outdoor living space

Staying at home? Make outdoor living space better with a clay paver patio

Clay paver patio? Time to start.

“We are creating individual, personal and luxurious resorts in our clients’ own backyard.”
–Pete Bryant

Dorothy nailed it: There’s no place like home.

Over this past spring, with shelter-in-place orders in many areas to try to flatten the coronavirus and with dens being converted into offices, gyms and online classrooms, we’ve learned that in practice, it goes further than that: there’s no place BUT home.

Not surprisingly,  many have taken a second look at what lies just outside.

Pavers handle curves and shapes.

Pavers handle curves and shapes.

Pete Bryant, owner of Southern Exposure & Southern Lights, a full-service landscape firm in Summerfield, NC, says that being intentional with the design of outdoor space makes sense.

“We are creating individual, personal and luxurious resorts in our clients’ own backyard,” said Bryant. “I think this has been an ongoing trend, but with the current environment, it will become an even greater need for families to have a space they can come back to and become totally immersed in.”

Better than that, it makes sense from an investment perspective. Bryant points to the 2018 Remodeling Impact Report for the National Association of Realtors that says making improvements to your outdoor space can result in a return on investment between 15 percent and 100 percent.

Fresh new patio project showing Full Range clay pavers in a herringbone pattern. You can see the edge restraints, secured with landscape spikes, soon to be covered with turf.

Landscaping for outdoor living usually involves some hardscapes, with clay brick pavers being one of the most tried-and-true and versatile products. In addition, a well-built dry-laid patio will give you a solid “floor” for outdoor furnishings. And the same Remodeling Impact Report says that homeowners who install a new patio have an 84 percent greater desire to stay home.

It’s the kind of job that you can take on yourself. Essentially, you dig down seven inches, compact the soil, put in four inches of crusher run gravel and one inch of sand, put in the pavers and edge restraints and fasten them down with landscape spikes.

(Two important points here: You don’t have to do all of this in one day, or even in one weekend. You can get a tarp and cover up the project, then come back to it later. In addition, there are a number of videos online to show you how it’s done.)

The advantage to a paver patio for DIYers is that it is forgiving. Dig the hole too shallow and you can dig some more; dig it too deep and you can throw some dirt into it. It’s not like a deck, in which you can cut and cut and cut a board and it will still be too short.

The best part? You don’t have to do-it-yourself. You could hire a reputable paver installer to put in your patio for you.

Either way, experts say that there are some things to consider beforehand.

Clay pavers age beautifully. Here’s a well established paver walkway with a herringbone pattern.

Sally Pagliai is a landscape designer and the owner of Greensboro, N.C.-based Studio Pagliai, has built gardens from Singapore to Florence – and often incorporates segmental paving into her designs.

She says she takes into account the needs of the client, along with the architecture of the home and the sense of place.

“You have to look at what I call the ‘genius of the place,’“ says Pagliai. “What are the good things the site has to offer? What are the bad things that are there?

A slope, for example, may require terracing; if the yard habitually floods, that will have to be handled, as well.

Laura Schwind, paver field manager for the South for Pine Hall Brick Company – and herself a landscape architect – said that homeowners interested in doing the jobs themselves will need to consider how many cuts will need to be made and choose patterns accordingly.

“What kind of equipment will you need to rent?” asked Schwind. “You will need to think about a wet saw for pavers and a plate compactor.”

For smaller projects, you can pick up a hand tamper at home improvement stores to handle the compacting.

Schwind also said that extra care will need to be given to how well the base is installed, because if it’s uneven, the finished patio will be uneven, as well. And if you opt for a fire pit, that will need to be well away from the house and trees.

If you decide to hire a company to install your patio,  Mark Tiernan, vice president of sales and marketing for Fred Adams Paving in Morrisville, N.C., says that there are both business – and specific needs in paver installations – that homeowners should consider.

“Does the contractor carry liability insurance and worker’s comp?” asked Tiernan. “What type of base will be installed – the base should extend six inches past the edge of the pavers so the spike in the edge restraint will be firmly in the base and not the soil. And you need to have a slope – about one inch for every four feet – sloping away from your house.”

Of course, don’t forget to make the free 811 call to locate any utilities under ground!

Once you are done, you will have a new outdoor room where you can sit and relax. Have a drink. Read a book. Be out in nature. And consider that you are following Dorothy’s example. She knew that the way back home was paved with yellow bricks, after all.

There are a variety of patterns you can choose. Shown here is a simple running bond pattern – which requires no cutting – placed on top of a herringbone pattern for comparison.

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