Like the cobblestone streets of old, a brick patio will last for countless years, withstanding even the most severe climate conditions. Because sand, rather than mortar, serves as the base and joint filler for our brick patio project, the surface can ride out frost heaving without cracking.
Most enticing of all, once excavation is complete, this simplified method of bricklaying lets you complete the project in one weekend. The materials list shows quantities required for a 17x23-foot brick patio. But, as with each phase of this project, you can size it to fit your site.
To figure how much brick you'll need, multiply the patio's width by the length to determine the area. If you're using standard 4x8-inch bricks, multiply the area by 5.2, the number of pavers in 1 square foot. It's a good idea to allow for waste by adding 5 percent to your total. Also, figure about 1 ton of sand for every 200 square feet of patio. If you want to use old paving bricks, watch the want ads in your local paper. Some brickyards carry old pavers, and most manufacture paver look-alikes, which may be cheaper.
Once brick is on-site, you can experiment with the borders and patterns (see illustrations) or you can make up a pattern. We used a basket weave with a border of bricks laid flat and edge-to-edge.
Don't look for pattern perfection, especially when using old pavers, because sizes usually vary within a single batch of brick. Rustic is the look you're going for here.
Once you've settled on a pattern and border, you can prepare the site. First, mark and square up the perimeters with stakes and string. Remove sod and excavate to a depth equaling the thicknesses of bricks and sand combined. (Sand should be 2 to 3 inches deep; most bricks are 3 to 4 inches thick.) For good drainage, slope the excavation slightly away from all structures, including the house, garage, and deck to come.
You can expect to excavate a site this size in a couple of weekends with the help of several strong friends armed with shovels. To do the job in one afternoon, hire someone with a small shovel-equipped tractor.
With excavation complete, lay dark polyethylene sheet plastic or 15-pound asphalt-saturated roofing felt over the site to prevent plants from growing up through the brick spaces. To keep bricks and sand neatly contained, line the patio with pressure-treated 2x4s placed on edge. Wooden stakes, sunk intermittently around the perimeter, keep boards square and in place.
With borders and plastic sheeting in place, have sand unloaded directly within the patio borders if possible. Now you're ready to get down to the business of bricklaying.
1. To level the sand bed, make a striker by notching each end of an 18-foot-long 2x4 to brick depth. Rest it on the edging and draw it across the surface. If the striker won't reach across the sand bed, stake 2x4s lengthwise down the patio middle to use as a guide. Smooth one half of the patio and then the other.
2. Lay the brick border around the patio perimeter, spacing bricks about 1/8 to 1/4 inch apart. Then, start on one side of the patio and begin laying the pattern across. Stand on bricks as you progress to keep from disturbing the sand. To keep tops of bricks even, remove or add sand beneath bricks as needed.
3. As you place the bricks, use a level to ensure the patio slopes slightly away from any adjoining structure for good drainage. Use a string stretched taut and square to the edging to help you lay courses as straight as possible.
To cut a brick, mark the cutoff line, then score along the line using a brick set and hammer. Make the cut by holding the brick set at a perpendicular angle and giving it a sharp rap. The brick should break along the line.