A stone patio installation is likely the most backbreaking work you will ever attempt. But it’s also the most rewarding DIY! That’s because the money you save on labour can be put right back into high end finishes and accessories. In our case, that high end finish is real Travertine. We fully intended to splurge on this stone but as luck would have it, the company was moving locations and it was on clearance! Better to sell cheap than to shlep it to the new location!
Installing real stone is as easy as pavers and looks so elegant when it’s done! So it’s nothing to be intimidated by!
Before the Stone Patio Installation
Here’s the yard we’re starting with. Thankfully by the end of our stone patio installation, our neighbours’ gargantuan satellite dish is gone!
Measure the property first. Then draw a plan out on graph paper that’s to scale for the size patio you want. For instance, each 1/4″ on the graph can represent a foot. Draw another line around the perimeter of the patio that’s a foot larger all the way around; this will be your cutting line.
Stone Patio Installation Prep
As with any hardscape project, ‘call before you dig’ to locate things such as gas lines.
To start, we lift the dated pink pavers!
Your scale drawing will guide you. As you drive stakes into the ground to delineate the shape of the patio, add string lines as your cutting guide. Remember to cut at least 8″-12″ wider than the dimension of the patio (you’ll see why later).
Once string lines are established, it’s time to remove grass. Since this is a big project, even for a small yard, it’s all hands on deck – or should I say patio?!
Now you can see it start to take shape. Good thing our BBQ is propane so we could move it around as the work progressed!
If you plan to install a pond at the back of the property that needs power, you’ll need to dig a deep trench and run the power through tubing to keep it safe underground. Get a permit and consult or hire an electrician for help with that.
This is probably the most important step in the process. Before building retaining walls, we run more string lines to set the height of the patio and also ensure that the slope of the patio is AWAY from the house. Although we don’t have pictures during the process (it’s a two person job), we used a simple water level to establish a 1/4″ slope for every foot. So for instance, if you measure out 8 feet from the house, the grade should be 2 inches lower than the grade next to the house.
Just before we set the string lines shown above, this view shows the gaps below the fence. We’re on a zero lot line so had to come up with an creative solution to keep the patio base from washing away into our neighbours yard. The first step is to add metal mesh (seen in the picture above) to hold in the stone. But that’s not attractive look at!
Our solution to hide the metal mesh that’s keeping the base in place is to build a retaining wall using concrete blocks for the structure.
Because we built the retaining walls first, we also create the step below our patio door. We’ll go into more detail on building the steps in our next post. We built this one and also one near the entry to the yard.
HPB for The Base
Your local stone yard will help you calculate how much base fill you’ll need underneath the stone patio installation for your own particular area. In Canada, we have to worry about the frost line so need a deeper base. We’re using a material called High Performance Bedding (HPB). HPB is self compacting base material made from crushed limestone.
I lost track of the number of times we pushed the wheel barrel back and forth! But at least you’ll get your steps in; no need for a gym membership when you’re hardscaping!
As you pile the HPB onto the patio area, rake it out to distribute it. Tip: a straight rigid straight rake gets the job done best (the one you use to rake leaves is too flexible).
Screed for a Flat Base
Once you’ve got the bedding in place, it’s time to screed to make it perfectly flat.
Screeding is a process that levels out the HPB and provides a solid base to put the travertine on. You need a pair of round metal rails like this, or aluminium fence posts.
Bury each rail into the HPB so it’s below the sting line – equal to the thickness of the pavers. That’s so when the pavers are put on top of the bedding they’ll hit right below the string line.
Tip: Create a block or stack pieces of wood the same thickness as the pavers so you can spot check quickly that you’re even with the string line.
Below you can the see how we placed the rails. In this section, we used a long metal piece to screed. It took two of us to shuffle it back and forth along the rails. There are plenty of videos you can view on YouTube to show you how if a patio installation is something in your near future.
Stone Patio Installation Tips
Before starting to lay the patio, lift the first rail and move it along to a new section. Then fill in the indentation left behind with more HPB and level it.
Hubs continues screeding as I work toward the next section. It’s best to start laying at an edge and work outwards, like right below this step. It’s a perfect platform too. That’s because I can walk on it and avoid disturbing the first section that’s already level as I place the stones.
Once I reach the second screed rail, we lift it out of the way and I use a hand scoop to fill in the indentations with HPB. To level it with the surrounding stone, I’m using a short level to tamp where I fill in. I keep a bucket of HPB close by for this purpose (it’s on the step). Note to self: wear a less revealing top when Hubs is snapping pictures :).
In the last section near the entry to the back yard, Hubs is using a straight wooden piece to drag along the top of the rails. Whatever you use to screed, just make sure the edge is perfectly straight (and long enough) so you don’t even up with gaps.
Before long, the stone patio installation is almost done!
Here’s where that extra foot comes into play when you initially dig the perimeter of the stone patio installation. It provides a good solid footing to hammer in these edge guards to keep everything in place.
Add those edge guards around the entire perimeter of the project, cutting to fit where necessary (like around our backyard pond DIY).
I love the look of the multil-size stones in this travertine pattern! There’s nothing more stunning that real stone. Only one last step before we get to the pretty stuff: lock in all in place .
We use polymeric sand to seal between the stones. While it may look like I can’t aim at the garden, I’m actually watering the stone after sweeping in the polymeric sand. You can read more about how to install polymeric sand here.
Finally, we’re ready to enjoy our hard work! A cantilever umbrella and acacia wood dining set gives us an ideal space for outdoor dining. Now we can actually BBQ and eat outside.
If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see that we still have to finish our dry creek bed. Touches like that will give you a low maintenance garden so you can enjoy more R&R time when you’re outdoors!
Pin Stone Patio Installation
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We’ll soon have a tutorial on how we built our steps. So before you go, don’t forget to get your DIY mojo on at Birdz of a Feather and subscribe! You can also follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.