Dear James: I have a deck in the backyard, but I would also like to build a patio on a level area adjacent to it. I need some advice on what type of material to use for the patio and some installation tips. — Eddie F.
Dear Eddie: Decks are nice because they are up from the ground, but a patio does come in handy for outdoor projects and entertaining. With the current popularity of complete outdoor kitchens, or at least grilling outdoors, adding a patio is a great idea.
The most durable and low-maintenance patio material is poured concrete. If the ground is stable and the concrete is poured properly, there is absolutely no maintenance. Although plain concrete is not as attractive as some other patio materials, its surface can be colored and texturized. The only drawback to concrete is you cannot do it yourself, so the cost may be higher.
The most common do-it-yourself patio materials are bricks, pavers and stone. Although the installation methods vary somewhat, they all require a stable base. This is where most of the backbreaking work is involved. Once the base is prepared, the placement of the bricks, pavers, etc. is the fun, creative part.
When using bricks, be sure to select the correct type for your climate. Also, paving bricks are different than bricks used to build an above-ground house wall. For cold climates where there are repeated freeze-thaw cycles, use "SW" (severe weathering) bricks. For milder climates, "MW" (moderate weathering) bricks are adequate. Each paving brick will cost about 50 cents, and they are usually sold in quantities of 100.
First, build two sides of a border, using timbers to hold the bricks in place (they do not interlock as pavers do). Dig down deep enough to allow for about 4 inches of crushed gravel followed by 2 inches of packed sand. Lay a sheet of gardening plastic (perforated so water flows through) over the gravel to reduce the number of weeds that sprout up over time.
Place the bricks on the sand in any of several patterns. A herringbone pattern is particularly attractive, but this will require you to cut the bricks that are along the edges. Once the bricks are in place, install the other two timber borders. Pour sand over the bricks and sweep it into the gaps with a broom.
Concrete pavers are more expensive than bricks, but they are easier to install because they interlock. The base is prepared in the same manner as for bricks, but you may not need as much sand. You can build the entire timber border first because you will already know the exact finished dimensions of the patio.
Stone is the most attractive of all the patio materials, but is the most difficult to install yourself. This is because stone is a natural material, so it does not have uniform thickness or contours. You will have to take some time at a landscaping shop to select the stones so they will fit together reasonably well.
The most commonly used stone is sandstone, also called flagstone. The cost of stone is several dollars per square foot. For the lowest cost, try to select a stone that is natural to your area. Slate is also attractive, but is somewhat more expensive and may be slippery when it gets wet.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.