I spent a few weeks (back in Spring 2013) going back and forth on a decision to install a deck or a patio in our backyard. I ultimately decided on a patio because it would last longer and have less maintenance – however it would be far more labour intensive.

Using Adobe Illustrator, I mocked up a few designs which gave me a rough idea on measurements. This was a starting point for creating a list of materials required.

The biggest issue with installing a patio is that you need to remove soil. You could install a patio on top of the dirt, but to do it properly you need to excavate and replace with bedding.

High performance bedding (HPB) is becoming popular – it’s basically crushed limestone that’s been rinsed. HPB drains extremely well (less chance of heaving during frost), it’s easy to work with, and it is cheap – I only paid $35 a yard. The only downside I found with HPB is that it needs to be contained – limestone screening just needs water and tamping; then it sets like concrete. HPB is very ‘runny’ because of it’s small granular size.

With my measurements, I ordered the patio stones online from Lowes – they had the style we wanted on clearance for 40% off, so we saved over $500. Once they arrived I booked a 10 yard bin for soil removal – always calculate 1-2 yards more than your measurements. I had an 8” grade that I miscalculated; which almost required a second bin rental. Be sure to leave yourself room for errors.

One thing that I HIGHLY recommend is renting an excavator – especially if you are doing this by yourself (like I was). Unfortunately the side of my house was 4” too short to get an excavator to the backyard – I was forced to use a wheel barrel to move 10 yards of soil (70% of it was clay) to the front driveway where the bin was. Not fun, …at all.

When laying down the HPB, make sure you use landscape fabric – HPB is very fine, and without fabric it will embed itself in the soil and sink (eventually).

I used a series of two-by-fours to act as my level lines – this worked very well. Once the HPB was level, I starting laying the stones down from one corner and worked outwards from there.

One thing I never see any of the contracted landscapers do is install an expansion joint where the stone meets the house. This is important. The stone will expand and contract throughout the year, and leaving some room for that will avoid shifting or buckling of the stones – it will also prevent chipping of the stones and/or your foundation/brick walls where stone and house meet.

Since I didn’t want the stones shifting or floating away with heavy traffic and/or rain downpours, I used plastic edging around the outer edges. Some landscapers use this, some don’t. Since I was doing this myself to save money I wanted to do it right; I spent the extra money for edging.

After the edging, I used polymer jointing sand to lock it all in place. It is important to use jointing sand instead of regular sand – if you get a lot of rain, it will wash away the sand. The polymer sand is not cheap, $19 a bag – but it goes far. I needed 4 bags for the patio. Just sweep it in, …lightly tamp down the stones, …sweep in some more, …then spray with water to activate the polymer glue and let it dry.

Stand back, …admire your work, …pull up a chair and crack open a cold one on your new patio.

After a harsh 2013-2014 winter, …the stones are still rock solid. No shifting. No heaving.