Homeowners with no previous masonry or paving experience may elect to build do-it-yourself block patios using dry-lay methods. Dry-laying a patio of block, brick or stone involves excavating and preparing the patio site. Preparation includes spreading out a base layer of sand that promotes drainage while providing a firm foundation for the patio blocks. Site preparation and block installation may require more than a single weekend to complete.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Soil tamper
- Masonry sand
- Screed board
- Rubber mallet
- Joint expansion
Excavate the patio site to a total depth of 6 inches. Level the bottom of the excavation site by checking the ground often with a level, and removing soil from high points. Do not attempt to add soil to the low points, as this creates more problems than solutions.
Compact the soil in the patio site with a soil tamper. Firmly pound the tamper against the bottom of the hole until the soil hardens and resists further shifting under foot traffic.
Apply a 3-inch layer of gravel at the bottom of the patio site. Level and compact the gravel layer, using the same method described in the previous step.
Cover the gravel with a 2-inch thick layer of masonry sand. Use a screed board to smooth the sand layer to level without compacting or disturbing the sand.
Lay the first patio block into place in one corner of the patio to prevent walking across and disturbing the sand bed. Set the patio block in from above. Avoid dragging the blocks across the sand, or moving them in from the side, which will disturb the sand layer.
Sit a level across the top of the patio block. Use a rubber mallet to gently tap the block on any high sides or corners. You want the patio blocks to lay perfectly level on the sand bed.
Continue to add patio blocks to the sand bed, laying each block one at a time, side-by-side, with gaps between blocks no larger than 1/4 inch. Use a joint expansion tool to keep all gaps equal while installing the blocks.
Cover the finished patio with a small load of masonry sand. Sweep the sand across the patio and into the gaps between the blocks. Sweep excess sand off the patio surface.
Tips and warnings
- Using pre-filtered masonry sand prevents unevenness in the finished patio surface. If you use landscape sand, filter the sand meticulously to remove all small stones that may cause an uneven patio.
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