How to Build a Patio in a Weekend - FineGardening (2023)

At the risk of compromising our job security, we’re willing to let you in on a little secret: You can build your own patio. If two guys from Massachusetts can learn, you can, too. Sure, it took us 30 years to perfect our craft, but we’re willing to share our expert techniques so that you can have instant success.

Any gardener with realistic expectations on size and material can create a solid space on which to sit and view his or her garden. The average home owner working with one or two other people should be able to install a 12-foot-square patio with stone-like pavers in one weekend. Maybe it’ll take you a little longer, but one thing is sure: You’ll take pride in a job done right.

Items Needed

Nylon masonry line

Four 12-inch-long metal spikes

Line level


Wide metal rake

Hand tamper, or plate compactor

Two 1-inch-diameter metal fence pipes


4- or 6-foot-long level

Rubber mallet

Plastic or metal edging and
metal spikes, or premixed concrete

Polymeric sand
(optional but recommended)

PAVERS are the best option

For a do-it-yourself patio, a simple square design with one size of pavers is a lot easier to install than one with various sizes and curves because you will not have to cut the pavers, which takes time and skill. Pavers are strong, inexpensive, and easy to install. Most pavers are also simple to repair. If you stain one of your pavers, all you have to do is take it up and flip it over.

When it comes to figuring out how much to order, the simplest way is to call suppliers, tell them what pavers you want, and give them your measurements. The only thing left is to decide whether to pick up the pavers or have them delivered. Expect to pay $40 to $100 per delivery depending on distance. Consider any access limitations before the materials arrive. Keep in mind low wires, telephone lines, and your septic system. Your day could be ruined in a hurry if the dump truck takes out a wire or drives over and sinks in your septic tank.

The proper BASE material is important

Our favorite material for a patio base is crusher run. Depending on what part of the country you live in, there are other names for it: hard pack, processed gravel, or road pack, to name just a few. Whatever it’s called, you want a base material that consists of crushed stone, usually ¾ inch diameter or less, mixed with ground aggregates, such as stone or concrete. This base material packs great and, more important, drains well.

You’ll need a 3-inch-deep layer of packed material for your base. Our rule of thumb is that a cubic yard of crusher run will supply 80 square feet at 3 inches thick unpacked. So for a patio measuring 12 feet long by 12 feet wide, or 144 square feet, order 2 cubic yards of base material. Keep in mind that this formula isn’t perfect, so be prepared to have a little less or more depending on how precisely you dug out the base. You also need a 1-inch-deep layer of coarse or concrete sand that goes between the base and the pavers. So add a yard of sand to your order, as well.

If you don’t have a truck, bribe a friend with a truck to help you pick up the material. (We found that food is a great motivator.) You might suggest sending your friend home with some plants from your garden if that person sticks around to help out. If you don’t have any friends with a truck, then the other option is to have your supplier deliver the material. As with the pavers, expect to pay $40 to $100 per delivery. Make sure you are prepared for the delivery truck. The closer you can get the aggregate to the work site, the easier it will be to move later.

Set and level the line

To set the final height and pitch of your patio, it is essential to set a proper guide. It’s basically a giant plus sign with the cross at the middle of your square patio.

A. Run a taut nylon masonry line between two metal spikes 12 feet apart. Create another taut 12-foot-long line across the midway point of the first line. The line should be at the level you want the finished pavers.

B. Attach your line level to the line running out from the house; if your patio is not against a house, attach it to the line that runs in the direction you want water to run off. Using your level, create a pitch that will have approximately a quarter of a bubble pitch away from level. The perpendicular line should be level. Periodically throughout construction, check the line to make sure it hasn’t moved.

Dig out the area, and compact the base

The patio foundation is important for the stability of the pavers. A solid base will reduce shifting and sinking.

A. Make a bed for your foundation by digging out 6 inches below your lines. Dig an extra 4 inches around the perimeter of your patio because you will need room for the edging. Shovel half the aggregate in, and spread it out evenly with a metal landscape rake.

B. Compact this first layer, and repeat with the rest of the aggregate. If you want to do this by hand, use a hand tamper. If you want to make it easier on yourself and get really solid pack, use a plate compactor; you can rent one for about $75 a day.

C. Check the depth as you compact by measuring down from your line to the base. You want 3 inches from the line to the base of compacted aggregate. After the base is evenly packed, you can remove the big plus-sign lines.

Screed the sand

Always top the base with an inch of coarse sand. This creates a secure bed that locks the pavers in place. The best way to get an even layer is to screed the sand.

