Installing a new patio may be a daunting task for a new DIYer, but if you start with sand and forget about concrete or mortar, putting down patio pavers—while a big project—is not a difficult one. Take things step-by-step, and in time you’ll have an amazing patio for a fraction of the cost of hiring a professional.
Before you begin your project, determine exactly where your new patio will go. You have to do this first so you can get an idea of how much material you’ll need.
Step 1 - Measure and Calculate
Use chalk lines to show yourself exactly where the patio will go. Now measure. You need to know the length and the width of a square or rectangular patio. Multiply the two numbers together, and you’ll know how much square footage the proposed patio will cover.
You could have a curved edge, and mark it out with a length of rope or a garden hose, but that's going to make your math harder and make laying out the pattern more complex. If this is your first patio, keep it simple.
Both sand and gravel are needed to complete your DIY patio project. You need about 4 inches of gravel to cover the entire area of the proposed patio. Multiply the length and width of your area, then multiply this by four for the height of the gravel.
This gives you a volume measurement. You want one inch of sand to cover the gravel; use the same formula to calculate how much you’ll need.
Step 2 - Gather Your Materials
The most expensive materials you will purchase will likely be the pavers themselves. Standard pavers measure four by eight inches. You know your square footage, so use this to figure out how many pavers you need.
Always buy extra. Pavers may break during installation and in the future, so it’s helpful to have spares. Get at least a half-dozen spare pavers to give yourself a little extra breathing room.
Step 3 - Dig Your Bed
After your patio area is marked off, it needs to be dug up. Excavate around four inches of soil from the ground here. Use the shovel to move earth as needed to make the area level. Use 2x4s and a level to ensure you're even everywhere. Place stakes into each of the four corners of the patio. Add more stakes, four feet apart, across the entire width and length of the patio area.
Step 4 - Install the Edging
A border of edging keeps your pavers from spreading apart over time. You can make this border out of treated lumber, plastic or steel edging, or pavers standing on end. Start by digging a trench along the perimeter. The trench will be anywhere from two to four inches deep, depending on the thickness of the edging you’re installing. Add about 1 inch of sand to the trench after it’s done, and lay your edging in place. Use a rubber mallet to tap it into place. If you used pavers for the edging, once it's set pour a little sand over the pavers and sweep it down into the cracks. The sand will help hold them in place.
Step 5 - Lay Your Base
Pour the gravel into the patio bed. Tamp it all down with a tamper. Add a layer of sand and tamp it down, too. The sand and gravel must be well-packed or your patio will not stay level. Use a rake to ensure the area is nice and level, and check it to be sure.
Step 6 - Lay the Pavers
Use strings to connect all the stakes you buried, creating a framework. This grid helps you keep your patio pavers straight and level while you work. Set each paver straight down and avoid shifting them around. Moving and shifting the patio pavers will cause sand and gravel to get in-between them, and they won’t stay flush and even this way.
The simplest pattern is called the "running bond." It's the basic layout of a brick wall, with each row offset from the last by half. Starting at one edge, lay a row of pavers, lay the next so the joints line up with the centers of the pavers in the first row and continue this pattern all the way across.
Step 7 - Complete
Once the pavers are all in place pull up all your stakes and take down the grid. Spread a final layer of sand across the whole patio and then sweep it off. This leaves behind only the sand that sifted in-between the pavers, locking them in place. Tamp down all your pavers one last time and start enjoying your new patio.
Your New Patio
Once all the pavers are well-installed, your patio will remain beautiful for years. Sweep it regularly to get rid of debris, check for cracks after every winter and replace pavers as needed. Regular maintenance will extend the life of your patio, and keep it an attractive part of your outdoor space.