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Building a paver-in-sand patio

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2004
by Bess of the Piedmont on October 07, 2004 09:13 PM
Hi folks!

My husband and I have been researching how to build a patio for our back yard. We're going to try a gravel/sand/paver patio with railroad tie edges. We have some uneven ground that we'll need to correct. We want to make a slight grade away from the house for drainage. We were originally going to go with brick, but as the site is on the north side of our house, we didn't want to encourage slippery moss.

I'd love to hear about anyone's experiences with this sort of thing. We need advice!

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by Longy on October 08, 2004 01:07 AM
Measure the area you want to do and measure the diagonals to ensure it is square.They should be the same. Use string lines to mark the area accurately with the pegs being outside the area of excavation.

Excavate the area to about 6" (150mm)deep, more if they're thicker pavers or if the ground is not firm. (You want about 3- 4" (75-100mm)of fill underneath the pavers.) If the ground is firm you may not need so much fill underneath. Be aware of any plumbing when excavating. Power should be 500mm below ground level so shouldn't be a problem but there may be stormwater pipes closer to the surface. There are often inspection caps for grey water too so if you find any make a sketch where they are. You may need to access them later to clear blockages and it's much easier to lift 3 or 4 pavers than go hunting for them.

Lay your railway ties, using the stringlines as a guide and make them firm with steel rod or similar thru them into the ground. They should be set to the eventual fall of the deck. Again be aware of plumbing below.

Put down gravel, roadbase fines are good. (Use a long spirit level to scree the gravel before packing it down.)Water it and hire a whacker packer to consolidate it. About $40 for half a day. Not too much water, just enough to help packing. (You don't want the soil underneath to get too wet or it may turn into a boggy mess.) This preparation is necessary to stop the pavers moving over time and really should be done.

Then put on a layer of sand say about an inch thick until a paver sits on it at the desired height. More or less sand to adjust. (Use a long spirit level to scree the sand before packing it down.)

The fall away from the house can be fine tuned here. If the sand is a little thicker or thinner at any point it's OK as long as the top surface is flat.
A minimum of 1:100 of fall will be OK. ie, if it's a 10 metre patio, the fall would be 100mm. 4metres then the fall would be 40mm etc. This is the minimum for water to flow on a hard surface.

This is a rough guide, you may have other factors to deal with but if there's one thing i can't stress enough it's to pack the fill well. You'll get a better , more solid finish and it will last far longer. Hope this assists you and good luck.
by geegeeburr on October 08, 2004 05:32 AM
Longy- Do you know if this is solid enough to support a spa? I've heard yes, and I've heard no. I'll be doing something like this down the road, and will be using either pavers or stone. I think I may have heard that you can't use man-made pavers in sand to support a spa, but you can use stone.

Good luck, Bess. Would love to see before, during, and after pics.

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by Longy on October 08, 2004 10:02 PM
Couldn't be certain on that but i'd suggest the spa supplier would be the best place to start asking. You can drive a truck on properly prepared paving so if it was done properly i don't see why you couldn't. Maybe increase the depth of the excavation for a metre around the spa and compact it. Once again, proper preparation will be the key. Can i come for a spa?
by geegeeburr on October 09, 2004 12:27 AM
Sure thing, but it seems like an awful long trip just to sit in a hot tub. What, no 'cuzzis in Australia? [Roll Eyes]

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by Bess of the Piedmont on October 09, 2004 12:36 AM

Thank you for your response! I think I'll print it out to show my hubby.


I'll bet it'd be firm enough to support a spa. Another reason we're choosing pavers over brick is that we read that pavers are actually more sturdy than brick. This surprised me. They are also harder to cut. As Longy suggests, if the base is down firmly over firm ground, it should stand up to a great deal of weight.

We got our railroad ties delivered today, plus the rebar rods to stake them in with. They (the RR ties) are very rustic. When they arrived, I wondered if they were TOO rustic. But then I went out and jumped up and down on one and those things are like rock! They are used RR ties and uneven, but the more I looked at them the more I enjoyed their character. They'll go well with our 80 year old house.

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by geegeeburr on October 09, 2004 01:23 AM
Bess- hope you can post pics. I think RR ties look great in landscaping. But boy, are they heavy SOBs. [scaredy]

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by Bess of the Piedmont on October 09, 2004 07:58 PM
You're right! I went out and lifted one end of one and was really glad I won't have to move any single-handedly! These are old red oak and they promised that the creosote had been aged out of them so they wouldn't hurt my plants. But they also said to wear long sleeves, gloves, eyewear and respirator masks when cutting and drilling them. Woof!

I'd like to post some pix. Last time I tried my old photobucket account it wouldn't let me in. Maybe Yahoo photos would let me post?

