You can build your own paving stone patio following this step by step guide. Paving stones are amazingly cheap and nearly every home improvement store sells them. This is how I did mine, and I hope it can help you if you decide to build one.
- They are as durable as a concrete slab (they are made of concrete), but don’t need wire or steel reinforcement
- Anyone can lay paving stones into a nice pattern and no special skills are needed.
- You probably already have all the tools you need to make a paving stone patio.
- It makes a nice family weekend project and even the smallest toddler can help out.
- It is labor-intensive and requires some heavy lifting.
- The finished patio will be “solid” enough for use, but not “settled” for a year or longer.
- Paving stone patios require more upkeep because you will have to pull weeds and grass out of the cracks. Weed-blocking fabric under the stones will help, but airborne seeds will sprout in the sand-filled cracks. Every spring you should pull the weeds the spray a long-lasting weed prevention substance on the patio.
- During the first year you’ll probably have to add sand at least a couple of times.
Materials List for a 12 ft. x 16 ft. Patio
- 960 – 4″(W)x 8″(L) x 3″(H) paving stones.
- 2 ½ – 3 tons of sand.
- 2 – 2x6x16 and 2 – 2x6x12 pressure-treated boards.
- 1 – bundle (usually 16-18) steel stakes (cut re-bar).
- A roll of weed-blocking porous fabric of the kind used under new flowerbeds. (Don’t use plastic; rainwater has to drain through the cracks in your patio).
Let’s Get Started
Your new patio must be laid out and squared before you ever pick up your shovel. To begin, drive a stake into the ground and tie a string near the bottom. Measure 12 feet and drive another stake. Pull the string tight and loop in around the second stake several times. Measure 16 feet to the next corner and drive a third stake. Pull it tight and tie it off near the bottom of the third stake. Now, you have created a corner at the second stake. The question is: Is it a square corner? Probably not, even though it may look square to you.
How To Square Your Corners
The geometry formula is called Pythagorean’s theorem. To find the hypotenuse of a right triangle, with legs named A and B and the unknown hypotenuse name C: A squared + B squared = C squared. Most carpenters use what they call the 3,4,5 rule. Measure from the corner stake (the second one you drove) 3 feet on the string back toward the first stake and mark the string with a pen. Then, measure 4 feet from the second stake along the string toward the third stake and make another mark. Then measure from your first mark to your second mark across the interior of the corner. If your corner is square, the distance between the 2 marks will be 5 feet. This is why: 3 squared (9) + 4 squared (16) = 5 squared (25). 9+16=25. You have made a perfect right triangle and the corner is square.
If the corner is not square, you must pull up the third stake and move it until the distance between the points is 5 feet. After you get one corner square, you must drive in the fourth stake and square the corner in the same way at the third stake. Again, you may have to pull up the fourth stake and move it to get a measurement of 5 feet. After you get 2 corners square, the other 2 corners at stakes 1 and 4 will already be square and you can tie the string between stakes 1 and 4. You should now be looking at a perfect string rectangle that measures 12 ft. x 16 ft. The string represents the interior “wall” of your boards. Now you can get to work.
The next step is to remove the sod beginning about 2 inches outside the string, under the string and inside the string. You should try to remove at least 3 ½ inches of sod and soil from the entire area. Low spots can be filled, but high spots will show on the finished patio. Take your time and do this right. When you’re finished, you should have a rectangle, slightly larger than the string-marked area that is a fairly uniform 3 ½ inches deep.
Setting the Boards
Set the boards in place around the edges you have dug out and screw the corners together. The string line should be touching the interior walls of the boards. A four ft. level is handy to make sure that your boards are level. The top of the boards represents the top of your patio. Now, remove the string and stakes and begin driving the rebar stakes into the ground against the exterior of the boards to hold them in place. Drive the stakes at least ½ inch below the top of the boards, since they will be permanent and must not be sticking up above the top of the boards to trip people. Be careful not to skew the boards inward as you drive the stakes. 4 or 5 stakes along each board should be sufficient to hold them in place.
Now the Fabric
Roll out the weed-blocking fabric to completely cover the area of the patio. Stuff the edges under the form boards, so that weeds can’t sprout anywhere in the enclosed area. If you do this right, you’ll have much less upkeep on your finished patio.
Next Comes the Sand
You’ll want your paving stones to come to the top of the form boards. A paving stone that is 3 inches thick. If you’ve followed these directions, you’ll need a 2 inch sand bed under your stones. Since sand will compact and settle, make the sand bed about 3 inches deep and level it by dragging a scrap board along the top of the sand, checking the level as you go. I like to duct-tape a level to the top edge of a straight 2 x 4 and use it as a drag board.
Setting the Paving Stones
Beginning on one side, begin setting the stones in place as you level the sand. A rubber mallet is handy to pound the stones flat into the sand and compress the base. Use any pattern you want, but follow the pattern and leave ½ inch between the stones (1/2 inch is about a finger’s width.). Be sure to “set” each stone with the mallet and be sure the first run is tight and level against the form board. The exterior stones should not have a sand gap between them and the form. If they do, your patio could have some loose stones at the edges when the sand settles or washes out.
Continue to lay and set the stones from one edge to the other, leveling everything as you go. When you get to the far edge, it may be necessary to cut some stones for a tight fit or you may have to leave a sand gap. That’s okay. The form board will hold it all together and you can keep an eye on the gap if it needs sand added later.
To finish your patio, scatter some sand across the top of the stones and take a broom and sweep it into the cracks. A push broom is the best thing for this, but if you don’t have one, any broom will do. Keep adding sand until all the cracks are filled to the level of the stones. Now your stones are set, level and immovable. It’s time for a cookout.
After a few rains, you’ll notice that the sand in the cracks has settled. Simply get out your broom and sweep more sand into the cracks. You may have to do this several times in the first few months, but eventually everything will settle.
If you’ve followed this guide, your patio looks as good as a professionally installed one would look. My patio is 16 x 20 and I haven’t had to add sand for several years. Although I still get a few weeds, most of my cracks have now filled in with green moss and it looks very nice. I hope you’ll enjoy your new patio.