Patio Pitfalls

How-To, Landscape

Whether you are doing it yourself or working with a professional these are things to consider when installing a new patio. The right way is not the easiest, but if you want your new patio to last a lifetime you need to do things correctly.

 Call 811 before you dig

Before you dig make sure that you call 811 to get the utilities marked. If you have irrigation, make sure the water is shut off just in case you strike a line. It is important to properly plan out your patios placement on your property

 Proper preparation

One big pitfall is improper excavation. You need to make sure that you have at least six inches of gravel base. Make sure you use a good compactable material. This will depend on where you are located. For instance in Mankato it will be a limestone material, up in St. Cloud it would be granite. Often we will install a road stabilizer material under this to help with settling in the future.

  •  Have a string line established for finished height. When you put your patio in you will do not want to be below your existing grade. This would lead to irrigation problems. The patio will become unusable if it floods.

  •  Also you need to ensure that you have a proper slope. Most people think patios go in flat. We have to be able to get water running off in the right direction, away from your house and make it flow with your existing lawn or grade. While there doesn’t need to be much pitch, there needs to be sloping to one direction.

  • Common older myth is that you put it on sand. We can’t stress enough that you need to have a 6 inch base, and then at least 1 inch of washed sand. We use the screed method with 1 inch pipes. This will help keep things level for installing the pavers or bricks.

  • The heavier the usage the thicker the base layer that you need. For a driveway 8 to 12 inches is needed. A small sidewalk could get by with the six inch compactable base.


  • Another big pitfall is proper compaction. Please do not just dump your gravel in a whole and level it off, the tamp everything at once. Put in 2 inches and pack it. Then another 2 inches and pack and so on. Using a plate compactor is optimal as it will speed things along and ensure you get the best compaction possible. Plate compactors are available to rent from most hardware supply stores.

 Are ants and weeds an issue?

Some people want a brick patio but they say “I don’t want ants or weeds on my patio so I am going to pour concrete”. This is the old way of thinking about things. With proper application of polymeric sand you sweep into the joints you won’t get any weeds or ants. If finished on a properly installed patio there also will be no settling or cracking.

Once brushed in between the bricks or pavers activate with a bit of water. Let it dry and enjoy.

 Flexibility for future expansion

Benefit with pavers you can always add on to it, or change things later on. The flexibility of a paver patio outweighs the permanence of a concrete patio.

 Cutting mishaps

Another patio pitfall to avoid is improper cuts. Make sure the cuts are tight and look uniform. We have an electric saw specially designed for paver block to ensure our cuts are correct. Cuts can make or break a patio. If it is not a square patio you will need cuts. The whole goal is to make them unnoticeable.

  • Laying things out ahead of time will help to establish what cuts you need. We overlay the pattern to mark things as we go when we lay custom designs.
  • If you don’t have a saw to cut the pavers you will have to rent something from a hardware store.

 Knowledgeable contractors

Finally, if you are working with a contractor be sure to get a detailed quote for what they are giving you. Make sure they are using the proper base pad (something that is compatible). While you can’t watch them every second, but be sure to ask questions to get things spelled out on the estimate or scope of work. If you haven’t yet, take a look at our post; 6 questions to ask any contractor.

For our team with simple access and installing a 15 foot by 15 foot square it would be a two day job. The more elaborate and more square footage with a circle firepit, all of this would add time to the project. The most a project will take is 5-7 days. If you are attempting a patio on your own for the first time it may take a bit longer, having some friends over to lend a hand could speed things along. Otherwise you can give us a call and we can get things taken care of in short order.