How to Grade a Patio With 12 by 12 Patio Blocks

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Patios made from block are great do-it-yourself projects and don't require a lot of specialized expertise. Home centers carry the blocks you need, and a local hauler will deliver the crushed stone mix that goes underneath. A few tools, help from a friend and a couple of weekends should be enough to finish all but the largest of projects. Creating an outdoor area adds to the practical living space of your home, whether for a backyard barbecue or an evening under the stars.

Things You'll Need

  • Landscape cloth
  • Paver edging
  • 12 x 12 inch patio blocks
  • Crushed stone/sand mix
  • Sand
  • Shovels
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Four or six foot level
  • Stakes
  • Mason line
  • Tape measure
  • Hand or power tamper
  • Lay out the area where the patio will be built on paper. Take measurements and transfer them to paper. Measure the patio blocks to determine their exact size. Some may not be exactly 12 x 12 inches. Decide on the spacing between the blocks., A half inch to one inch is usually a good spacing, although you may decide on a smaller width.

  • Stake the area according to your drawing. Use the tape measure to get it exact and follow the triangle rule to insure your layout is square. Run mason lines between the stakes to outline the area.

  • Remove the sod and an additional four to six inches of dirt. Use the level to grade the area to slope away from the house according to local building codes. Install landscape cloth over the entire graded area and pin it in place.

  • Run mason line between stakes four to six inches off the leveled and graded ground. Have a line cross the graded area every two feet.

  • Fill the graded area with crushed stone mix to a depth of four to six inches. Use the mason lines as a depth guide. Level the stone with a straight 2 x 4, remove the lines and run the power compactor over it. After compacting, the finished height of the stone should still be four to six inches. Add stone if necessary and compact again until the area is graded smooth, and is the correct depth and slope as checked with a level.

  • Lay the 12 x 12 blocks in straight lines. Mason line makes a good guide for this. Keep the block spacing even and according to plan. Cut blocks where necessary.

  • Fill the spaces between the blocks with sand or very small crushed stone. Use a power compactor over the blocks to settle them and vibrate the sand or crushed stone into the spaces between them. Sweep the area clean, and you are finished.

Tips & Warnings

  • As you lay the blocks, it helps to give them a few good raps with a rubber mallet to seat them. Take the time to properly grade the area, and check your local building codes for guidelines. You want enough grade to move water away from the house, but not so much as to make walking difficult. A 1/4 inch slope over four feet is a good start. You can do this with a shorter level, but the longer six foot level will make it easier and more accurate. As you lay blocks, keep checking with the level to stay on grade. Good preparation and layout are keys to a successful project. The foundation of your patio is the crushed stone and sand mix. Take the time to do this step and your patio will last for years. The same techniques that are used to lay brick pavers, flagstone and other stone types work well with 12 x 12 block. The 12 x 12 blocks go in faster because they are large and don't have to be fitted together like some natural stones. Rent a compactor at a home center. A power compactor is money well spent because it can be used on the crushed stone and on the installed blocks to seat them and the fill between them. If a lot of blocks will need to be cut, rent a masonry saw for the job. Otherwise, a masonry blade in a circular saw will do the trick.
  • Always wear eye protection. Wear a dust mask while compacting stone or cutting blocks with a saw. Wear gloves to protect your hands while you work with the blocks. Check with your local building and code enforcement department for any permits necessary and for any code requirements.

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  • Photo Credit Photo by Luis Tamayo
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