These directions summarize some tools and steps we have found helpful when building a patio. This information is offered for use at your own discretion, and it may or may not be applicable to your specific project. Please consult a professional for more detailed advice regarding your project.


-rubber mallet
-stone or brick hammer
-broad chisel
-mini sledge hammer
-rebar or iron stakes
-mason or string line
-string level
-edging materials, if desired
-1′, 2′ and/or 4′ levels
-shovels (flat and round)
-8-10″ tamping plate or plate compactor
-small tamping rod
-hard rake
-broad hand trowel
-safety glasses


  1. Collect materials for the patio
    1. Though the different materials can have varying thicknesses, they should all be at least 1” thick, preferably at least 1 ¾” thick
    2. If the materials are too thin, they are likely to shift around or fracture
    3. Be mindful of how Seattle’s rain will affect the materials you select
    4. Avoid materials that will be slippery when wet. However, you can flip over some materials, such as granite, to avoid the slippery surface
    5. Many pieces have a slightly different color when they are wet. Since we live in a wet climate, make sure you like the color wet, in addition to dry
    6. Some ideas for materials in salvaged patios—broken countertops from remodels, broken concrete from driveway projects, bricks, stones, weights from old gym sets, etc. Be creative!
  2.  If necessary, break up the materials
    1. Always wear safety glasses during this process
    2. For some pieces, you can drop them on the ground and let them break naturally
    3. For other pieces, you can use tools. Common tools include a single jack hammer, sledge hammer, brick hammer, chisel and grinder with a diamond blade
    4. Know going into it that the pieces will almost never break naturally where you want them to, but with practice and good technique, you can make it happen. This is one of the reasons it’s best to be flexible with your patio design
    5. For increased control, make a line down the stone with the chisel and hammer or score it with a grinder. This will weaken that spot. Then, tap the spot with a hammer. The piece should break away
    6. To further alter the materials, you may consider adding a common masonry sealant to any materials after you have installed them. Sealants prevent wear and tear from moisture and will also give the materials a darker color
  3.  Evaluate your yard for the functionality and usability of your patio
    1. Think about where you want to walk or sit. How is the sun or shade in that area? Will the landscaping affect that area positively or negatively? For example, if you want a fire pit on your patio, you must keep it away from trees and other plants. Also, be aware of the potential impact from growing tree roots pushing up your pavers
    2. You may consider calling the Utility Notification Center if you live in Washington, Oregon, Montana or Hawaii. This is a service to find out what kinds of utility pipes exist in your yard
    3. The strong majority of the time, heavy-duty piping is far enough below the surface that it will not interfere with your patio project
    4. Sometimes, you will run into sprinkler pipes when you dig. As these are only PVC pipes, it is fairly simple to cut them, add an elbow to them, and reroute the pipes
  4.  Within the area you’ve set aside for your patio, remove the vegetative layer of sod and dirt, and dig down
    1. You must be able to lay a minimum of 3-4” of packed-down gravel on top of the ground, so dig deep enough to accommodate to it
    2. You may also consider putting down a layer of landscape fabric to serve as a weed block. It’s not necessary but may be helpful. Packing down all the layers well should result in limited weed growth
  5.  If you want to use edging, place it in the perimeter of the pathway or patio space
    1. Edging is helpful to serve as a guide with uniform materials such as bricks and also to hold in small items that may want to shift around
    2. Edging can be aluminum or plastic, or it can be pressure-treated lumber or cedar
    3. The size and placement of the edging just depends on your personal taste
  6.  Then, lay down the aforementioned 3-4” minimum of gravel
    1. Use a tamping plate or plate compactor to pack down the layer
    2. Tamping isn’t a necessity, but the more you pack, the more the stone will stay put on top of it. Also, the more you pack, the longer your patio is likely to last
    3. Wetting the gravel will help pack it down
  7.  Finally, lay down ¼”- ¾” of a finer material on top of the gravel
    1.  ¼ minus is optimal, and sand is preferred for brickwork
    2. This layer should remain unpacked until the pieces are set
    3. You can use a hard rake and rectangular trowel to smooth out the top layer
  8.  Set up a string across the patio to serve as a guide when you put down your stones. It will help to ensure the patio will be level and keep your desired shape
    1. First put rebar stakes into the ground on either side of the patio
    2. Connect the stakes with a mason or string line going across the patio. Use as many stakes and strings as is necessary to provide guidance
    3. Make sure the strings are taut
    4. Put a string level onto the strings and adjust the strings to level
    5. Strings are especially effective in keeping straight lines for uniform materials such as bricks or square pavers
    6. You can also just lay the stones down freely and continuously take a level to it
    7. You may not want your patio level if you have drainage concerns. For instance, if your patio is near your house, you will want water to drain away from the house. Adjust your string or level accordingly
    8. A general rule is to have a 1” height difference for every 10’
  9.  Starting in the corner of your patio space, put down the first stone or salvaged material
    1. Wiggle it into its space
    2. Check if it’s level
    3. Check if it’s wobbly
    4. To adjust, pull the piece away, add or remove gravel underneath it, and check it again. When the piece is put back, fill in any gaps that you may have created underneath it
    5. Pound the piece with a rubber mallet to set it
    6. You can hit the piece hard with the rubber mallet. Never use a hard hammer, though
    7. Check it for level again
  10.  Picking a piece that will look aesthetically pleasing next to the first one, lay down the next piece of stone or salvaged material
    1. Some people like to dry-fit all the pieces in the patio before setting any of them
    2. Decide how far apart you want the pieces. If you want to put grass or plants in between the stones, leave bigger gaps. If it’s more aesthetically pleasing to have a tighter fit, place the pieces closer together
    3. Wooly thyme, Irish moss, steppable oregano, some succulent plants and even decorative items provide a nice finished look in between the pieces and help them stay in place
    4. The closer the pieces are together, the more likely they are to stay in place
  11.  Continue this process with the rest of the pieces
    1. Use the natural shape of the pieces to fit the patio together
    2. When necessary, chip a little bit off of the pieces to fit them into the space
    3. When using unusual items, remember that they need to be flush to the other pieces. Otherwise they will pose a tripping hazard
    4. Pack the top layer around the stones with your rubber mallet to ensure the stones will stay in place
  12.  When the stones are all set, fill in the gaps with the top layer
    1. You can also spray water on the patio to solidify the top layer in between the pieces
    2. Sweep or spray away any excess