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Patio Extension: 26 April - 2 May 2003



The Patio Extension project pages are a work-in-progress. I had to get the pictures up because people were asking me about it. I'll try to finish the narration soon.

Patio Extension - Before Starting : 24 April 2003 One of the main things my roomie and I decided we wanted to do in 2003 was to extend the patio to give us more room around the patio table. At right is the area to be covered by the patio extension as it looked in April 2003, before we started. I looked into several possibilities, including pouring an extension slab and laying pavers or bricks, and decided to lay the 12" square concrete pavers. First, it was something I felt I could do myself. Money would be tight this year, with me out of work. And secondly, we could change our minds about the look and the shape with minimal cost. We tried out several designs using pencil and paper, then using one of the home design software packages, until we found one we liked.



Patio Extension : 26 April 2003 First, I did a trial layout of the patio blocks, to make sure we had the size and design we wanted. The picture at left shows this layout. We decided that the size was right, but we needed an extra row of the pavers because they would be cut in a semi-circle, which would reduce the size as originally laid out.

Patio Extension : 26 April 2003 The ground isn't flat and level, so I moved the pavers to the existing patio area. I made a giant compass with cardboard and pegged the center of the circle. I punched a hole at the proper distance from the center (5-1/2 feet radius for our patio) and drew the circle out on the pavers with a pencil. Then I used the "compass" to mark the same semi-circle in the grass so I could cut the sod.

Patio Extension : 26 April 2003 I marked the semi-circle in the grass with short lenghts of bamboo stakes. In the lower right of this picture, you can see the stakes that have been removed as I cut the outline of the arc.

Patio Extension : 26 April 2003 I bought a masonry blade for my circular saw, and used that to cut the concrete pavers around the edge of the arc, following the pencil line I'd drawn earlier. I realized after starting that the blade was cutting about 1/4 of an inch deeper than the thickness of the pavers, so I used some scrap 1x2 stakes to raise the pavers off the poured concrete slab for the cuts.

Patio Extension : 26 April 2003 Next I started cutting out the sod. It would have been faster (maybe) if I had rented a power sod cutter, but the only ones I saw available for rent were much too big for the task at hand. Here you can see where I cut the outline of the semi-circle and the square extensions on either side of it.


DAYS 2-4

Patio Extension : 28 April 2003 It was raining off and on the entire week I was putting in this patio extension. Not a lot of rain, fortunately, but often enough to keep me from working continuously. It took me three days to dig out the sod and the dirt underneath to a depth of at least 6". And there was a poured concrete base for a laundry pole right in the middle of where we put the patio extension. That took a while to dig out! It was a big ol' chunk of concrete! As with our other digging for rose beds, I bagged the soil I removed and later carted it to the city dump. I don't have a big enough lot to enable me to use that much subsoil for landscaping.

Patio Extension : 29 April 2003 Once I had dug down a couple of inches, I pounded stakes in the ground near the outside edge of the extension. I used a level to mark the stakes with the level of the current patio, then a level 1" below that for my target height of the patio extension. The books and online guides I read said to create a slope of 1" for every 4 to 6 feet of width away from the house. As I dug deeper, I marked levels at 2" intervals because I planned to add 2" each of gravel and sand, and the pavers themselves are 2" thick. One of the stakes was later removed because it wasn't deep enough to stand sturdily through later phases of the construction.



Patio Extension : 30 April 2003 After 3 days of off-and-on digging due to scattered showers, I reached my target depth. I refilled the hole created when I removed the concrete plug with some of the soil I removed from the rest of the patio bed, and hosed it down and tamped it thoroughly to settle the fill. Then I began to add the gravel. I don't have a truck, or anywhere to store bulk materials delivered by pros, so I bought gravel in bags -- 1/2 cubic foot per bag. That's not the cheapest way of acquiring building materials! One bag will cover about 3 square feet at a depth of 2". I ended up using 18 bags.

Patio Extension : 30 April 2003 I used a screed to level the gravel. A screed is just a length of board that you scrape across the top of your fill to level it out. I actually used two: one that was 5-1/2 feet long (the radius of the semicircle), and a shorter 2-1/2 foot piece that was easier to manipulate. I used the marks I had made on the stakes as my guide to the slope required. The long screed was handy for initial spreading of the gravel, and for the final leveling. For smoothing out the hills and valleys in the fill, the shorter board was much more manageable. Then I used an 8" square tamper to settle the gravel, ran the screed over it again, tamped again, etc. It's a tiring process, and I would recommend renting a powered tamper if at all possible. Periodically, I checked the slope of the gravel base with the level, to make sure the two remaining stakes weren't being shifted by the pounding of the tamper or the sweeping of the screed. I used pea gravel because that's what I had available, but a larger construction grade of gravel is preferred. The small size of the pea gravel means that you're never 100% sure that the gravel is fully compacted.

Patio Extension : 30 April 2003 After completing the gravel layer to my satisfaction, I put down a layer of landscape fabric. This layer accomplishes two things: it cuts down on weeds that grow through the gravel and helps to prevent them from disrupting the finished surface, and it keeps the sand and gravel layers somewhat separated, making it easier to compact the sand without it constantly sifting down through the gravel as you tamp it. I finished for the day just before another shower moved in.



Patio Extension : 1 May 2003 As with the gravel, I bought the "sand" in 1/2 cubic foot bags. Instead of sand I was actually using limestone screenings that are specifically sold as a paver base. This is finer than builder's sand and therefore compacts more readily into a firm surface. I poured out the screenings, leveled it with the screeds (continuing to allow for the one-inch slope), compacted it, and leveled it again. Then I repeated the compacting and screeding routine a couple of times. Patio Extension : 1 May 2003 In between each compacting and screeding I checked the slope with the level. This was because I wasn't 100% sure that the stakes weren't moving. It just adds a couple of minutes for each leveling, and it's worth the peace of mind.

It was a bit chilly that morning, so in spite of the rather strenuous labor involved, particularly when tamping the screenings down, I wore my jacket for most of the morning. Again, if finances permit, I would reccommend renting a power tamper. It would make the process so much easier and faster.

Patio Extension : 1 May 2003 Finally, it was time to begin laying the concrete pavers. The first row was carefully set against the straight edge of the existing patio. It's important to try to keep things square, and using the existing edge was the easiest way of ensuring this. I was able to finish the first two rows before weather and twilight force me to quit for the day.



Patio Extension : 2 May 2003 I cut a notch in the short screed to the depth of a paver (2") so that I could run it along the top of a row of pavers and relevel the screenings before laying the next row. As I finished laying a row, I used the altered short screed to scrape across the limestone screenings paver base where the next row would go. I also used a short level to check the pavers in four directions (side-to-side in both directions and both diagonals). It's important to check each element when laying a patio or walk way, because a small error on one end can quickly throw off your angles and level by the time you reach the other end of the project.

Patio Extension : 2 May 2003 After all the pavers were in place, I scattered a layer of screenings across the surface of the patio extension and swept it across the surface with my broom. Then I wet it down with a hose, added extra screenings where necessary, and swept it some more. This works the paver base down in between any inevitable spaces between pavers caused by irregularities in the individual paver squares, helping to anchor them in place and prevent movement of the pavers or erosion of the underlying base.

The final step was to set up the patio table and chairs in their new home.



And the final result ... this picture is from the end of May 2003.
Patio Extension : 2 May 2003




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