How to: Install a hardscape patio

How to: Install a hardscape patio


How to: Install a hardscape patio

Scott Mcgillivray shares his tips for hardscaping.

While people have virtually always landscaped their yards, hardscaping has started to gain popularity as we’ve begun to put more focus on extending our living spaces to the outdoors. Here’s what you need to know first.

Photography by Edward Pond

What is it?
Hardscaping includes all the non-organic design elements on your property – that means retaining walls, paved walkways, decks, fences, pergolas and sculptures.

DIY vs. hire a pro
Simple cosmetic projects like stone patios and firepits can be handled on your own if you’re feeling handy, but defer to professionals when it comes to big projects that could affect slope or drainage. Contractors who specialize in hardscaping will help you achieve your vision for the space and do the work properly. Whatever the task, make sure to check with your municipality to see if you need a permit and to ensure that you’re complying with local bylaws.

Work with what you have
If you have a large property, the sky’s the limit. Creating an outdoor family room and barbecue area, building a large multi-level garden or constructing a huge deck can add a lot of value to your home and improve your lifestyle. If you have a small property, there’s still a lot that you can do to increase curb appeal. Just be sure not to overdo it. Small touches like a stone walkway or well-designed fence will spruce up your exterior without taking up valuable green space.

Plan, plan, plan!
Any feature you create needs to flow with the rest of the yard. Avoid adding individual elements one at a time; instead plan out the entire space before breaking ground. Draw a diagram to help you visualize the final product. And don’t underestimate the importance of a properly prepared base for any project you take on. All your hard work will go to waste if a poorly laid base causes your hardscaping to shift or sink.

Photography by Donna Griffith

DIY basic patio project
Want to take on a hardscaping project in your own backyard? Follow these eight easy steps to create a simple stone patio.

1 Mark out your patio area with pegs and rope.

2 Dig a 6" patio base and make sure you have a slight slope (approximately ¼" per square foot) to prevent flooding.

3 Once you’re satisfied with your base, tamp down the soil until it’s flat.

4 Lay down landscaping fabric, which will help with drainage and prevent weeds from growing between the stones.

5 Fill in the base with 2" of gravel and tamp it down. Repeat with another 2" of gravel and tamp down again.

6 Top the compacted gravel with a 2" layer of sand as screed. Level the sand and tamp down again.

7 Carefully lay your patio stones onto your compressed base.

8 Fill the seams with polymeric sand. The sand acts like grout when wet and stabilizes the stones. It also inhibits weed growth and is water resistant.


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How to: Install a hardscape patio