Step-by-step: how to build an instant patio
Use these photos and instructions to finish it in a weekend
1. Rototill or dig the soil; rake it smooth. Lay the 2-by-4s about 7 feet apart to serve as temporary guides. Place a stake in the soil to mark the patio's center; tie a 3 ½-foot-long piece of string to it, then tie the string's free end to the second stake. With the free stake, trace the patio's outline in the soil, pulling the string taut as you walk a wide circle around the center stake.
Remove the stakes and mark the circle with gypsum. Remove the 2-by-4s from the sides; then place the carpenter's level on one of them to make sure soil is level. (Recheck level at every stage.)
Spray with a fine mist from the hose, then tamp it again into a layer about 2 inches thick.
Spread three bags of sand evenly over the surface of the finished paving, let it dry if wet, then sweep the sand into the joints between bricks. Mist lightly with the hose. Add sand until joints are full.
For extra firming (also optional), mix 1 part mortar with 1 part sand, then brush the mixture into joints between the outer bricks. Carefully sweep excess mortar off the bricks. Mist periodically over the next two hours. Scrub bricks with burlap to eliminate any mortar stains.
Finished! Planting can wait until tomorrow. To help reinforce the patio's edge, lay sod or plant low-growing ground covers as close to it as possible.
- Two 7-foot-long 2-by-4s
- Two 1-foot-long stakes with pointed tips
- 12 1-cubic-foot bags (about ½ yard) clean sand
- One round slate or flagstone paver, about 17 inches in diameter (add two or more for steppingstones ― optional)
- 150 used bricks (includes a few extras for color matching)
- One 80-pound bag Quikcrete mortar mix
- 1 quart mortar color
- Rotary tiller or spade
- Carpenter's level
- Rubber mallet
- Bench broom
- Bucket for mixing mortar
- Grout bag
Edge it with low mounders ― New Zealand hair sedge 'Frosty Curls', 'Oriental Limelight' variegated artemisia ― and add color makers such as breath of heaven, pink marguerites, pink and purple anemones, Swan River daisy, lilac, Berberis thunbergii 'Aurea'. Tuck low growers such as creeping thyme between the bricks.
Put a comfy Adirondack chair in the center.