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We Have a Red Brick Paver Patio!

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A few weeks ago, we were sitting on our front porch, and our next door neighbor told us she was thinking of putting a brick paver pathway in her yard. After talking with a local contractor, she said, did you know they have to dig down at least 10″? For a 2″ thick brick? We had to laugh, because yes, we’d been researching the same project for our yard! Scott and I knew that a paver patio wasn’t as simple as laying down bricks and calling it a day, as any paver option we chose would need a proper drainage layer. Not to mention, our backyard boasted more dips and valleys than all of Chicago has ever seen.

When we told her we were about to start our backyard paver project the coming weekend, she said, oh, good! I’ll wait to see how that goes before I decide to do mine. (Ha!) She followed that up with, but – wait a minute – you’re not doing it yourselves… are you? Again, we had to laugh! She’s always asking about the latest scoop on our home renovations, and we’re happy to fill her in with any projects-of-the-moment. In this case, though, we admitted that digging up 10″ of earth and grading our yard would take us far too long to do alone (never mind the research and understanding of how to grade our yard), and we wanted to enjoy the backyard at some point before summer’s end. With an incomplete laundry room still on our hands and several future yard projects before season’s end, we hired out the prep work to the same contractor that laid new concrete for us years ago. We felt more comfortable if someone else could get that sub-layer prepped more effectively, efficiently and with more knowledge, and we’d jump in once All That Digging was done. By the way? Best decision ever.

Our contractor, Antonio, met with us a few days before the project so we could show him the bricks we chose (for depth) and discuss exactly where we’d want them to begin/end. He told us that once his team got started, it would be a simple one day job. That said, a team of three started at 8AM and worked until after 6PM. Antonio still had to come back the following morning for the sand layer, but more on that in a minute!

So, what goes into laying a brick paver patio? Lots of digging. Hauling. More digging. The team dug and hauled and dug and hauled until they had an even layer of land about 8-10″ beneath the level of our existing sidewalk (you can see it there on the far right in the photo below):

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With the longest part of the day behind them, they moved on to laying weed screen and began bringing in wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of crushed concrete gravel. While two of them pushed and pulled the gravel into place, Antonio followed behind with a compactor. This article is super helpful in understanding why compaction is so important.

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At this point, the paver edging was nailed into the ground, too. Along the outside perimeter of the edging is where our planters will go!

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The next morning, Antonio came solo to finish off the job with a layer of sand. The sand settled into the gravel, and he built it up by another inch-ish, and it created a nice, even layer for our bricks. A 6′ piece of wood (pretty equivalent to a 1″ x 5″ or similar) was used to smooth it all in place. Although we did everything in our power to not walk on the finished sub-layer for our bricks, CC couldn’t quite help but to leave her mark (seen below!).

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Antonio completed their part of the job right before the weekend, so we woke up bright and early the next day to get moving on the bricks! Quickly, we learned that our two most important tools would be a good pair of gloves and a mallet. We started by first lining the whole perimeter with side-by-side bricks, similar to our inspiration photos. We were super careful to stay level with the edging, as we knew the border would set off the ‘square’ for the entire project.

We were dead set on moving forward with a classic herringbone pattern (we can’t get enough!), and we used our protractor to set up our first line of bricks at a perfect 45-degree angle. This little protractor has come in handy for so many projects around the home, whether we’re tiling, figuring out tricky trim or scratching our heads to find an outside or inside angle.

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For every brick we laid, we tapped each corner with our mallet. Throughout the process, we stayed around the perimeter of the pavers or on the pavers themselves, never walking on the sand. From time to time, we’d have to sift in extra sand to keep things level, and our mallet helped us to snug every last brick into place.

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Of course the herringbone pattern meant that we’d have a lot of angled cuts, but our wet saw made it painless. We used the same saw and diamond blade from our bathroom tiling project, which was a couple hundred dollar investment we found second hand on Craigslist – and worth every shiny penny.

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Laying the middle was relatively quick, but similar to tiling, the hardest part was dealing with the pain! As it turns out, laying tile and brick can really do a number on your back. (We must have blocked that from our memory after 10 days of tiling our bathroom floor and walls!) It was a hot day, too, but good music made the day fly by.

