DIY Concrete Paver Patio [pt. 1]

I will start this post by saying we had NO plan or previous experience when we went into this project. I had a vision, our mediocre DIY skills and the will to make it happen. I will say, we learned things along the way, there was a lot of sweat, blood and some tears – but it turned out great! This is a lengthy one, but if you want to learn how you can save thousands by DIYing your own backyard oasis – follow along!

As with any other DIY I can dream up in my brain, it always starts with a crude sketch on my phone to share my vision with Leep. Looking back now, it actually turned out pretty damn close! I attempt to outline our process in as much detail as I can below, but I’m no contractor – so if I’m unclear on anything, please ask away in the comments!

Supplies Needed

  • Bobcat or way to remove existing land
  • Sand
  • Gloves
  • Spare Pipes, Broom Handles, something similar
  • 2×4 board
  • Level
  • Tamp
  • Quikcrete
  • Water Hose
  • Concrete Mixer or Wheel Barrow + Shovel
  • Molds
  • Weed Barrier
  • Concrete Trowel
  • Paver Set

To start, we had to remove our existing concrete patio. We spray painted the yard in a rough outline of where the patio would ultimately fall. I was able to use a friend connection with a Bobcat to come tear it up, haul away and also remove the grass in the soon-to-be patio area. If you don’t have a connection like this – our local Home Depot rents Bobcats and you should be able to accomplish this yourself. Note: Our molds were 1.5 inches thick, and we knew we’d add about another inch of sand below them, so we dug around 2.5-3 inches below the grass level, so once everything was said and done the patio would be level with the grass.

After the area was cleared of all debris, we added two truckloads of sand and leveled this out. The good news about using the concrete molds to create your pavers in their space, is the wet concrete will mold to whatever is underneath it while staying level on top – so this doesn’t have to picture perfect to keep your patio level. [unlike when doing actual pavers] But you do want to make it smooth and attempt to grade it away from your house so any rain/water flows into the yard. In order to accomplish a somewhat level surface, we threw the sand down in the space and then using two pipes, a 2×4 board and a level – we we’re able to smooth it out. Nestle the pipes into the sand running parallel to each other slightly smaller than the length of your board – you should have about a foot of the board on each outer side of the pipes. Take the board and lay it on top of the pipes perpendicular – it should be sitting on top of both pipes with some extending past the pipes. Lay your level on top of the board and ‘scrape’ the sand towards you, filling in holes until it is level, flat and smooth. This process is similar to when laying pavers, but again this doesn’t need to be as exact.

After all of your sand is level, you’ll need to tamp it down to allow for any settling. We ran the tamp [our was borrowed but again, you can rent this] over the area in all directions – twice. Then it rained on us, so we covered with tarps and after it dried, we had to do it all again… fun.

Then comes the more labor intensive part of building your patio! We recruited family to help. We first laid down a weed barrier and strung a straight line on one side so we would keep the edge even and straight. We purchased 3 of the ‘Walk Maker’ molds in the 8 section style, but they come in various designs. Using the size of our space and the size of the molds, we guesstimated [heavy on the guess] how much concrete we would need based on reviews. We ordered 170-80lb bags of Quikcrete from Home Depot and had it delivered. I will say, we ended up having about half a pallet of bags left that we shared with our neighbors and friends. With out specific mold shape, we could get 1.5-2 molds per bag of concrete – depending on wetness. And yes, we mixed it ALL by hand… I recommend renting a concrete mixer for this.

Start by laying down your mold with a little wiggle into the sand below. Pre-mix your concrete – we did one bag to about 6pt of water [give or take depending on how humid it was that day] but ‘wetter’ is better and helps you get a smoother surface. If it was too wet, it will just need to sit longer before de-molding. Fill the mold with the mixed, wet concrete and flatten the top. [we did this all by hand] Take the time to really smooth your surface, depending on your use you want this to be comfortable on bare feet.

Let the mold sit for about 5+ mins so the concrete can set a bit before carefully lifting it straight up to remove. Turn your mold one clockwise turn and set right next to your new pavers and repeat! We ordered about 3 molds so we could work in a stair pattern and have multiple molds going at once. Be sure to rinse molds off with water after about every 5 molds or when you notice the pavers are ‘sticking’. Note: Do not put two molds right next to each other or you will end up with a large gap in-between each mold. Repeat until all your ‘pavers’ are in. Our space took us about a week to complete.

The right side of our space left room for about half a mold. To fill in the space completely, we created some additional molds in the grass that we could then steal single pavers from to fill in the small gap you see. It’s also worth noting your pavers will be *imperfect* they will have marks or divots or chips, but this is what makes it look more natural and organic and in the large view of it all – you can barely notice!

We then ‘wet cured’ our completed, dry concrete. This increases it’s strength by about 50%. Wet curing requires you to saturate the concrete with water, multiple times a day, for 5-7 days. We used our garden hose to give it a thorough soaking a few times a day for a week.

After the pavers were set and wet cured, the final step was to ‘grout’ them! We purchased 6-40lb buckets of grey polymeric sand paver set. Again, we overshot it here and probably only needed about 4 buckets. Using small shovels we’d fill the spaces between the pavers with the paver set sand and swept into the cracks removing the excess with a large outdoor broom. We also hit it at a parallel level with our leaf blower to make sure all the excess was off but without blowing it out of the cracks. When you wet this stuff it hardens like concrete and we didn’t want any excess on the top of our pavers making them rough. Per the paver set instructions, we thoroughly soaked with a water hose and let harden.

Our 600sqft paver patio was complete! We still intend to stain the patio to make it look less like all grey concrete pavers, but that will happen this Spring, and you know I’ll be sure to blog about the process.

Part 2 where we talk about adding the gazebo and making it a full blown oasis can be found here: DIY Concrete Paver Patio [pt.2].

Cost Breakdown

Clearing of existing patio and grass = $600
Sand = $100
Quikcrete + delivery = $781
Molds x 3 = $100
Concrete Supplies = $100
Paver set = $130
Total = $1,811
*Quote from professional concrete company ~$12,000

Have questions, drop a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer for you!

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