Not all DIY projects are created equal. Some of them are decorative, easy craft projects that can be done in the course of an afternoon. Some are beauty-related directives on mixing potions and tinctures for great skin, hair, and nails. And some DIY projects are basically just small construction: They take time, patience, skill, and energy -- but the results can dramatically improve your home.
The following project is definitely the latter. It's an attempt to re-pave the back patio using nothing but some time-honored techniques and a good pair of hands. It's not easy, but his instructions talk you the entire way through it, and once it's done, it's a super nice addition to the house. If you think you can't pull of something this big, check out the project below and remember: It might be elaborate and difficult, but you'll never know if you can do it unless you try.
But how, exactly, did they go about doing it?
This setup is what the townhouse developer installed 10 years ago. The tiles are pretty basic, and it's not that nice.
"There is 1 foot all the way around the patio of useless space. We wanted to use it as we spent a lot of time outside in our tiny space."
"All of the old slabs are pulled up. A buddy and I dug down about 8" from the original height. We used a normal flat. There wasn't a lot of room to work with here so each shovel of dirt had to be removed one bucket at a time through a garage doorway."
"A local company delivers yards of 3/4 crushed stone. They were were able to get the bag of stone just in the doorway with the fork lift. The door closed with 1/8" of clearance. I ordered 1 yard because I thought I could use the stone I excavated. Little did I know the stuff under the old patio was complete crap. It was 5 different types of fill, including bricks, pipe, PAX and whatever else they used to build the townhouse. I had no where to put the soil except in my garage, this stressed me out big time!"
"Now that the old base has been removed, I needed to start grading the new base with a 2" slop from the left corner against the townhouse to the edge of the garage. This is how the water will drain. I measured from the top of the stairs to determine what my final patio height out be. I set a metal spike there to use as a reference point. From here was able to determine how much I needed to dig out all around. The steps were near the middle of the patio, so I marked to stake. I then leveled my lines all around and raised the rear stake 1" above the original marker and 1" down to the furthest marker where I wanted my water to drain. Once everything is leveled, you need to use a tamper to compact the base. I just used a normal manual tamper, it killed my hands. I went over the base about 6 times in all different directions until the base was solid as a rock."
"Now that the base is leveled, you need to install the crushed stone. I put down 2" of stone at a time, measuring 2" from the line level all the way around. This insures I maintain my grade as my lines are set up to measure off of. Once the 2" is installed, you need to tamper the crushed stone to compact it. If you put too much gravel down, it will not compact and be uneven. I repeated this until I have 5 inches of stone installed."
"I used the fence side as my starting point which is 9' long, as I had no other option in a small space. I measured a straight line from the house to the garage and installed my edging. I put the 2 pieces of the 1" pipe down on top of the gravel and dumped my leveling sand on it. This is the level a flat surface that will follow the grade."
"Once you have a section of leveling sand installed, remove the pipes and fill in the gaps with some extra sand a smooth it with the towel. You are now ready to install the paver stones. I laid the borer first on the side and top. Paver stones were installed in a random pattern. These stones are VERY forgiving as the gaps at 1/8". I wish I knew this when i started the project. I used the level to make sure everything looks good."
"Working out from the original starting corner. I repeated the process of leveling sand over and over every 3', laying stones as I went. There is no need to tap the stones down. You simply lay the stones on top of the sand and move on to the next one. Check every few stones to make sure you are square and level."
"The final height measurements were 100% based on the resting height of the current steps. I didn't want to mess with them. I jacked the step up a little extra so I could get the pipe, sand and final stones under them."
"The steps were perfect! Now the hard part, cutting the current stones to get my border in."
"So I had to pay the company that dropped off the stone A LOT of money to remove the earth. It was a nightmare to detail with, but they would take away a 1 yard bag for $100, no matter how much was in the bag. You can see the 2nd and kind of 1/2 full 3rd bag there. I used my miter saw with a diamond blade to cut the stones. The Shopvac reduced the dust by 95%. This allowed the stones I installed to fit perfectly with the border stones."
"You can see the cuts in the patio. It looks sloppy to me, but no one else notices it."
It looks so much more polished than it was before.
He's come so far from that original stone, hasn't he?
"Now the patio is completed, it's time to sweep the jointing sand into all the joints. This sand bonds all of the stones together. Good luck trying to pull one up!. After you install the sand, just hose it down with a little water and all is done."
It's a lot of work, but projects like these are a reminder that with a little bit of elbow grease, all DIY home improvement projects are possible.