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We started in the far corner (closest to our garage), and we just worked our way out from there! We stored all of the bricks in our garage, so we used a wheelbarrow to transport each haul. Back and forth, back and forth.

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Our plan was to fill all the joints with polymeric sand the following day, but it rained on and off. We took it as an opportunity to rinse the bricks with our garden hose, and we used a push broom to clean off the bricks that had started to haze from the mucky wet saw water. A couple days later, we had an upcoming break of three sunny days in a row, so we took it as a sign to sand!

The polymeric jointing sand hardens with water, and it gets broomed into all the cracks between the pavers. It took us about thirty minutes to cover the entire surface, also being sure to keep the surface of the bricks relatively clean.

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A quick blow with our leaf blower (a tip recommended in the instructions) helped to further clear sand off the surface when held at waist level:

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Finally, we could water the patio! We used the gentle ‘shower’ setting on our hose, and we found that by angling the hose upwards, it prevented puddles from forming between the bricks.

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And now we have a brick paver patio! We originally picked up 2,000 bricks and 400 lbs of polymeric sand using this paver calculator, but in the end, we had 500+ bricks leftover (despite our pattern, we had virtually absolutely no waste!), and we used less than half of the sand. A pleasant surprise!

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We can’t wait for these bricks to age over time, and if this backyard didn’t receive so much sun, I’d be counting down the days until we see some mossy growth. As much as we love it, it does seem to enhance the lack of greenery – coming soon! – and that very orangey fireplace. A classic case of the-middle-makes-no-sense. But! We are one step closer to our overall plans for our little urban oasis, and if you squint, can you see it, too? We’re getting so, so excited about what’s to come.

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s. Lowe’s provided the materials necessary to complete this project, and as always, opinions belong to these two. A huge thank you for supporting the brands that support us. xo
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  • Kathy7.28.16 - 8:16 AM

    The brick looks gorgeous and l love the last image in your GIF where Kim is like, “Oh thank God it’s done!” Herringbone patterns are so beautiful. How did Scott make it without kneepads?!

    Totally agree and understand Sherry’s philosophy on where the middle of every project doesn’t make sense, but that is where the magic happens. It’s “almost” my favorite part of a project (demo is first) where things are still kind of wonky, but the creative juices are flowing!

    Great job you two!ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.28.16 - 10:10 AM

      That’s what I thought (about Scott!). We have a second pair of knee pads, but it was really only necessary when we were going around or under the stairs. The demo is one of our favorite parts, too!ReplyCancel

  • CC7.28.16 - 8:51 AM

    I’m so excited to see this transformation! Our backyard is still incomplete because we just can’t seem to get that final image in our heads of what we want. You guys always do such fun projects that are so inspiring. Maybe it will give us the push we need to get going already!

    We also wrestle with DIY vs. Hiring Out. Husband and I both have bad backs and I’m pretty sure this would kill us. I pulled mine earlier this year and, I swear, it hasn’t been the same. It hurts to get old!ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.28.16 - 10:11 AM

      Not gonna lie. Our backs hurt for days afterwards, and we had claw hands from picking up those heavy bricks for so many hours! Strangely, it was also kind of fun. Like an intense workout with a really pretty goal at the end. :)ReplyCancel

  • Jodi7.28.16 - 9:05 AM

    It looks SO great!!ReplyCancel

  • Kim7.28.16 - 9:13 AM

    LOVE the brick pavers. My husband and I have been talking about doing something similar but wonder about the cost. Our backyard is about the same size but has a much larger slant that would make grading a pain in the butt. Are you comfortable sharing how much you spent on contracting that out?ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.28.16 - 10:14 AM

      Hi, Kim! Definitely be sure to grab a few quotes. We loved Antonio from our concrete project, so we knew what to expect. The cost of the labor came to 1600, which included ALL the gravel and most of the sand. (We contributed 15 bags of sand for about $50, but it wasn’t nearly enough. He just ended up using his own!) The amount of time and back breaking labor it saved us is invaluable.ReplyCancel

