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How To Build a Brick Patio

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Photo showing basketweave pattern.

Photo showing basketweave pattern.

David Beaulieu
Here's a simple design plan to make laying brick patios easy for DIYers. This design is easy to build yet elegant. I give you all the instructions you need to lay the bricks in a striking pattern, but I don't ask you to do any cutting (baby steps, right?).
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 2 days for a small patio

Here's How:

  1. Measure out the desired area. Rectangular design plans are easier to execute than curved designs. To ensure that you have a perfect rectangle, measure the 2 diagonals: they should be of equal length.
  2. Dig out the area, to a depth of 8". With a level, check that your excavation’s floor slopes (1/4" per running foot) away from the house for drainage, so water will run away from the house and patio.
  3. Do a test run by laying your brick pattern, to check your measurements. This way, if your initial measurement was off, you can correct it now. There should be about 2" extra all along the perimeter.
  4. This extra 2" along the perimeter is for the insertion of brick edging (the bricks are about 2" thick). Stand the bricks on end, "shoulder to shoulder." Tap them into place with a rubber mallet. The idea here is to frame the rectangular area.
  5. Remove the bricks that you laid as a test run in Step #3 (but keep the edging that you laid in Step #4 in place). Pour crushed stone into this framed area, to a depth of 4".
  6. Tamp down the stone. Lay landscape fabric down over the stone, to suppress potential weeds later. Now pour 2" of sand over the landscape fabric. Use a long 2x4 as a screed.
  7. Starting at one end of the rectangle, run this screed along the sand, leveling the sand out. You want the sand's level to end up 2" below the tops of the edging bricks.
  8. Excess sand in Step #7 will thus be redistributed to low areas, and you'll end up with an even surface. Tamp the sand down. Now it's time to begin laying the brick patio flooring -- for real!
  9. Begin in a corner, pressing the bricks down into the sand. Make them abut as closely together as possible. Strike the bricks with a rubber mallet to settle them into the sand.
  10. You want "paving" bricks for this project. In the measurements that I'm giving, I'm assuming 4" x 8" bricks, about 2" thick. Brick pavers come in other sizes; but this size is easiest to work with.
  11. For a design pattern, I'm suggesting the "basket weave" (see link #2 below, which links to an illustration of the basket weave design pattern).
  12. The basket weave pattern is elegant yet simple, requiring no cutting of bricks. Avoiding cutting will save you in time, money and frustration!
  13. Run a mason's line across your forms as you proceed, row by row, in laying your bricks. The mason's line will serve as a guide for evenness.
  14. After laying the bricks, spread some sand over them. With a broom, work this sand into the cracks. Then, with a garden hose, gently spray the bricks, so the sand will settle between the cracks.
  15. If the cracks still aren't totally filled, repeat Step #14. Now you're done!

Tips:

  1. For a graphic illustration of the basket weave design pattern see the basket weave page. This is an attractive flooring design, without any brick-cutting. Rectangular plans work best for small patios. To soften the rigid lines, simply plant container gardens along the edges. For larger patios, consider curved designs -- but be ready to cut bricks!
  2. The key to keeping the project pressure-free is Step #3. For the mathematically-challenged, it's comforting to know -- ahead of time -- that all the bricks will fit within the frame, and fit tightly.
  3. So what happens if, due to the constraints of the space in which you're working, you conclude that you may have to do some cutting to make the patio fit into its allotted space? Well, there are devices for cutting pavers. But as an alternative, you could compromise and make your patio a smidgen smaller, using crushed stone along the perimeter to make up the difference. It's your choice.
  4. As you lay bricks (Steps #9 - #13), kneel neither on the sand nor directly on the bricks. Kneel instead on plywood atop the bricks. You don't want to make the sand uneven or dislodge the bricks.
  5. A brick that's 4x8x2 makes this project go more smoothly: in a basket weave design you want the widths of 2 bricks to equal the length of 1, so that you can develop a clean checkerboard pattern.

What You Need

  • shovel and rubber mallet
  • level
  • crushed stone
  • landscape fabric
  • paving bricks
  • mason's line
  • plywood to kneel on
  • broom
  • garden hose
  • one long 2x4 for screed

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