How to Build a Patio
Today we’re giving you some professional tips and techniques to help you build an amazing backyard patio of your own and it’s all about the base and nothing to do with the bricks. This means we’re building a cutlass paver patio and we’re going to show you how to do the same. So, let’s get into it.
We’re going to divide the base into three distinct categories, the first category is what we call the sub base and that is the raw soil. How to prepare that? What to look for? And what you’re going to need to know to make sure that when you lay your patio now, it looks the same ten years from now. The second category is what we call the imported base material. That’s what you use to separate the sub base from your pavers. The third category of base material is your sand base or your screed rail, and there may be a little bit of controversy on this last point.
Let’s look at the sub base material or the raw soil. This is the most critical element to get right when you’re installing your base. If your sub base material goes wrong, your patio can’t help but fail. So how do you know if you’re working on good sub base material? Here’s a little tip to let you know if you’ve got good sub base material. Take a spike and start pounding it in, if you can hit this spike two or three times and drive a ten or twelve-inch spike all the way down to the top of the nail head, your sub base is too soft. Which means you’ve got to do a soil correction.
If you pound that stake in and you hammer on it and you hammer on and you hammer and you can’t get that stake to move, you’re in good shape. It is absolutely critical that you compact the sub base using as heavy of equipment as you can possibly get your hands on. In this case, a one hundred fifty pound plate compactor will typically be enough to pound the sub base material. I’d personally prefer to use at least a thousand pound plate packer or thirty-three-inch trench compactor. Here’s a professional tip: if your sub base seems to have a high moisture content, just lay down some filter fabric before you put your base in.
The next step is to import your base material. I prefer to use a class five. A class five is simply nothing more than a three-quarter inch rock that has fines mixed into it. It has a cohesive nature so once you pack it, it stays uniform. If you’re going to be installing a typical paver patio or a paver driveway, the depth of your base is six inches. If you’re going to be driving larger trucks or vehicles on this driveway, then you’re going to want to deepen that base to eight or even ten inches. When we’re in installing the base material for semi lanes around the Walmarts and Hi-Vees and the superstores that you guys frequent, we use up to a foot of base material.
If you open your back door and you’re experiencing frost, what you’re going to be doing is you’re going to dig all the way down to the bottom of your footing. That may be three or four feet or more and you’re going to replace that with pure three-quarter clear rock. You may hear some people say, “Oh don’t do that.” But let me fill you in on something: this is how we fix commercial sites. So when you’re putting your base material in, I used two lifts. I don’t need to use two lifts because I’m using a thousand pound plate compactor, but I’m using two lifts because that extra level of compaction ensures that my patio is going to look the same a decade from now as it did the day I installed it.
Now you’ve got your base material in and you’ve got it compacted. The third and final element to preparing your base for a patio paver installation is your sand or your screed base. The critical measurement you need to keep in your mind is one inch. The reason you do not want to go more than one inch with the sand is that it has no cohesive material in it.
This means that the sand has the potential to move. If you take a pinpoint pressure on the edge of a block that you would stall in a paver patio and you put enough force on the edge of that one paver, it has the potential to push down, which means the other end pushes up. Some of my best installers have fought me on this point until I’ve asked them to put their name, their reputation and their guarantee on the line and they tend to agree with you.
You can see the sub cut that we made. The yellow line indicates the height of the paver patio. The class five base needs to still come up and then we put in place an inch of sand. Very technical today. We’re prepping the base. I said it before, too much sand is a bad thing and I’m going to show you how to get your sand absolutely precise. We have the class 5 base in.
1 inch of Sand
Come a little closer, and what you’re going to see is our trick to get it about one inch of sand. That is to use a one inch pipe; it’s as simple as that. This is the depth of the sand you need underneath your pavers. No more, and no less. You lay this pipe down, you put your screed rail on top of it, and that is the sand layer. You can actually see a finished section right over here. This is finished to exactly one inch of sand. Any more than that is going to make your pavers tip.
A lot of people get really confused and flustered when it comes to installing a patio on how to lay out the bricks. But you can actually install a cutlass paver patio fairly easily as long as you are not absolutely critical with the dimensions and layout of your patio. Blaine is actually making what we call a cutlass patio and the reason he’s doing this is that he has no restrictions on what he’s doing.
So the customer wanted a 20×20 foot patio. We are just a hair under 20 feet but that way you don’t have to cut any cuts.
A half-inch over on the other side, but then we have zero cuts to make. Now if we had to be exactly precise with this patio, what we’d end up doing before we install the soldier course. We’d hang the bricks longer, snap a string line and take the chop saw and zip straight down the stream line and cut them all at one time. Versus taking each brick out and making a cut and putting it in and pulling a brick out, making a cut, putting it in. It’s much more efficient this way.
Sand in Joints
Once the patio is installed you need to put sand in the joints. So you lay the bricks out then you put a final layer of sand in those joints to fill them up. Now there are options here. Tou can put regular sand in. I prefer regular sand. You have to sweep into all the joints, run a hundred fifty pound plate packer over the top of the patio, and that settles the sand into all the joints. You re-sweep it and you keep compacting it until the sand is all the way up to the top.
Your second option is to use a polymeric sand and this is a water activated blend. This means you forgo putting the standard sand in and you purchase polymeric sand in bags. You install at the same except for the final element is you hose it all down. Once you hose it down, you activate the polymeric compounds within that sand and it binds together. A lot of companies will recommend that you use this, but the technology at this point in time I do not believe warrants using polymeric sand. I’ve seen first hand that after 3-5 years that polymeric sand chunks and when it chunks, it breaks up in big pieces. It can never go back in place, so then you’re left redoing the patio.
Now paver patios have a certain element of maintenance regardless, but you can freshen up standard sand compounds by grabbing a bag of sand and sweeping it in and hosing it off every year. It takes you thirty, forty minutes at the tops. If your polymeric sand breaks up you have to get remove all of the polymeric sand and start all over again. That’s a higher level of maintenance down the road.
Hope these techniques have helped you to understand a little bit better when you’re installing your own paver patio. Now from the installers that are watching this video, do me a favor share your tips and techniques in the comments down below. We have consumers that are watching these paver patios trying to educate themselves on how to do this, and there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Some of the things that you guys are doing are absolutely amazing. So please share your wisdom in the comments down below. God bless, I hope nothing but the best. I hope your projects turn out absolutely amazing.