  • Kari7.28.16 - 9:35 AM

    It looks gorgeous. Your DIY skills are out of this world, would have never known you did it alone. And is it crazy that I was really excited to see this was sponsored by Lowe’s? We’re at a standstill renovation wise due to budget and are at awe with the rapid succession of (big) projects coming out of the blog world. It’s great to know companies get behind you and help to make things happen quicker. It makes me feel less crazy for having to take things “slow.”ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.28.16 - 10:16 AM

      Thanks, Kari! Try to not give yourself a hard time for going slow – even though I certainly understand. Going slow allows you to make more mindful choices after living in a space for a while, too! Totally worth it. We have been itching to makeover this yard for 3 years now, and we still have entire rooms untouched in our home! Just think, we only started painting our master bedroom after 2.5 years of living in this house, and our kitchen took almost an entire year to renovate. You got this!ReplyCancel

  • Courtney @ Foxwood Forest7.28.16 - 9:53 AM

    You guys! The patio looks SO GREAT! You have to be so pumped to have it installed!ReplyCancel

  • Kris7.28.16 - 10:25 AM

    I did a huge paver patio and paver front walkway by myself after we built and I can relate to the back ache. I ended up adding onto the patio with a circular pattern around a fire pit. After that I told my husband I was D O N E Done! We have quite a few pavers left over and really need to do something with them.ReplyCancel

  • misie7.28.16 - 10:45 AM

    Wow – you guys are such troopers – looks fantastic! I love how the dogs immediately make themselves at home in every new inch of space.ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.28.16 - 10:51 AM

      They must be on top of EVERYTHING we do. They watched from the kitchen door all day long, and the second we felt it was safe to let them out, they just lounged on top of the bricks, the mallets, US, everything.ReplyCancel

  • Steph M7.28.16 - 12:13 PM

    Looks great!! Totally inspiring us for our own little patio next year!ReplyCancel

  • Brittany Chinaglia7.28.16 - 12:23 PM

    WOW! it looks incredible!ReplyCancel

  • Kristin7.28.16 - 9:01 PM

    Beautiful and such hard work! My husband and I know we have a lot of work to do in our backyard next year once the interior renovation is mostly complete (aka livable). We talk about having brick pavers in a portion of our tiny yard. After reading your post, I think we could actually pull of doing it our selves. Thanks for the inspiration!ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.29.16 - 8:43 AM

      Of course! And we totally get it. It took us almost a year to make our home ‘livable’ (aka, we could finally walk in our house without shoes on to protect ourselves from dust and debris). You can do it!ReplyCancel

  • James7.29.16 - 4:56 AM

    Looks excellent! Great work :)ReplyCancel

  • Kayla7.29.16 - 7:23 AM

    I absolutely love this post! I’ve been obsessed with your blog and would love if you would check out mine! The web address is http://www.theuglydresser.blogspot.comReplyCancel

  • Kayla7.29.16 - 7:24 AM

    I love this post! I’ve been obsessed with your blog and would love if you would check out mine! The web address is http://www.theuglydresser.blogspot.comReplyCancel

    • Kim7.29.16 - 9:22 AM

      So sweet, Kayla! Thank you for sharing your blog with me. You’re doing so much already – impressive!ReplyCancel

  • Michelle | Birds of Berwick7.29.16 - 11:58 AM

    I have been loving this backyard transformation! Mainly because, well, other than having a bit more land than you, it’s almost exactly like ours! Seriously, the stairs, paver, and even pattern are what we put in place from our house years ago!

    Older post, but there’s a pic that shows what I mean. http://www.birdsofberwick.com/2016/03/30/stairs-and-lattice/

    Nice job laying the patio yourselves – it looks great!

    I will say, that I wanted real bricks and not concrete pavers and I let the guy we hired talk me into the pavers. Big Regrets (cap R) that I hope don’t happen for you. They’ve faded, the polymeric sand is poop and it just looks dirty all the time. Fortunately, my boss acquired a building site in Boston and when we remove all the old antique Boston Bricks from the sidewalk he’s going to let me have my fill to replace the concrete pavers on the patio. Maybe next spring I’ll get the real brick patio we’re looking for and it’ll match the brick wall we built better. At least the prep work will be basically done and it’s just a swap!ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.29.16 - 1:36 PM

      Oh, man, that is AMAZING! Consider us jealous. What a dream. The bricks – not the re-doing. Haha.ReplyCancel

