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Bird-in-Hand Patio Construction 2013

January 6, 2014 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Blog, Hardscaping, Landscape Construction, Patios 1 comment

This 1,000+ square foot paver patio was completed in Bird-in-Hand, PA.  This area was transformed into a beautiful exterior living space which can now be added to the total square footage of this home.  Learn the basics of how we build it and ways you can plan a budget for one at your own home!Before we start any large landscape project, we complete a functional diagram.  A functional diagram can look like this:


A functional diagram allows one to illustrate their thoughts and desires for a space unto a piece of paper, which in turn helps them decide how to prioritize space and what they should do with it!

We determined that this client needed a large space (at least 1,000 square feet), a permanent place for sitting, an area for a fire, and one large open space for table positioning and furniture adjustments.


One the size and dimensions of the patio are determined, then specific feature details can be figured out.  For example, wall lengths, fire pit size, width of steps, area for tables, etc.  The customer will commonly have visions, ideas or aspirations in their mind in which they would like to see incorporated into their patio project.

Now let’s start talking about DIRT!  OK, it’s not dirt.  “Dirt is what you find under your finger nails.” -Karl Gercens, Instructor at Longwood Gardens.  SOIL, is what needs to be excavated before materials are brought in to build a patio.

We started by stripping the sod and topsoil from the area.  Enough soil needs to be removed so that we end up with a minimum of 4″ of compacted base stone, 1″ of bedding sand, and our paver thickness (commonly 2.25-2.5″ thick).  That makes a total of at least 7.25″ from the top of our final paver grade to the top of our final soil excavation grade.


All sod or, “organic matter” must be removed so that it does not break down over time underneath the patio, causing settling.


Compacting the soil beneath the base is critical.  We excavated for the circular seating wall and decided to put down our geo-textile (weed barrier) in one phase.


The fabric creates a membrane which separates the clean base stone from the soil, keeping the base from settling more in one area than another.  It also helps prevent any noxious weeds from trying to sprout through (very unlikely, though).


After the geo-textile comes the base stone/aggregate.  We use 2A Modified limestone (3/4″ minus) which is recommended for the base.  2A Mod. is made of primarily 3/4″ stones, but will also include stone dusts and other aggregates which are finer in texture.  This allows the material to LOCK together!

We compacted our base in <2″ lifts until we get to our desired base grade/height (we add no more than 2″ of stone at a time before compacting).


We used a laser level to determine our grade/slope.  This patio was made with a 1.5% slope.  Anywhere between 1-2% is recommended for patios.  You can see where the perimeter of our seating wall is going to be (white painted line).


After our base was complete, we then installed the slab steps on either side of the patio.  We needed to do this before any more work on the patio since these required heavy machinery which could not be used after pavers are installed.


We re-used the large barn sandstones to retain the base stone under the steps.  The stone under these steps was also compacted thoroughly.


We completed the slab steps on the other side of the patio as well and snapped a quick pic of them before it got too dark!  We used the Pythagorean Theorem to be sure that our slab steps would be parallel with our pavers and perpendicular to the house.  Fun!


Next we needed to install the base course of the seating wall.  The most important course.  This course is completely level and is set on top of compacted base stone, just like everything else.



Take it one layer at a time… Snow happens when you work in December in PA!

Unless your double-sided seating wall is built to the radius and manufactured angle of the wall blocks, you will need to cut the blocks individually to get the perfect fit, since both sides are showing.



Once our wall was high enough, we back-filled more layers of our 2A Mod. base.  We needed to do this before finishing the wall due to the weather (we needed to make sure that it did not freeze the base before it was set).


This felt like our life for about two days. Oh wait, it was…


Finished just before the snow!  We covered it up and left to put our plows to work!


Back at it again… The wall is complete and the drains are in place.  Next, we finished the base and prepared for our bedding sand.


We used 1″ diameter “screeding poles” to screed/spread the bedding sand (concrete sand).  Once a majority of the sand was spread, we removed the poles and lightly filled in the voids and spread those with hand trowels.  Only 30+ feet to go from here…


As I like to say…”It’s PAVER TIME!”  With two guys, one supplied while the other laid the pavers.


Laying pavers in the dark is kinda fun… We got this done in about six hours.



Back at it the next day!  Trying to get to the seating wall.  So close, but so far away!



And, another evening picture later, we reached the wall and made our cuts for the circular soldier course.  As you can see, we also installed the beginning layers of the fire pit.

A fire pit is installed just like a retaining wall or a seating wall… Level the base course and work your way up.  Concrete adhesive is typically used for these blocks.


Installing the cobblestone paver ring around the fire pit.  Whoops, got a little snow on the patio!  Nothing a 500,000 BTU propane torch can’t melt!  (I feel like a really red, red-neck when I use that thing.) 🙂



Creating repetition is a great way to tie a space together.  You don’t have to keep things symmetrical to make it all “flow” together.


Everything is dry laid and waiting for polymeric joint sand!  We placed a soldier course around the entire perimeter of the patio to define the edges and create a more stable edge than the cobblestones would have made.

We always install plastic edging on the outside of our pavers before sweeping and tamping in the joint sand.


After polymeric joint sand was installed and watered in.  Enjoy… 🙂






River jack, or, river gravel was used to mimic a stream bed on the sides of the 4′ wide steps.  This will also keep the soil on this slope from eroding.






Special thanks to that guy, right there… His name is Matt Eby, the owner of Belmont Landscapes, Gordonville, PA.  Matt was also an employee of Longwood Gardens when I was a student/employee there.

Matt and I both started our businesses within the last few years and both have the same passion for horticulture, landscape design and construction.  We decided to work together on larger projects like this so that we can put our heads together to create something amazing and beautiful.  Well, I hope that’s what we did!

Thanks for sharing this project with me, Matt.


A professionally installed patio typically costs between $10.00-$25.00 per square foot.  $10.00/square foot would typically be a simple paver patio and $25.00/square foot would include things such as: steps, walls, fire pits, water features, etc… You can use these figures to create a rough budget for a patio in the future!  Of course, I recommend calling us for a free quote and consultation.

We will return in the early spring to do some seeding, planting and mulching around this patio.  I will take and post more pictures, then.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and on our Pinterest page, all boards are landscape-related to give you great ideas for your yard!




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1 comment

paving company - July 21, 2014 Reply

You guys do great work.

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