Whether your brick patio is in Naperville, Frankfort or Chicago the base preparation is everything for success. Frequently, I will hear from homeowners that brick patios “do not last”. That is simply because they have seen patios that were poorly installed.
Brick patios set on gravel are a ‘flexible system’. They do move ever so slightly over time but if properly installed they will move in unison and their movement is imperceptible. But when they are installed poorly the bricks separate, sag and heave. The differences between an awesome brick patio and an awful one are actually a fairly fine line.
There are a few keys to absolute perfection with brick patio installation. Your landscape contractor should be doing the following for a best practices installation:
- Excavation should be to a total depth of 10”.
- Excavation should exceed the size of the patio by about 6” on all sides. This is called the over-dig and is what keeps the bricks around the edge from tipping.
- After excavation the subsoil should be compacted before gravel installation. Compaction of the subsoil creates a more stable base.
- A geotextile product should be laid across the compacted subsoil. This adds to the stability of the gravel base.
- CA-6 gravel should be added and compacted in lifts of about 2”. If you add too much gravel at once most compactors simply cannot compress the entire amount. Adding the gravel in lifts and compacting as you go compresses the gravel and locks the particulate matter together. The total depth of the gravel will equal about 6 ½ “for a 10” excavation with a brick thickness of 2 ½”. Good compaction creates a patio that will not sink over time.
- After compacting, the CA-6 gravel, the next level of base is torpedo sand. The landscape contractor should spread torpedo sand to a depth of about 1”, leveling the sand with steel pipes and an aluminum screed.
- Proper pitch for brick patios is usually 1% or 1” ever 8’. This is for purposes of drainage. There are exceptions to this, but for purposes of discussion 1% pitch is standard.
- After leveling the sand the bricks are ready for installation. For standard residential brick patio installation the bricks are installed by hand in the pattern of choice.
- After the brick is installed, cuts should be made for the edge and a high quality brick edge restraint such as Snap-Edge should be used. Spikes should be driven through the edging on 6” intervals. Spiking the edging on 9” or 12” intervals will create a situation where the brick edging separates from the patio. Refer back to item #2. If you have over-dig you are driving the spikes into gravel. If you do not have over-dig you are driving the spikes into the soil around the patio. This is not good!
- At this point sand should be swept into joints. The sand can be standard jointing sand, polymeric sand or one of the other compounds available in the market. If your landscape contractor has done everything else correctly, he or she will be able to guide you to the appropriate sand for the brick being utilized. It should be noted that weeds do not grow up through 7” of gravel. Weed growth occurs when bricks separate from shoddy installation and weed seeds settle in the joints. Some of the jointing sands will prevent this as well, even on a lousy installation.
- Lastly, though it depends on the specific patio brick, the top of the patio should again be compacted to shake the sand down into the joints and vibrate the torpedo sand underneath into the joints from below. Again, final surface compaction is based on the specific brick selected and also on the jointing sand utilized. If you are in doubt discuss it with your landscape contractor or the manufacturer.
Building a brick patio that lasts is not all that difficult. I have patio installations that have been in place for over twenty years and are still being used. The attached photo is a new planting on a patio I installed in 1994. Not a brick is out of place. But building them correctly takes time.
The cheapest price on a brick paver patio is invariably provided by a contractor who is counting on the consumer who seeks a bargain. Landscape contractors (good landscapers) who care follow best practices for the industry and cannot be the least expensive solution. They are contractors who protect their reputation and the product they leave at your home.
So whether your brick patio is in Frankfort, Naperville or Chicago, look for a landscape contractor who has a portfolio and website that reflects quality workmanship.