  • Heather7.30.16 - 6:03 AM

    So beautiful!!!! The staircase when painted or stained is going to look wonderful. I have to ask, did you keep grass on the side of the house? If not, do you take the dogs on a walk several times a day to do their business :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.1.16 - 12:14 PM

      Thank you! We have a ‘pee pit’ for them under the stairs in the backyard, and there’s also a strip of a pee pit in the front yard, too. We supplement all of this with walks, too!ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa7.31.16 - 6:50 PM

    What a lot of work Scott and Kim! So well done. We did one of those years ago but it was a quarter of the size, yours is truly impressive. Still it set the scene for the back yard and kept some mud out of the house.ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.1.16 - 9:00 AM

      Gotta love that! Our yard used to be a mud pit even after the lightest rain, and we’d avoid waking on or through it. It’s SO much more enjoyable now!ReplyCancel

  • Nick H8.4.16 - 2:11 PM

    fantastic work. You guys make it look easy. My wife and I did our backyard patio with some friends last summer and it was truly an epic amount of work. totally worth it though.ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.4.16 - 3:04 PM

      It really is a lot of work, but I think we gave the hardest part to the contractor! But yes, totally worth it.ReplyCancel

  • Krafty Fix8.5.16 - 7:53 AM

    Looks like a very thorough job, great result though. Was it hard work? I did a small strip of paving slabs for a walkway recently and that was bad enough!ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.5.16 - 9:52 AM

      It was back breaking, not gonna lie! But now that it’s done, we haven’t given the pain a second thought. We love it!ReplyCancel

  • kara breems10.12.16 - 8:49 AM

    how would you feel about sharing the contact info of your contractor? we’re looking to get a few bids for our Chicago porch re-do.ReplyCancel

  • […] a great in-depth article about how to install a paver patio, check out Yellow Brick Home‘s full tutorial here. It was super helpful for […]ReplyCancel

  • Classic Pools and Patios5.17.18 - 3:51 AM

    So beautiful and interesting to read! Me and my friends are planning on renovating our hideout’s backyard. After reading your post, I think we could actually pull of doing it our selves. Thanks for the inspiration!ReplyCancel

  • Cari6.4.18 - 11:29 AM

    We just DIY’ed a red brick paver patio as well in herringbone and are looking into applying polymeric sand. Everywhere we read that polymeric sand will stain red bricks. Did you encounter any of this or was it smooth sailing with making sure the bricks were try and all excess was cleared off before applying water? What brand did you use?

    Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.4.18 - 1:04 PM

      We didn’t have any staining issues, but we were sure to brush off ALL excess. Pushing all the sand into the cracks took a good amount of time, but we wanted to do it right to make sure there was no sand on the surface of the pavers. I honestly can’t remember the exact brand we used, but it was purchased at Lowe’s! I think they only have one option (in different colors). :)ReplyCancel

  • VJ6.18.18 - 11:48 AM

    Noticed you used the holland red charcoal pavers from Lowes, and possibly the sakrete perma sand. Have you had any hazing after using this? I am a bit concerned as we are at that moment where we need to apply sand either all purpose or poly.

    Thank You!ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.18.18 - 12:45 PM

      Hi VJ! No hazing. We followed the instructions exactly, making sure to brush off ANY sand on the pavers before getting wet. Once the sand is wet and it’s on top of the pavers, it will ‘stain’ the pavers. So we were super careful, and we didn’t have any issues setting the sand.ReplyCancel

      • VJ6.18.18 - 3:51 PM

        Thank you. I am sweeping, then microsweepin in small areas with a 8inch broom then using a leaf blower but there is some dust left, did you guys get it completely off or just enough to where you could see the color of the bricks.ReplyCancel

        • Kim6.18.18 - 3:54 PM

          I would say the bricks looked a teeny bit hazy, like in the photo in the post, but we got it off as best as possible! When spraying, don’t use harsh water pressure to prevent pooling. We sort of sprayed upwards to allow the hose water to lightly fall onto the bricks. ReplyCancel

          • Vijay Mehta6.18.18 - 4:26 PM

            Thank you! Im using a mist setting and will reapply every 10-15 mins within an hour.

            Take care and thanks for your blog its been helpful!

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