If you follow us on Instagram, you know we started the huge undertaking of doing a DIY paver patio in our backyard. This started on the 4th of July holiday weekend with the hopes to get the majority of it done over that long 4/5 day break from work. Well, here’s what we accomplished.
For starters, let’s get a good look at how our backyard was when we moved in.
It really is a huge, beautiful space. And so tranquil because we back up to conservation land – there are deer who visit on a daily basis. We saw 13 back there on the day we moved in! I definitely wanted a nice space to sit out here and enjoy the nature.
The door to the yard was blocked off with a barrier. With two dogs, that immediately had to go and I built some makeshift stairs to get us by for a while. But as soon as we were somewhat settled, I knew I had to have a functional outdoor space to enjoy before the weather turned.
To be honest, this was a huge undertaking that I was ready to hire out. We also plan on putting up a fence for the doggies and had a few companies come out to quote us on both projects. We have strict HOA guidelines on fences and that is definitely not a DIY project. When quotes came back for several thousands of dollars for each (fence and patio) we had no choice but to DIY it. I am kind of glad we were forced out of our comfort zone here because we learned A LOT! And I’ll share it all with you here 🙂
Step 1 – Planning
First, we started by deciding how big of a patio we wanted. We went outside and sort of eyeballed where we thought the space should start and end. From there, we measured rough dimensions to help us price out square footage. After some internet searching, I stumbled upon MyPatioDesign.com which has some amazing patio plans to fit any space. I purchased this plan from the site. They sent an immediate pdf file with 3D renderings and measurements. It was a nice resource to help me feel like this project was more attainable. But to be honest, it didn’t share anything I couldn’t have found online for free, aside from the measurements. It did give me a nice plan to share with the HOA, so I suppose it was worth it 🙂
Once we had the plans, we took some landscaping spray paint and drew the outline of the patio in the backyard. This helped us get a real sense of the size to be sure we liked it.
Step 2 – Choose Materials
Next, we priced out materials. We went to the big box stores and searched online for pavers to be delivered. However, the cost of delivery totally outweighed the benefits of saving through DIY. I read online that local nurseries or hardscape places often sell pavers for significantly less than other big retailers, and man were they right! Our local garden center has amazing plants, pavers, gravel, sand, everything – and they deliver!
We searched rows and rows of pavers looking for one that stuck out. I was really hoping for long, skinny bricks to do a herringbone pattern with. While they did have catalogs with so many (too many) options to special order from, I didn’t want to commit to ordering something I hadn’t seen before. So, we landed on these 4×8 gray Eagle Bay BrikStone pavers in “Jefferson”.
In person, they do have a hit of red hue, so we went back and forth on using a dark gray or reddish-brown for the border. Ultimately, we landed on dark gray. The people there were super helpful – I shared the plan dimensions with them and they helped me determine how much material I needed to order, including the border and a bit extra for cuts or any “oops”. I also planned on building paver steps to replace those wooden ones so I ended up with 2 3/4 pallets of the base color and 1/4 pallet of the border color.
They delivered these right to our backyard less than a week later! I was thrilled – not only have to not figure out a way to get pavers from a store to our house, but I didn’t even have to worry about getting them from the driveway to the backyard. Huge time saver right there.
Pro Tip – If you’re really concerned about your grass and/or not planning to complete this in a few days, you may want to keep the pavers on concrete or your driveway. These did leave a mark in the yard as well as some brown spots.
Step 3 – Dig!
Then, it was time to dig! Now, let me just tell you now, knowing what I know after finishing the project. If I had to redo this, I would 100% invest in renting an excavator from Home Depot or hiring this part out. It is hard labor and took us almost 3 days (with rain delays) to finish. Then we had to dispose of the dirt that we dug up. More on that later, but if you want to get this done quickly and don’t have anywhere to redistribute this much dirt, hire someone!
We dug about 4 in into the ground. This accounts for the heights of a level of sand + paver panels + pavers. Digging out 4 in would make this even with the surrounding grass. Be sure to measure your materials to figure out how much to dig out.
We also dug a few inches outside of the markings we made with the spray paint. In all, we spent 3 afternoons (not whole days) doing this part. It wasn’t hard, just a lot of work. Ugh, just looking at the photos gives me a sore back and blisters. We got through it though and had some fun along the way.
That dirt pile kept getting bigger and bigger. By the end of day 3, the patio was completely dug out and it was time for the next step.
The forecast called for rain overnight so we put down a few roof tarps to try and preserve the area. But, some water did get through and made it just damp enough to clump together 🙁
Step 4 – Compact Soil
We rented a compactor from Home Depot to compact the soil. This is a very important step in ensuring the patio has a solid base and doesn’t shift over time with movement in uncompacted soil underneath it. This can be done manually with a hand compactor but after 3 days of digging we opted for the rental. I think it was a little over $100 for a 24 hour rental and well worth it!
Below you’ll see attempt #1 to compact the damp soil. It got mud stuck underneath the plate and was hard to move around, creating big divots. Not so great.
We put paver sand over the damp base to absorb some of the water and attempt #2 was much smoother.
You’ll want to run the compactor horizontal, vertical and diagonal to ensure full coverage and completely compacted soil. It’s starting to take shape now!!
Step 5 – Landscape Fabric
After compacting, we laid down heavy duty landscape fabric similar to this one. We trimmed the edging to follow the shape of the patio. This helps prevent weeds from growing up between the pavers in the future.
Meanwhile, the dirt pile is at an all time high just hanging out 🙂 If you decide to dig out the patio yourself, I suggest loading the dirt directly into a truck or trailer or distributing it elsewhere in your lawn during the digging process. Let’s just say this pile sat there for a little while and killed the grass underneath it. Lesson learned!
That wraps up part one of this massive project. We’re about 3 1/2 days in at this point. Stay tuned for more details soon! Or if you’re just itching to see more, check out our Instagram page and look at the “patio” highlights.