Our Blog

3 tips for a successful patio design

Posted by on Apr 23, 2012 in Design, Featured | 0 comments

Having a strong reputation for creating beautiful backyard patio designs, I’m often approached and asked what are some of the most important design elements or features that should be considered when designing a patio. Of course there are all different types of patios from simple to complex. But, for the sake of putting something in writing without boring you, I’m going to talk about general ideas to consider no matter what scale design you’re planning.

Outdoor Living Design Dayton and Columbus Ohio

Look for inspiration, not complete projects – I’m sure you can find 100 pictures in magazines that you love, but don’t get too caught up on just one. You have the ability to create your own unique, custom space – why copy something else. I know they way we think, if it works why fix it, and that is true to an extent. What works in one backyard might not work in another. So, instead of searching pictures for The One, browse with the intent of finding individual elements you like from each picture/design you’re attracted to. This way when we meet, you can say that you love the seating wall from this picture, the steps from this one, and the pavers from this one -etc. A good designer can take those recommendations and build an entire profile for you. A profile from which he or she will relate to when designing your entire space.

If you show me a picture and say, ‘I want this exact patio’, don’t be too surprised if my design is a replica. And that’s ok, if it’s truly what you want.

Before you think shape, consider layout – The shape of a patio can sometimes be the difference between a good looking patio and the opposite. But, before you get too caught up in the shape, its important to think about layout. What is layout? Its the placement of spaces in your design. For instance where you will dine or where you will lounge. I like to walk a client through a scenario. This scenario is often the reason they’re considering the patio in the first place. An example might be entertaining a large group or simply grilling and dinning outside. By taking the scenario step-by-step, we’re able to get a 10,000 ft view and determine the best layout.

Don’t get too caught up in the materials used, at least not yet – Don’t think you need to know exactly what color and style of paver you want before you start the design process. Relate this to building a house. You probably wouldn’t discuss what tile you wanted in your kitchen on your first meeting with the builder. Instead you would discuss things like how many bedrooms, what style of homes appeal to you, approx square footage, location, etc. The same applies to a patio. I have an entire process I take each of my clients through to maximize each area of the design and finished project. A successful project, one that you won’t grow out of and that won’t go out of your style, will need to be well planned and thought out.

I believe in design perfectionism – an idea that good design is often found in the smallest of details, and balance can rest on the shoulders of just a few elements.  It is with this mindset that I approach every project, striving to help each of my clients achieve their goals.

If you would like to meet with me to design your project, I’m ready.


Leave us a comment!

Proper paver base installation techniques and minimum base depth

Posted by on Apr 15, 2012 in Featured, Installation | 0 comments

A long lasting brick patio, driveway, or walkway is the result of a properly installed base. As with anything, foundation is the key. By the time you’ve finished reading this post on paver base installation you should know almost everything you need to know about properly installing paver base.

The first thing we must do is consider the excavation depth. The determining factors include things such as paver thickness and the application of the surface whether it be for pedestrian or vehicular use. Now there are a lot of advanced factors that can be considered, however, I’m just going to cover the basics and as a rule of thumb should be all that you need to achieve a structurally sound foundation for your paver surface. So to determine the excavation depth we need to know the thickness of the paver and the necessary thickness of paver base.

Determining the paver base depth is actually very simple. For pedestrian only applications, it is adequate to have a 6″ paver base depth. For light to medium duty vehicle applications it is adequate to have 10″ of paver base. In some locations paver base is deemed unnecessary, i.e. Florida. However, I say paver base is necessary regardless of the location.

Installing the paver base

Once the area has been excavated to the right depth and width (excavate wider by however many inches you have in base depth on each side) it’s time to compact the subgrade. For certain, there are more advanced techniques that we follow in compacting and testing subgrade compaction, but for the sake of the do-it-yourselfer I’m just going to give you the basics. Start by spreading a 1″ layer of the paver base material over the subgrade and run your vibratory plate compactor over the paver base 2 times in each direction. This will give a pretty good compaction to the subgrade preparing it for the remainder of base to be installed (high clay soils may require additional compacting techniques to achieve prime compaction as clay is compacted by kneading rather than vibrating).

Proper Paver Base Diagram

Continue by adding paver base material in lifts or layers of 2″ at a time and compacting each lift twice in each direction. You may need to add moisture to the paver base material if it is dry. An indicator of dry paver base is dry dust being generated during compaction as well as material piles or trails that are created by the sides of the compactor.

Once you have lifted the paver base to the proper height it is important to check for low and high spots. As a rule of thumb, we generally try to achieve no more than a +/- 1/4″ variation in paver base height. The paver base should resemble the expected final patio/driveway appearance leaving way for a consistent 1″-1 1/4″ sand setting bed.

Notes: It is important that during compaction the entire plate be in contact with paver base material. Fill in any low areas or level off any high areas in the paver base prior to compacting. If a compactor approaches a small low spot, the plate of the compactor will bridge over the low spot and that particular spot may never receive compaction resulting in future settling of the paver surface.

