Here is a simple design plan to show beginners how to build brick patios the easy way. This design is simple yet elegant. I give you all the instructions you need to lay the bricks in a striking pattern, but I do not ask you to do any cutting (baby steps, right?).
Instructions for Building a Brick Patio, Yourself
- 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.
- Dig out the area, to a depth of 8 inches. With a level, check that your excavation’s floor slopes (1/4 inch per running foot) away from the house for drainage, so water will run away from the house and patio.
- 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 inches extra all along the perimeter.
- This extra 2 inches along the perimeter is for the insertion of brick edging (the bricks are about 2 inches 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.
- 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 inches.
- Tamp down the stone. Lay landscape fabric down over the stone, to suppress potential weeds later. Now pour 2 inches of sand over the landscape fabric. Use a long 2x4 as a screed.
- 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 inches below the tops of the edging bricks.
- Excess sand in Step #7 will thus be redistributed to low areas, and you will end up with an even surface. Tamp the sand down. Now it is time to begin laying the brick patio flooring -- for real.
- 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.
- Take note when assembling supplies for this project that not all bricks are alike. You want "paving" bricks (also called "brick pavers"), specifically, for this project. They are designed for just this sort of job. Also be aware that not all bricks are exactly the same size. In the measurements that I am giving, I am assuming 4-inch x 8-inch bricks, about 2 inches thick. Brick pavers come in other sizes, but this size is easiest to work with.
- Bricks can be laid in different patterns. For this patio project, I am suggesting that you use the basket weave pattern.
- The basket weave pattern is elegant yet simple, requiring no cutting of bricks. All you have to do is make sure that you have selected a location suitable for a brick patio of the dimensions indicated in this tutorial (which is the purpose of the test run in Step #3 above). Avoiding having to cut bricks will save you in time, money, anxiety, and frustration.
- 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 to indicate evenness.
- 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.
- If the cracks still are not totally filled, repeat Step #14. Now you are done.
Tips to Help You Through the Project
- The basket weave design pattern can furnish you with 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!
- The key to keeping the project pressure-free is Step #3. For the mathematically-challenged, it is comforting to know -- ahead of time -- that all of the bricks will fit within the frame, and fit tightly.
- So what happens if, due to the constraints of the space in which you are 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 is your choice.
- 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 do not want to make the sand uneven or dislodge the bricks.
- A brick that is 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.
Supplies That You Will Need
- Shovel and rubber mallet
- Carpenter's level
- Crushed stone
- Landscape fabric
- Paving bricks
- Mason's line
- Plywood to kneel on
- Garden hose
- One long 2x4 to use as a screed
Is brick too formal a material for you? Would you prefer a patio composed of irregularly-shaped parts, which lends itself to more of a natural look? Then consult my tutorial explaining how to lay a flagstone patio.