While digging up my front yard in prep to plant a new garden, my shovel – clunk – hit something hard where there should have been nothing but dirt. What I found was a surprise: antique bricks!
Here’s how I created a perfect patio with found clay brick and natural stone.
Along the way I discovered a product that promises to save us DIYers tackling a project like this time and effort. Is it true? Read on to find out.
I installed my patio seven years ago and it’s stood the test of time. Check out the product and process tips below to create a lasting patio of your very own.
Materials, Tools, Safety
- Patio brick – found bricks, paver bricks, patio pavers, granite cobblestones, whatever you choose
- Landscape fabric
- Brock Paverbase polypropylene sheets
- Polymeric sand
- Paver leveling sand
- Paver/brick restraints
- Rubber mallet
- Steel tamper
- Power saw – miter saw, chop saw, circular saw
- Porcelain tile diamond saw blade
- Rock or bow rake
- Thin scraps of 18″–24″ wood to use as spikes to tie string to
- A straight piece of wood, eg. a 2×4, that is long enough to extend across your patio space
- Framing square
- Tape measure
- Broom – regular broom or a hand broom
- Watering hose and hose attachment with sprinkle setting
Clear and clean up the area
Transforming my patio area required removing a hodge podge of broken sidewalk pieces, different kinds of old pavers and bricks, and organic material – weeds, moss, grass – plus bits of garbage.
This wasn’t the hardest of demolition projects but it was heavy and a sizable amount of work.
After a couple of hours or so I got down to a startlingly rich loamy dirt.
Mark the perimeter
I used a tape measure, framing square, spikes, and string to mark–off the area that would become the patio.
I had an odd shaped area that I figured out would be easier to manage by breaking it into two shapes – a square and a triangle.
I tapped my spikes into the ground at each corner of the square area of my patio. Then I stretched string taut between and then around each spike so that I could see the square area I was working with and have straight lines to work from.
Decide on your brick pattern
There are many brick laying patterns to choose from – herringbone pattern, bond pattern, basket weave…. Your choice of pattern will depend on your space and square footage, the shape/size of your materials, and personal preference.
We did a double basket weave pattern over the larger square–shaped area and a running bond pattern in the triangle–shaped area.
Smooth and level out the dirt
We used a rock rake, level, and a long and straight 2×4–stud to prep the dirt.
First we used the prong side of the rake to roughly level the dirt. Then we used the back of the rake – no prongs – to smooth the surface.
While doing this you’ll likely catch rocks and debris with the rake. Toss any of that out of the patio area.
We placed our 2×4 across the dirt in various directions and put our level on the 2×4 to check for slightly angled level. We wanted the patio to slightly tilt down at about a 1/4″ per foot.
Compact the dirt
Next, we used the tamper to pack the dirt into a solid compacted base.
Keep the face of the tamper level or you will create divets and craters in your leveled area.
Put down landscape fabric
Next we spread out landscape fabric, overlapping the seams as needed
Add leveling sand
Next, we poured leveling sand out in piles worked from one side of the patio area to the other, pushing and pulling the sand with the back of the rake until it was smooth.
Lay out polypropylene sheets
The folks who make these polypropylene sheets say they are the easiest way to create a patio, brick walkways, large terraces, a fire pit, a garden path – a variety of residential projects.
This product is a great choice whether you’ve done outdoor projects like this before or not.
The polypropylene sheets are super light styrofoam–like 2’x3′ sheets. They go down quickly.
A bonus to using these: they made low spots easy to find and back-fill with leveling sand. We landed with a very level, solid surface.
Position your bricks/pavers/stones
I liked how the light grey limestone contrasted against the range of colors in the street brick.
The only issue was that the limestone was thicker than our vintage bricks and so they stood higher than the bricks.
We solved for this by cutting out pieces of the polypropylene sheets (they are just under 3/4″ thick) and installing the limestone pieces directly on the sand below. Then the stones aligned perfectly with the tops of the bricks.
Cut bricks (optional)
I watched a lot of videos and read many posts about ruining your miter saw by cutting pavers and brick with it. It’s the dust – it can clog up your saw motor and render it useless.
But many Youtubers were cutting bricks and moving projects along. So I took a leap of faith, installed my 10″ porcelain tile diamond saw blade, and tried cutting my first brick.
It went fine.
Tips: Go slowly. Don’t force the cut, let the saw do the work. Work in an open space there will be a LOT of dust and sparks! For sure: wear ear and eye protection.
Install paver restraints
Depending on your situation, you may need paver restraints on all sides of your patio.
We only needed it on two sides since our patio butts up against sidewalk on two sides.
The finale: add polymeric sand
I worked polymeric sand into the spaces between the bricks and stones. Some spaces were pretty big and all of them were pretty deep – vintage bricks are thick.
The quickest way to spread the sand is with a broom – either a regular one or a hand broom.
Polymeric sand can leave a haze on your finished patio so I worked to get as much of the sand dust off of the top of my bricks as possible.
Then I turned on the hose and set my hose attachment to a light sprinkle.
Tip: You don’t want to wash the sand out from between the bricks; you want to get it evenly wet as you work your way across your patio. Working slow and steady is key.
Once saturated, I left the patio to dry.
This is a good time to check out patio furniture and start planning for plants you’ll place in the flower bed and herb gardens around your new reclaimed brick patio! 🙂
Would I do this project again?
Yes I would. The historic brick, with its different colors and hues, is so unique. It’s been low maintenance and I don’t have concerns about it holding up in the long term.
I recommend using Brock Paver Base sheets. They’re a good idea if you want to save time and skip a few traditional patio building steps.
Curious about the antique brick I found? Back in 1918 when my building was erected, Barr Clay Company (1892-1923) brick pavers were typically used as common brick pavers in Chicago. Here’s a bit of history.
I hope my project inspires you to try this straightforward DIY project. Good luck!