can’t necessarily rush the growing of your plants and vines, but you can affect how the hardscape looks.
Hardscape simply refers to those things that are part of your landscape or backyard design elements that are built or are manmade. For example, your patio cover is a type of hardscape element. It blends into your landscape design but also requires little in the way of maintenance, pruning, watering, etc. The same thing is true about your actual patio itself.
You can have a simple concrete foundation poured and call it a patio, but this certainly lacks some much needed character. Besides, if you have a patio paver walkway or other type of custom brick design, then you’ll get a much better blended feel if your patio brings this theme all the way around.
Patio pavers are the building blocks of good design. This is a somewhat general term for the several styles available. Pavers for patio construction come in both natural stone styles, brick looks or in cast concrete. There is another category of pavers known as interlocking pavers. The name comes from the fact that they have a symmetrical shape that are meant to be put together with others of similar shape to create an overall design. Most places where you get your materials will even have a chart to help show you what types of patio paver designs or patterns you can create with these and also how many you can expect to need based upon your measurements of square footage.
Most of these interlocking ones are concrete patio pavers that can be colored shades of reds, browns and tans. When all put together, they form a nice blended color palette. The same thing is true of the brick patio pavers. While these may be the familiar maroon colored brick, you can also find a brick shape that is made of these cast concrete stone looking styles. The bricks can be laid in a herringbone pattern which has a nice and sophisticated look or a simple basket weave or butted joint type of pattern as well. There really is no right or wrong way to pick your design, the key steps are with installation. Another great thing about having a paver installation is that you can be comfortable with some type of outdoor fireplace and not worry about a fire risk.
Installing Your Patio Pavers
As mentioned, installation is the most critical part of this process. If you are relying on your patio to be a firm foundation for years to come, you must make sure that it is graded properly. For drainage purposes, you should have a degree of incline away from your home. It doesn’t take much to get the water to drain away from your home’s foundation.
All climates and city building codes vary, so consult with your local professional to determine if you need to take any further steps before continuing here. Once you’ve determined that you are clear to begin, you’ll need to dig out the area where you plan to lay your pavers. Plan on having a 6” space around the edge of the area you plan to lay, that way you have some room to work and wiggle as you go. You’ll appreciate this later.
Once you get the basic area dug, you’ll be adding in the base layer of stone or sand. If you have a large area to build up, go with the decomposed granite to get the height up. Then, you’ll use the sand as a base layer upon which your pavers will be set. The process of leveling the sand – critical step – is called screed boarding or screeding. It basically consists of laying down 1” PVC or rigid metal tube, pouring in the sand and leveling it. The screeding step is to pull a board perpendicular to these tubes and pull toward you. This will level the sand to the tubes and give you a nice 1” base layer to lay your pavers on.
Once you’ve got this part finished, you can begin laying in your patio pavers. If you are making an old cobblestone looking walkway or patio, you can be a bit more haphazard or random with the selection of each paver. If you are going for a more uniform look, like with bricks for a herringbone appearance, you’ll need to be a bit more precise. Most newer concrete pavers have built-in spacers to them, so you just place them right up to one another. Some older bricks are smooth on all edges so you’ll need to leave some space for the sand to fill the joints later.
What About A Flagstone Patio?
The process is very similar whether you are laying brick pavers or flagstone. The only difference is in the thickness of the flagstone itself and the way that it is set into the sand or decomposed granite or crushed rock as it is sometimes called. Because of the way that the flagstone is shaped in nature, it naturally has a non-uniform surface. Laying it flat on a smooth concrete surface would reveal this.
So, when you are going to use flagstone for a patio or walkway, it needs to be set properly to avoid rocking and breaking due to uneven pressure. Also, there are different grades of flagstone. If you just plan on light use then ‘walk on’ grade is acceptable – usually measures ¾” to 1- 1/2” thick. Thicker than that and you are into ‘patio grade’ which is rated for heavier use and placement of patio furniture and the like. Once you’ve got the right thickness, you can begin laying it out.
Flagstone comes in odd shapes and sizes for a more organic looking pattern. You simply lay your crushed rock or sand down in about 1” thickness and then work your flagstone into it by sliding it a bit back and forth and side to side. You can gently tap some spots with a rubber mallet to nudge it into the base layer as well. Be careful because it is very easy to crack and split with too much force on an uneven lie.
With both the flagstone patio or paver patio, you’ll need to finish the joints in some way to complete this project. Simple mortar sand can be used to fill the cracks and swept over it at a 45 degree angle. Then water it to let the sand settle and repeat until you have sand filling the joints. For wider joints like with the flagstone, you can also grow some moss or other fine living material between it. As we first mentioned, these little touches can make your patio look even more charming and aged than it really is.