Patio, part 2: Puttin’ it down

With the dirt level, I was ready to start putting down all the layers that make a solid paver job. Depending on where you live, and whether the ground fully freezes or not, you’ll need between a 4- and 12-in. deep base below the patio bricks. A good paver base is mostly crushed stone, with a layer of sand on top. You have to level the stone layer and then level the sand. Just like wood finishing, a nice patio is all about the prep work.

Luckily for me in Portland, the ground doesn’t really freeze at all, so the minimal base works. And luckier still (I hope), I found this new product, called Paver Base panels, that let me put down an even thinner base. It is sold at both Home Depot and Lowes so I took a chance on it. It is basically tough styrofoam panels that let you use just a 1-in. sand layer below.

I had to lug about seventy-five 50-lb. bags of sand from the front of the house to the back just to get that 1-in. layer, so it would have taken 300 bags of sand and stone to create a 4-in. layer! The downside of the 1-in. sand layer is that it really forced me to get the dirt floor perfectly level because there was no three inches of stone to even out any hills or valleys.

It was a monster job, but with the help of my string lines, plus a plate compacter rented from Home Depot (a must-have or the dirt will settle in spots), I got the dirt pretty level and totally packed down…and the landscape fabric down…and the sand layer down…and the Paver Base panels down…and I was ready to lay pavers.

Ready to give up and just hire someone? Consider that I spent $2,000 for materials vs. paying someone at least $10K to do a patio (and walkway) of this size!

But I did call in some help. A friend came over, and wheel-barrowed all 1,000 pavers from the front to the back, where I grabbed them and arranged them on the base. We got it all done in about 4 hours. It was actually fun to arrange my three sizes of pavers in a random pattern and watch the patio materialize before my eyes. Don’t be an idiot like me and leave your gloves in the garage–I rubbed my hands raw.

There are some finishing touches to do, but I’m almost there!


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