Check for underground utilities. Before digging up the backyard have your utility companies locate and mark underground lines. Local agencies vary but information on who to call in your specific area is usually available by calling 811. This will connect you to your local agencies. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that there are no utilities in the area you are digging! It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Mark off the patio area. Measure your patio dimensions and mark them on the ground with stakes at each corner of the plot. Wrap a string or thin rope around the stakes to outline the patio’s perimeter. This will give you a good idea of how the patio will fit into the yard and it will make sure that you are only prepping the ground where the patio will actually be.
- To keep your patio level from the start, it’s a good idea to make sure your perimeter string is level (they sell little levels that hang from these strings at any home improvement store). If all of your strings are level, then you can measure down from the string at every step and your measurements will be based on the same starting point.
Dig up the ground. Excavate 6 to 8 inches by digging up and removing all the soil in the marked area. The depth you dig down will vary depending on how thick your pavers are and how much gravel you put down. This excavation should allow room so your pavers end up being flush with the ground.
- Slope the entire area slightly toward the direction in which you want water to run off the patio pavers. Lay a board across the area, and place a level on top the board to get the desired slope.
- A level perimeter string will come in handy here. Measure down from the string all around the patio space, to make sure you have dug down a consistent depth. You can even stretch a temporary string across the area to determine whether the middle is level as well.
Add a gravel base to the area. Pour a 4 to 6 inch layer of gravel into the patio trench and compact it using a ground compactor, also called a plate compactor. Spray water over the gravel to wet it down so the stones compact better.
- If you don’t own a compactor, you may be able to rent one at a local home improvement store. You can also level the area and water daily for a week to naturally pack the area.
- Once again, measure off your level perimeter string to make sure your gravel is relatively even across the whole patio area. This does not need to be perfect, and in fact should slope a little bit away from any house it’s next to, but it should give you a good idea if you are in the right ballpark.
Add a layer of fine sand over the gravel and compact it. The sand layer should be about an inch thick and follow the same grade as the gravel. This is the last layer you install before laying paver blocks, so make sure it is smooth. After laying down the sand and compacting it, lay down two pieces of round level piping more than 5 feet (1.5 m) apart, pushing them down into the sand. To make sure your surface is level, then take a 2 x 4 and pull it across the top of the two pieces of pipe, which will level out the sand underneath. Once the area is level, remove the pipes from the sand. You will be left with two indentations where the pipes were but the rest of your patio area will be ready for pavers.
- You may need to move your leveling pipes to several locations, depending on how big your patio is going to be. Just remember that you need to make the whole patio to be level overall.