Q&A / 

Creating Brick Patios

DEAR TIM: I have a perfect spot in the back of my house for a patio. The look of real brick is very appealing to me. Is it possible for an average person to install a brick patio? What is the easiest method and what is the most permanent method? What do you think the materials would cost? Pamela S., Overland Park, KS

DEAR PAMELA: Patios can be created using all sorts of materials including, but not limited to, concrete, Patterned Concrete®, stone, ceramic tile, traditional clay brick and concrete brick. I have worked with all of these materials but I must admit that the traditional red clay paving brick has always received the most glowing compliments from customers and people who walk on my own brick patios.

Not all brick are created equal. People who live in cold climates need brick that can withstand years of freezing weather. You live in an area that does indeed get cold so be sure that the brick you purchase is graded and rated for severe weather. This brick is made with high quality clay and is fired in the kiln for an extended period. These conditions create a hard brick that is very durable.

I feel one of the most important aspects of the job is to make sure the patio is sized properly. All too often people make patios and decks too small. I would purchase the patio furniture you intend to use. Place it exactly where it will be used. Use spray paint or string to outline the edges of the patio allowing sufficient room for grills, side tables, flower pots, etc. Using this outline you will be able to estimate the total square footage of the patio.

An average person can install a brick patio. If you work alone, it will take many days of work. All too often people think they can do jobs like this in a weekend. I find that rarely to be the case. Be conservative in your time estimate so that you do not rush and cut corners. An average sized patio that measures 15 by 20 feet may consume 100 to150 man hours of labor.

Clay paving brick can be set in a sand base that is supported by a crushed gravel base. They can also be permanently attached to a poured concrete base. I have tried both methods and I can tell you that the brick over sand method is by no means permanent. Moles can push up brick, ants love to bring sand to the surface between the joints and this sand is often tracked back into the house. Weed control is a constant problem as well. Installing the brick with cement mortar over concrete eliminates all of these problems.

The amount of work to do both methods is nearly identical. In both instances you will need to excavate and remove soil to create the area for the gravel or concrete base. Transporting the gravel or concrete via wheelbarrow to the patio site is the same amount of work. Installing the base materials is also very similar. Moving brick to the patio and placing each one is the same. The biggest difference is the time spent carefully placing brick in a cement mortar and then grouting the joints the next day. Comparing the time for both methods I would estimate that you will only spend an additional 15 to 20 hours to get a permanent installation. This is a bargain for a surface that will give you years of beauty and trouble free service.

The cost to install a traditional brick patio is affordable. I prefer to use the one and one half inch thick solid paving brick. These measure four inches wide by eight inches long and currently cost forty cents each in my city. Each square foot of patio surface requires approximately 3.7 brick. The concrete required for this job will cost about eighty cents a square foot. Miscellaneous materials like sand, cement and saw blades needed to cut the brick may add another fifty cents per square foot to your cost. The total cost of materials for your patio should be in the neighborhood of $2.80 per square foot or $840.00 if you do go with a 15 by 20 foot patio.

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