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Building a Patio the Right Way

Professional Construction with Brick Pavers, Concrete, a Ground-Level Deck, or Stones

© 2012 by Shawn Kabrick; All rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission.

A patio awning and patio furniture; photo courtesy Lilsarahp

There are all different types of patios with options to satisfy every taste and budget. One advantage of adding a patio to your property if you have a small house is that it will expand your living space. The right building method depends on the particular patio you choose as each kind requires a slightly different approach.

Here are some of the most popular patio types and how they should be installed.

  • Brick Paver Patios —

    Some homeowners prefer brick patios for their solid, level surface and design flexibility. There are seemingly endless types and shapes of bricks available, so creating a unique look that fits the style of your home is easy to do.

    Also, if you decide to expand your patio in the future or need to replace a portion, you can do so with this type of patio without causing noticeable seams or a patchwork appearance (assuming you use the same type brick).

    Building a brick patio is something DIYers can do if they have the necessary materials and patience to get the job done right — it’s a lot of hard work! For this type of patio to lay flat and look uniform, a well-compacted foundation is essential (you don’t want anything sinking or shifting later).

    It requires a lot of sweat and time as you must remove all grass, roots, humps, and bumps. But don’t take shortcuts because this step can make or break the quality of your patio. There are two acceptable methods for building a brick patio — flexible pavement (dry-laid method), or mortared pavement.

    Flexible pavement is faster and simpler to put down and makes it easier to expand or repair your patio. On the other hand, mortared pavement is more difficult to install, but it tends to last longer.

  • Concrete Slab —

    Concrete is definitely the most commonly used patio material because of its low cost, easy maintenance, and variety of options. Since it can dry to any shape, you can do a basic rectangle or incorporate curves and circles into your design.

    Also, with the ability to stamp, stain, and add other decorative elements to your concrete, you don’t have to settle for a boring gray slab. The downside of concrete is it tends to crack over time, and it’s difficult to add on or repair concrete without getting a patchwork appearance.

    Although building it yourself is possible, a concrete patio isn’t a suggested DIY project for the average homeowner unless you have some experience.

    Depending on the size of your patio, you may need a substantial amount of concrete and trying to pour your whole slab quickly and evenly (you don’t want part of it to harden before you’re done) using a small cement mixer is impractical.

    Also, concrete requires leveling, making joints, the removal of lumps and bubbles, and curing, all of which are best done by a skilled hand.

  • Stone Paver Patios —

    Stone comes in a wide range of colors and sizes, which presents many design options. Commonly chosen stones are river rock, flagstone, and cobblestone. Similar to brick, you can create a one-of-a-kind patio that is easily added onto or repaired.

    Many people prefer it for its natural look, ruggedness, and ability to work in formal or informal settings. The downsides are that it's sometimes uneven, and weeds and grass can easily grown between the cracks.

    Like brick, you can lay stone using either mortar or a dry-laying method; however the dry method is likely easier for DIYers since it gives you time to tinker with the stones without worrying about the mortar drying.

    No matter which method you choose, having well-compacted, even ground is crucial, and you must repack the ground after every layer you add (sand, gravel, etc.).

    There might be some unevenness in the patio (if you’re going for a rustic look); however, it should not be from bumpy ground (which can cause stones to crack), but only from the different thicknesses and shapes of the rocks.

  • Wooden Patio —

    A wooden patio is essentially a ground-level deck and is preferable to those who’d rather build than dig (although there is some digging involved), and generally like the look and feel of wood.

    Also, it’s easy to repair a deck; (just remove and replace any damaged boards), and you can add on or change its appearance any time you want. Still, some shy away from decks because of their maintenance needs (annual pressure washing and sealing) and their higher cost as compared to concrete.

    A wooden patio is constructed similarly to any other type of deck and is something a homeowner with the proper tools and know-how could do on his own.

    It’s best to clear the land before starting the project, so you don’t have to worry about weeds coming through the wood and you can create an even surface for your deck piers. Also, even though the deck is “ground level”, the wood should not physically touch the ground or moisture will cause the wood to rot.

Regardless of the patio you build, always ensure that it slopes slightly away from the house to avoid water pooling and seeping into your home’s foundation. Some DIY types may feel confident handling such a project on their own, but if you’re not sure about something, always contact a professional for assistance. A patio is a significant expense and you want to be able to enjoy it for years.

About the Author:

Shawn Kabrick has 14 years working as a carpenter and contractor building new homes, light commercial buildings, and residential remodeling in Minnesota. Shawn has a degree in Architectural Drafting and Design and is currently a licensed residential building contractor and the owner of Twin Cities Contracting

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    Website © 2012 all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

    Article © 2012 Shawn Kabrick.