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by Longy on October 09, 2004 10:10 PM
Thank you for your response
My pleasure.

boy, are they heavy SOBs.
beg borrow or buy a hand truck/trolley whatever yuz call 'em over there [Wink] Great for rail ties and also rocks when landscaping with them. Not to mention moving pavers.

long trip just to sit in a hot tub. What, no 'cuzzis in Australia?
Good point.-Yep there are. Just not at my place.I do have a dam though [grin]
by geegeeburr on October 10, 2004 01:10 AM
I have a dam cat. [Smile]

Bess- I've been using angelfire, which is WAY too complicated for the likes of me. But Carly told me to try Image Shack, which she says is reliable.

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by Carly on October 14, 2004 08:19 AM
Did you say you had a cat? I guess you're worried about a spa for that reason. I would be too - but they have covers that you can close when you're not using it.

My cat, Skitter would love that - she'd jump right in knowing her. She just loves water. When it rains, she's out there lapping it up.

I'm looking forward to seeing this work in progress.

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When sorting seeds, do not whistle.
by Bess of the Piedmont on October 15, 2004 12:00 AM
Thanks for the photo posting info, Gee! I'll go in there and see if I can make it work.

I went out and worked on the digging today, and I tell you, I could use a spa right now.

A dolly, hand truck or whatever we call it is a great idea, Longy! I wonder if we could use it and not get stuck in the mud. Maybe we'll need to make a board walkway or something.

Wait a minute- you have a DAM?!? Cool! Did you make it yourself? Is it for a lotus pond, or a kitty swimming pool for when Carly visits?

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by Longy on October 16, 2004 01:37 AM
you have a DAM?!? Cool! Did you make it yourself? Is it for a lotus pond, or a kitty swimming pool for when Carly visits?
Um. I don't do cats. They're a bit of a feral problem here so we best not go there.
It's for the wildlife really. I get many different species of bird. Some little native fish in there to keep the mozzies out.Eels too. Kangaroos and other smaller night critters use it. Snakes and lizards. And of course me and my dog have been known to fall in it on occassion. It's a bit low at the moment cause we're in the grip of a drought but it's keeping a lot of the wildlife alive so that's a good thing. I intend to rebuild an old windmill and put a tank on a nstand at the top of my place so i can gravity irrigate. I use a pump now but am holding off to keep the critters in a bit of water.
Send rain please.
by geegeeburr on October 16, 2004 01:39 AM
Okay, maybe I'm showing my American ignorance here, but what the h**l is a mozzie?

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by Longy on October 16, 2004 01:55 AM
A mozzie? It's a skeeter.
Here's a foto of my dam. Also some other shots of my yard if you feel like having a gander. (Having a look).¤t=dam.jpg
by geegeeburr on October 16, 2004 04:24 AM
Wow, your yard is beautiful. The kangaroo paws are amazing, and that red paper-tree dealie.

What is the row of upside-down purple pots for?

And what the heck is that Banksia Spinulosa? I've never seen anything like that! That's possibly the coolest tree I've ever seen. What zone are you? I wonder if something like that would grow in California.

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by Longy on October 16, 2004 10:05 AM
The pots are for protecting seeds/seedlings. In this case broccoli. I can mulch heavily around them and not damage the younguns. Also, i put a bit of potato sack or newspaper etc over the seed until it comes up to help retain moisture and to protect the soil from moving about on the seed. It also stops cutworm and snails etc from attacking the seedling and gives a little shade for the young plant.

I'm on the divide between sub tropical and temperate. I'm sure lots of the plants i grow here would grow in California. There is a couple of people in California who specialise in Australian plants. I came across them in google recently. Can't think of where or how but i'll check it out again later and get back to you.
The main potential prob would be with the soil type not the climate i reckon. Australian soils are very low in Phosphorous and the plants have adapted to this. Consequently "normal" fertilisers will kill many Ozy natives due to being high in P.
Thanks for your interest [thumb]
by Longy on October 16, 2004 02:11 PM
GG i googled the web using "australian native plants california" as the subject and came up with a whole swag of info. Check it out.
by geegeeburr on October 17, 2004 12:27 AM
Will do, Longy. Thanks! [Smile]

Bess- It's the weekend, so I bet you're out there working on that project. How's it going?

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by Bess of the Piedmont on October 19, 2004 07:43 PM
Well, that and a wine festival from which I'm still recovering. We live in Virginia wine country and there are lotsa harvest festivals this time of year. We went to Unicorn Winery where we tasted every wine twice (heehee!) and then it began to rain and we went indoors where an Irish band played and we drank lotsa wine and sang and pounded on the tables and had a blast.
We did some work, too. Mostly square-ing and leveling and plotting the grade and edging and looking at the ties and saying "Hmm."

I'd be out there right now, but it's raining. Here, Longy, have some of this rain. I loved the photos of your dam. What a beautiful place!

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by Bess of the Piedmont on October 21, 2004 09:54 PM
Hmm. Having a bit of a time trying to post. My Photobucket account seems to have kicked the bucket. Let's try this:

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