A. Set the pipes, side by side, approximately 3 feet apart, to serve as a guide to the proper depth of the sand. Check that they are level across and, more important, that they follow the pitch away from your house. If they are too high, bang the pipes down until you get the correct pitch. If they are too low, add sand under the pipes. If you spent the time making the base right, setting the pipes shouldn’t take much effort.

B. Bring in the sand one small pile at a time. Using the landscape rake (or a board), screed—or spread—the sand evenly. Do this one section at a time for the entire patio.

C. Lift the pipes out, and fill in the space with more sand after you’ve screed each section. Smooth it out with a trowel to match the rest of the base.

Set the Pavers

When your base is solid and smooth, it is simple to set and secure the pavers. These tips will make sure you stay on track.

A. Set up another square line to act as a guide when you set the pavers. Set the line at a right angle from the foundation of the house (or desired starting corner) down the outside edge of the patio. If you don’t start off square, the line could be off by the time you move it out, and your patio will be wider at one end. If this happens and you’re a perfectionist, like us, you’ll want to rip it up and start all over.

B. Lay the first row along the line, trying not to step on the sand. Once you get going, you can stand on the pavers that are in place to lay the rest of the patio. Move from one corner, building diagonally to the opposite corner. Make sure to place the pavers as close together as possible. Keep a level handy while you work to check that you are maintaining the correct pitch. To make adjustments to the pitch, you may need to use a rubber mallet to tamp down the pavers, or you can add a little sand under them. When you reach the edges, it may be necessary to cut the pavers. The best way to make cuts is to rent a grinder with a 4½-inch-diameter diamond blade, or use a chisel and hammer to chip off the excess. Don’t forget the safety glasses (and they have to be cool—none of those dorky science-lab ones).

Secure the structure

Finish your patio by compacting the pavers together. This will reduce the likeliness of shifting and settling.

A. Run a plate compactor or hand tamper over the pavers. Start at the outside edges and work your way in. Go over the patio a couple of times until the pavers are secure.

B. Sweep in coarse sand
or polymeric sand (a sand mixture that when activated with water hardens and helps prevent weeds).

C. Run the compactor over the patio one final time to get the sand in all the joints. Get some furniture on there, cook something up, and get the drinks. Don’t forget to call your neighbors over and brag, “Hey, look. I did this myself!” Then sit back, relax, and start planning your next project.

Install the edging

The finishing edge creates a boundary to keep the pavers from shifting out of place.

Option A: We purchase edging that comes in 8-foot-long plastic or metal pieces. Lay it along the edges, and secure it with metal spikes, keeping it a few inches below the pavers so that it won’t be seen.

Option B: The alternative to edging is to build a concrete berm. Purchase premixed concrete, add water, and mix it into a thick mud. We use a trowel to scoop some concrete and pack it on an angle along the outside edge of the pavers, starting thick on the bottom and tapering it to the top. This little concrete triangle wedge provides a strong border and is easily concealed by soil or mulch.


What is the easiest and cheapest way to build a patio? ›

PAVERS are the best option

For a do-it-yourself patio, a simple square design with one size of pavers is a lot easier to install than one with various sizes and curves because you will not have to cut the pavers, which takes time and skill. Pavers are strong, inexpensive, and easy to install.

How many hours does it take to build a patio? ›

Basic patios can take up to 1 week to complete. This is usually a smaller patio without any extra features or designs. Average patios can take about 3 to 4 weeks to complete. This is a larger patio that can include different design options and some additions and upgrades.

What is the cheapest patio method? ›

Gravel is the cheapest option when looking to create a patio on a budget. Otherwise, pebbles or reclaimed materials are also good options. If you're set on laying paving slabs, concrete is one of the cheapest materials, and when installed and maintained correctly, it can hold up well and last for years.

What is the least expensive patio? ›

The most affordable patio material is usually bark chippings, followed by gravel. However, remember you may need to factor in the cost of garden edging, too. For a step up in price, opt for poured concrete or concrete pavers, although it's likely you will need to pay for installation.

Can a beginner lay a patio? ›

' The answer is yes, you can, but using good quality materials and properly preparing the space first are essential. So, how do you lay a patio? Here's our beginner's guide that anyone can follow.

What is the best sub-base for a patio? ›

' The most common granular aggregate sub-base is DoT (Department of Transport) Type 1 and Type 3 Limestone. They are both crushed stone: Type 1 has a maximum permitted top size of 63mm, graded down to dust; and Type 3 is an open-graded 40mm unbound mixture with a reduced amount of fines.

What time of year is best to lay a patio? ›

If you're looking to build a patio, winter is the best time to build one. That might be counterintuitive, but there are at least five great reasons that building a patio in winter is more convenient, cost-effective and easier on your existing landscaping.