Download our detailed step-by-step guide to proper paver base installation

Leave us a comment!

Raised paver patio?? Is it a good idea?

Posted by on Apr 13, 2012 in Featured, Installation | 0 comments

Unilock mutli level patioIt seems that more and more people are interested in building a raised paver patio. It gives elevation, dimension, and yard separation. What most people don’t know about raised paver patios is the failure rate. In the world of hardscaping (term used to describe the installation of interlocking patios and retaining walls), raised paver patios are among the most difficult installations to pull off successfully. Here is why:

The first thing I would suggest is remove all landscapers from your bidders list. Landscapers, although this doesn’t apply to everyone of them, can typically install simple patios and hardscape projects, but building a raised patio requires a company that has a tremendous amount of experience installing only hardscape projects to understand what to do and what not to do when building a raised patio.

The number one reason for raised patio failure is improper installation of fill and improper fill material selection. Fill is the material used to fill the void between the bottom of your pavers and the ground. In most instances, if you’re building a raised patio, you will be adding a substantial amount of fill material. It’s important to never use soil/dirt. Dirt, without having VERY large compaction equipment designed specifically for the compaction of dirt, is almost impossible to compact completely. I can almost guarantee if dirt is used as any type of backfill material below your hardscape, it will settle SUBSTANTIALLY.
Limestone 411’s for paver base in raised patio’s

Limestone 411’s aka Paver Base

So what do we use for fill material? The best option, depending on your location, is angular limestone chips with dust. In most places, this type of gravel is called limestone 411’s or limestone chips and dust. This is a mixture of 3/4″ angular pieces of limestone all the way down to dust. If you only used the 3/4″ pieces of limestone, there would be a lot of air pockets created in-between each stone allowing the stones to move around and settle after time. The addition of smaller stone pieces and dust combine together to achieve a very dense fill.

I almost forgot, NEVER EVER EVER use pea gravel or allow your contractor to use pea gravel. Pea gravel (very small round pieces of gravel) has been used under concrete for years as a base fill material. Could possibly be why most concrete you see is cracked (just kidding, but who knows?). Pea gravel is a highly lazy gravel, which means, under heavy loads the pea gravel migrates into neighboring soils because its round in shape and small. If you ever paid attention to where a driveway meets a garage floor you probably observed that the driveway was much lower that the garage floor. This is caused in most cases by the pea gravel under the driveway migrating into the material below the garage floor. If there is limestone 411’s below the concrete or paver driveway but there is pea gravel below the garage floor, the limestone 411’s could work its way into the pea gravel after time. In either case, we would use a geotextile fabric for material separation. Geotextile fabric is a tensile material used in stabalizing different soils and fill materials.

Proper raised paver patio diagram

How do we compact the fill material? There are a couple important things to remember when compacting limestone 411’s. Have you ever picked up a handful of dirt that was bone dry and tried to compact it into a ball? It doesn’t work so well. But, if you add just the right amount of moisture, you have the perfect mud ball. The same thing applies to compacting limestone gravel. It’s important to add moisture to the gravel before/as you compact it. The moisture helps release the air and aids by bonding the dust to the stone chips. Secondly, its important to never compact more than 2-4 inches in depth at a time using standard mechanical compaction equipment. If you are a DIY, and plan to use a hand tamp, I wouldn’t compact more than 1″ in depth at a time. Make sure and buy plenty of gloves if you plan to use a hand tamp, as you will be tamping for a really long time. That being said, I HIGHLY recommend that you use a vibrating plate compactor to compact the base especially if you’re building a raised patio.

If by now you haven’t decided to hire a professional that specializes in the installation of hardscapes, you’re a brave soul.

Proper excavation prior to installation of fill material is just as important as the selection and compaction of fill material. Most will agree that 6″ of base below a paver patio is the proper amount. However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to excavate if your building a raised patio. I see it all the time; a contractor builds a raised patio and doesn’t excavate below the frost line and doesn’t remove the top soil. Top soil is simply organic matter like rotted roots and leaves.

So, you should still excavate at least 6″ prior to the installation of fill material for a raised paver patio.

Probably the third most common cause for raised paver patio failure is loss of fill material. If you’re familiar with all the general paver installation steps, you know that after the fill material aka the base comes the sand setting bed. Since the particle size of sand is so small, it’s easy for the sand to fall through the cracks/joints in the walls that build the patio up. You should always use a geotextile fabric to contain all fill materials when building a raised paver patio.

These are just a few of the most common causes that raised paver patios fail. Raised patio’s are typically much more labor and material intensive making them more expensive than paver patio’s closer to ground level. I can’t recommend enough times to contact a company that specializes in these types of installations.

If you’re located in Southwest or Central Ohio, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information or to schedule a design consultation.

Thanks for reading- Mark Rhodus, President Two Brothers Brick Paving, LLC

If you’re not already, become our fan on Facebook for more great tips like these.

Leave us a comment!