A brick patio, or a deck? For most the answer isn't a difficult one -- beautiful brick will win nearly every time. Why is it, then, that everyone doesn't just do a brick patio? There's a few reasons, but number one is usually the cost. Hiring someone to put in a brick patio costs more than building a deck, mostly due to the labor involved. That's where you come in, though, because as a DIY project it suddenly becomes much more affordable and, when done right, will even add value to your home. Ready to get started? Just follow the steps below to make a brick patio that will be the envy of every deck around.
Step 1: A Pattern to Your Dreams
You want me to dream as part of building a brick patio? Yes, but not sleep and dream, exactly. In fact, just close your eyes right there where you are and picture where you want your patio to go. As you picture your patio, what pattern do you see?
Here's a few of the most common brick patio patterns to choose from: Running Bond, Herringbone and Basket Weave.
Running Bond: The oldest, simplest, and the easiest pattern for a brick patio is the Running Bond. This pattern has a side-by-side appearance and due to the layout there's usually little to no cutting involved of the bricks. Also, depending on which direction you lay this pattern you can make the brick patio seem longer or wider than it is. Although simple to create, this pattern is still attractive.
Herringbone: Who wouldn't love this pattern? The Herringbone pattern for brick patios is truly breathtaking and will be an added value to any home. With that said, it's beauty comes with a price, which is the extra time spent on cutting bricks and laying it out perfectly. Herringbone also makes a great choice if there will be anything heavy, such as a vehicle, sitting on it or moving over it.
Basketweave: For anyone with second-hand pavers, the Basketweave pattern is a great pick. With the used bricks or even some newer antique-style ones, a patio with a Basketweave pattern becomes reminiscent of one you would find at an old English cottage. This is another pattern that allows for little to no cutting of the bricks if you plan it right.
To help get your imagination going you can search online for 'brick pattern' images. You can also design your own pattern, such as flowers or a weave of your own design, but keep in mind that the more intricate a pattern, the more difficult and labor intensive it's going to be.
Step 2: Calculating an Order
Once you've figured out where your patio is going and which pattern you're using, you can prepare to order materials. If you picked a pattern that's intricate, remember to add in extra bricks to your calculation. Decide as well what you're going to line your brick patio with along the edges; continuing with bricks (upended) looks best, but you can also use wood or other edging materials.
To begin your supply list, you'll first need your patio's dimensions. Most home stores and gravel delivery companies will help you with the calculations, but here are some tips just in case you want to do it all yourself. Here's what you're going to need (and you will need enough of each to cover the entire patio area).
Brick pavers (clay bricks), landscape fabric, crushed stone or gravel (up to 4 inches deep), sand (2 inches deep), lumber or other edging material, if not using brick. If using brick as edging, remember to add that into your calculations.
Here's some calculation help, but you can also find some great online paver, gravel and sand calculators if this seems too difficult:
Bricks: Most bricks are 4 inches by 8 inches and the spacing between each will be about 0.5 inches. You can use an online paver calculator or just convert your patio into inches and calculate that way.
- For example, a 10' wide by 10' long patio is 100 square feet / 10 x 10 = 100
- Convert to inches: 120 inches x 120 inches = 14,400 inches.
- Bricks are 4 x 8 inches (approximately) which is a total of = 32 inches
- Now take your total patio inches of 14,400 and divide that by the total area in inches of the brick, 32, and you get: 450 bricks needed.
*Add 5% to your calculation in case you have any broken bricks, or add 10-15% if the pattern is more difficult and going to include cutting bricks.
Gravel and Sand:
- Length x Width x Height (depth) = Volume
- Example: 10' wide x 20' long x .3333 (deep) height = 67 cubic feet or 2.5 yards
- Divide in half for amount of sand needed if going with 2 inches of sand (4 inches = .333 2 inches = .666)
*When you call to make your order, it's also a good time to set up a rental for a tamper.
Step 3: Are You Digging It
Here comes the hard part -- digging. If your yard will fit one, it's going to be a lot easier and less painful if you can rent a Bobcat to dig with or hire someone to do the digging for you. Whichever method you're using (rental, labor, or your own two arms and one back), before you can begin you need to stake out the area that you'll be digging.