How much patio can be laid in a day? ›

The answer is you can lay 10-20sq/m of patio a day for two men, one a labourer and the other a paviour. This is the average, but there's a range of circumstances that affect this, as you'll see below.

How long after laying a patio can you walk on it? ›

Concrete is fully cured after 28 days – this is when your new patio will be at its full compressive strength. However, the advice is usually to avoid walking on it for at least 24 to 48 hours to allow it to dry and strengthen and become the beautifully laid patio you've put so much effort into.

How much does it cost to build a 10x10 patio cover? ›

Prices stretch from $5,355 to a very custom $8,785 to get a basic, fully-covered 10 x 10 vinyl patio cover installed. DIY Solid roofed patio cover kits range from $2,520 to $6,020.

What is the best material to build a patio out of? ›

The best material for patios is paver. The different types of pavers are concrete, clay brick, and natural stone. It's the best patio material due to its strength, ease of repair, and material options.

What is cheaper concrete patio or pavers? ›

While individual pavers aren't expensive, laying pavers is more time- and labor-intensive than pouring concrete. The up-front cost of pavers can run anywhere from $8 to $25 per square foot, while concrete runs about $3 to $6 per square foot.

What is the most maintenance free patio? ›

Install porcelain paving

Whether you are swapping out your old slabs or paving over a grass lawn, porcelain pavers are the ultimate low maintenance patio solution.

What is the cheapest material to build a patio? ›

Concrete is one of the most common and the cheapest materials for building a patio. Concrete is a piece of aggregates and paste – stone , sand, grave, or even shells may be crushed in the concrete; water and cement are a paste.

What type of patio lasts the longest? ›

Natural stone, tile, pavers, and brick are some of the longest-lasting patio materials. These materials are durable and resistant to weather and wear, which makes them a good choice for long-lasting structures.

What type of patio is easiest to maintain? ›

Pick porcelain pavers

The latest porcelain slabs and boards have the look of natural stone or wood but require less maintenance. They're strong, durable and hard-wearing, dirt-repelling and frost and algae resistant. They won't fade, are long lasting and stay clean too.

Is a patio cheaper than a deck? ›

Patios are usually more cost-effective to construct than decks. The reason for this is that they're usually made out of concrete, bricks, or stone, which are all less expensive materials! One study showed that—per square foot—patios cost less than half the cost of decks!

Can you lay a patio directly on soil? ›

The short answer is yes, you can. But there are a few things you need to consider and prepare before starting the job. We've put together a guide on paving slabs: where can you lay paving slabs, how do you need to prepare the ground, as well as practical advice on installation.

Can you lay a patio straight into soil? ›

While it is possible to lay paving slabs on soil, it is not generally advised. The durability of any paving with a soil base can depend on many factors, including: Type of soil: Heavy clay soil will be far more durable and less likely to be compromised by British weather conditions.

What goes under a patio? ›

A sand-set paver base is the traditional way to install pavers. This method uses a layer of sand as a bed between the base and pavers. After installing sand, the pavers are laid on top and pressed into place.

What is the minimum depth of a patio? ›

Minimum Depth For A Porch

Most resources will say the minimum for a porch is 6 feet in depth. This is for good reason, as that allows enough room for you to incorporate chairs, potted plants, and/or other furniture with enough room to move around and walk in front of the furniture.

Does a patio need foundations? ›

Foundations are a key element in ensuring the solidity of your patio, balcony or terrace. In order to be durable, foundations must be impervious to ground movements linked to freeze and thaw cycles. To achieve this, foundations must reach down under the frost line, which varies according to the region and type of soil.

How deep should I dig for a patio? ›

Site Preparation. The recommended depth you'll want to dig to is about 150mm or 6 inches from the finished patio level. You can use a tape measure to check your depth is correct and once you're happy you can compact the soil using a Vibrating Plate compactor, also known as a Wacker Plate.

Can I lay a patio without sub-base? ›

Do I really need a Sub-base? The short answer is: if the pavement will be trafficked by vehicles, then yes, but if it will be foot-traffic only, then not necessarily. The type of paving or surfacing that will be used is one of the key factors in determining whether a sub-base will be required.

Do I put a membrane under a patio? ›

In the vast majority of light-use constructions (patios, driveways, footpaths, etc) there is absolutely no need for a membrane to be placed between sub-base and the bedding layer: it achieves almost nothing, as a well-selected sub-base material will have what we call a 'tight' or 'close' finish, that is, there will be ...

