Jul 18, 2011

Patio Building: Digging out

We knew digging out the patio was going to be horrible.  Doing the space for our garden in early spring was awful and the temperatures were mild.  In July the humidity is high, the sun is strong, and the temperatures are regularly in the high 80s and 90s.  Common sense would dictate that we wait for for the fall - but we want to actually enjoy our patio this summer so we’re trudging forward.  Just slowly so we don’t suffer heat stroke.

Before laying the pavers, one has to lay the base material - 4 inches of gravel (or “quarry process”) and then 1 inch of sand.   So we have to dig down 7 inches to accommodate the height of the paver, the layer of gravel and the layer of sand.   And while digging this out, we have to make sure we are sloping the grade away from the house - 1 inch every 4 feet (or ¼ inch every foot).   That’s where the mason lines, stakes, a yardstick and line levels come in handy.

We dug out the space by first removing the sod, then digging down to the proper depth using a yardstick to mark our progress.  Some parts were more than 7 inches, some parts much less.  A flat shovel helped dig out a level surface (as opposed to a curved spade that leaves a dip) that was carefully monitored with a level and a yard stick against the mason lines.  The next step was to compact the ground for a solid surface to lay the base materials on.


  1. Random question (and don't hit me for saying this), but why didn't you do the patio all the way to the edge of the driveway?? Is Mike going to "mow" the strip of grass on the edge?? LOL


  2. That's actually a really good question - but we had a lot of reasons for skipping that small section between the patio and the driveway. Our biggest issue was the grade - in order for the patio pavers to be the right height to match the cement slab (which is the proper height for the bottom of the deck stairs) and slope away from the house at 1/4" per foot - the pavers against the house have to be significantly higher than the driveway. While we debated just having a step down to the driveway like a curb, we quickly realized that the taller pavers would prevent the driveway gate from ever fully opening again. Also our next door neighbor is a contractor and when he saw our project, he mentioned that we have to be very careful when excavating next to the driveway so that we don't disturb the driveway base and subsequently do damage to the driveway. So based on that recommendation we made sure that the small part that connects the driveway to the patio on the other end was only dug down until we hit the driveway base. Our third reason was out of sheer laziness - we didn't want to have to do a curve and make all those curved paver cuts!

    The plan for that small section is to pull up the grass and mulch the area with either cedar mulch or pea gravel and plant a row of something like tiny boxwoods. No mowing required!