Once you've outlined your area, call 811 to have your utility companies come out and tell you if you're going to be digging into any utility lines. It's a free service and it's done within 3 days. Once they've sprayed out the property, you can start safely excavating your patio area.
To determine how far you'll be digging down, you'll want to calculate how much total sand and gravel you'll be using, as well as the height of your brick. For most this will be 4 inches of gravel, 2 inches of sand, and 4 inches of brick, but you may not want to be totally level with your grass so you can go anywhere from 8-10 inches deep in this scenario. You'll also want to allow for the water to run away from your foundation, so for each foot of length add an additional ¼ inch depth to your excavation. Remember to also go a little wider for whatever edging you'll be using as well.
Step 4: Tamp Dancing
It's time for the tamper that you rented to now come out and play. You can use a manual tamper, but it's not recommended for such a large job. If it's a simple walkway you may try it, but for a patio you should use a gas or electric powered tamper. You're also going to need it for several steps of this process, so renting a power tamper will be better for the patio and you in the long run. Tamp the soil down nice and compact so that it can support your patio.
Step 5: It's Gravel Time
Once the soil is firmly tamped, you can add your gravel or crushed rock. Spread it out so that it is evenly spread to a depth of 4 inches. If you added a slope, make sure to check that it's still sloping in the right direction and at the right angle. Once you've finished with the gravel, it's time to use the tamper again. Tamp the rock into place and get ready for the next step.
Step 6: The Edgier the Better
Whatever you're using for the border or edges, it's now time to install it. An edge or border isn't absolutely necessary, but it does more than just add to the attraction of the patio -- it also helps it to keep its shape. The most desirable, as I said before, is to use the same brick pavers that you're using for the patio and just use them lengthwise instead of laying them flat. Whether you're using boards, plastic edging, or the pavers, use a level to make sure that they're installed without any angle. You want them to be perfectly aligned to help keep your patio stable and to help hold its shape now and in the future.
Step 7: Dressing Up
Dressing your gravel up for its date with sand is the next step in the process. Grab your landscaping fabric and cover the rock so that weeds won't be a nuisance with your new beautiful brick patio. Adding the landscape cloth can be done before or after laying your gravel.
Step 8: Pour Sand, Level, and Tamp
Now that the cloth is down and your edges are in, you can add the sand. Two inches is more than enough. Add about half of the sand to half of the patio area so that you can level it off. To level it, make a screed, which is just an object used to level or scrape. For this project, use a piece of lumber like a 2 x 4, and some pipes. Lay the pipes about 3 feet apart and use your piece of lumber to draw them down towards you to level the sand. When you're done, remove the pipes carefully and just brush the sand back into place. Once you have all the sand added and it's all leveled out, tamp it to pack it.
Step 9: Laying Bricks
The fun part is finally here -- it's time for the actual bricks in your brick patio. Get your pattern ready since you're going to need it often for a reference. Start at one corner and begin laying the bricks out in the pattern you picked, leaving about ¼ inches between each brick. Keep your level handy and check the level as you go. Be sure to check both directions. Use a rubber mallet to help set them in place and to help level them.
How to Cut Bricks
You can use a circular saw with a masonry blade, or you use a chisel and a hammer. For the chisel and hammer method:
Score the brick across all four sides with your chisel. Use a square to help you keep it straight. Place the brick on the ground or on sand and strike the brick harder with the hammer and chisel at about a 60-degree angle all along the score line. Alternate your chisel from side to side until it has made a slight groove around the brick. Place the chisel into one of the beveled grooves and strike it hard with the hammer to cause it to break.
Step 10: Finishing Touches
You should have a little sand left or it may have crept up between the bricks -- either way, you'll want to sweep the sand over the surface of the bricks and work it into the spaces between them. Once all the joints are filled you can lightly mist the patio with water, but not enough to wash the sand away. Keep sweeping and misting until all the joints are filled in.
It's now completely done and isn't it absolutely stunning? A brick patio isn't the easiest DIY project, but it's one of the best to show off. Once you have yours built, invite the neighbors over for them to see just how fabulous it looks and how you increased the value of your home in just a few days' time.