How much should you spend on a patio? ›

The national average cost for a new patio is $4,500, but the price range can go from $2,290 to over $6,420. Patios can be very expensive if it's a large project or incredibly affordable if you're on a tight budget.

What temperature should you not lay a patio? ›

Lay on days of 3 degrees C or upwards

But if you can arrange things so that the temperature won't drop below 3 degrees C at any point during the day or night you will avoid the loose slabs and uneven base which can come from frost damage during the paving process.

What side of house is best for patio? ›

If you're building a new patio and you're lucky enough to be able to have it facing any direction you like, north is perhaps your best choice.

Is a 10x10 patio too small? ›

For a dining area for four people, you'll need about 10x10 feet. For six to eight, make it 12x12 feet. To accommodate a typical round table with six chairs, provide a circular area with a diameter of at least 9 feet.

Is it OK to lay a patio on concrete? ›

In cases where you already have a concrete driveway or patio that's in good condition, pavers could potentially be laid directly over concrete. This is known as an overlay, and while it's a great option for homeowners, it's not feasible in every situation.

What happens if it rains after laying a patio? ›

This is because too much water can saturate the cement. This will wash the cement content to the bottom, weakening the mix and the bond. This will significantly reduce the strength of the mix, which will effectively become sand in the long term if it is badly saturated in the wet.

Can it be too hot to lay a patio? ›

Avoid laying concrete at the hottest part of the day, between 11-3pm. Use a suitable concrete mix in your project. For example, set retarding concrete mixes slow down the curing process, making them ideal for use in hot weather. Keep all your equipment in the shade until you are ready to use it.

What is the most cost effective patio cover? ›

Vinyl is among the most cost-effective patio cover materials; it can range from $5 to $13 per square foot (or anywhere from $2,520 to $6,300, Howard notes) and is durable and low-maintenance.

Does building a patio add value? ›

On average, the cost of building a patio can be as high as $5,300, depending on size and materials used. That said, it's estimated that well-designed patios not only add 8-10% home value, but also earn an ROI of over 80%.

How do you build a patio without digging? ›

Lay "no-dig" paver edging at the edges of your desired paver area. The installation for this material is different for every brand, but typically, you'll only need to lay down the edging, slide spikes through the holes in the edging, and then use a hammer or mallet to drive the spikes into the ground.

Is it cheaper to pour a slab or use pavers? ›

As far as installation costs and concrete costs go, poured concrete is technically the most affordable per square foot. However, even though the upfront cost of pavers is higher, concrete pavers offer greater value and durability than poured concrete and stamped concrete.

What lasts longer pavers or concrete? ›

As far as durability goes though if installed right, it is said that pavers are four times stronger than concrete slabs. Many of them even come with a lifetime guarantee, so look for that when searching for companies.

What is the cheapest way to pour a concrete slab? ›

Working With Ready-Mix Concrete

And, if you mix it yourself, it's the cheapest way to make your slab. For most do-it-yourselfers, the best material for building a concrete slab is a ready-mix, crack-resistant concrete product. The wet mix is poured into a prepared wood form, then left to cure.

What is the least expensive material to build a patio? ›

Concrete is one of the most popular patio materials and the cheapest material you can use to build a hard-surface patio. Concrete is made of aggregates and paste—concrete aggregates can be crushed stone, sand, gravel, or even shells; the paste is made up of water and cement.

Which is cheaper a concrete patio or pavers? ›

While individual pavers aren't expensive, laying pavers is more time- and labor-intensive than pouring concrete. The up-front cost of pavers can run anywhere from $8 to $25 per square foot, while concrete runs about $3 to $6 per square foot.

What is the best material to use for a backyard patio? ›

The best material for patios is paver. The different types of pavers are concrete, clay brick, and natural stone. It's the best patio material due to its strength, ease of repair, and material options.

How much is a 400 sq ft patio? ›

Paver patio cost estimator by size
Patio sizeAverage cost
300 square feet$2,400 – $7,200
400 square feet$3,200 – $9,600
500 square feet$4,000 – $12,000
600 square feet$4,800 – $14,400
5 more rows
Jan 24, 2023

Is it cheaper to pour concrete or build a deck? ›

It's cheaper to build a concrete patio in terms of both the initial cost to lay a concrete patio, as well as its cost of maintenance over time. A concrete patio costs only $4 per square foot, while a deck costs roughly $6 per square foot for lower-cost pressure treated lumber.

Can you lay a patio in one day? ›

You can build a paver patio in a day with the right materials and proper foundation. These easy-to-follow instructions include expert tips to help you achieve the perfect finish for your new DIY paver patio.

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