Concrete Pad versus Paving Blocks

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Just polling the group on the better method to make a little patio, about 8 feet by 8 feet square.
We have a table and chairs under a large tree in the back yard. They're just set on the lawn so during the rainy season my chair legs frequently sink into the soft ground, leaving me to sip my martinis on an incline. I need to put something solid under there and first thought of paving blocks, those cement slabs a couple of inches thick and 12"x12" or 18"x18". I've done that sort of thing years ago at another location using red paving bricks.
Then I thought it might be easier just to set some forms and fill them with concrete. Less problems with getting everything leveled, matching edges, etc. I could get more creative that way, with a square section under the table and semi-circles where the chairs sit.
I also suggested a wooden deck but my wife didn't like that one. I didn't even suggest attaching round metal plates to the bottom of the legs to act like a snowshoe, spreading the weight and preventing sinking underground.
Any preferences among the group?
Paul
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I don't care so much for those- but there are tons of choices of different pavers out there.
I think pavers look better than most concrete, and they are repairable if frost throws your base out of whack. If frost, and money, are no problem, then stamped & stained concrete would an option. [but know you'll be living with the results for along time.]
IMO- Pavers are a job that were made for a weekend DIYer. You can lay one brick-- take a week off, decide you don't like it, and change it up.
*Pay particular attention to the base* & pavers are pretty much maintenance free for decades. I spend 1/2 hour each spring spraying my paver patio with an herbicide that kills weeds for a season.
Other than that- I blow it off with the leaf blower. It is going on 7 or 8 NY winters & has one spot that puddles after a downpour- for about 1/2 hour. Then I forget about it again until the next downpour.
Of all the things I've done to this property in 25 years, the patio was the best money & time I've spent on it.

And within a couple years you'll need to break it all up, cart it away and build the Missus a proper patio. Do it right & do it once. even if you go with concrete- the base is as important as the concrete work.
Jim
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You are looking at just about the same amount of site prep no matter whether you use pavers, bricks or pour a concrete pad...
The better you prep the site, the longer whatever you choose to build your patio out of will last...
~~ Evan
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Think about the future. Will you still want that patio in five years? If you think you'd ever want to remove it, pavers are the best method as they can be dug out easily. You'd still have to level and prepare the surface before laying the pavers. That means pouring sand, compacting, etc. You can just lay them on top of the grass, but they will soon be moving and out of level. Done right, they can be very nice, done wrong, they can even be dangerous to walk on.
If you pour a pad, it should be on prepped surface and be 4" thick. Anything less will be prone to cracking and heaving if you are in a region that freezes. Are you prepared to do a pour and float and level the concrete? If you want to spends a few buck,, look for a guy that does stamped concrete work. Much nicer than a big old slab.
I'd go for at least a 10 x 10, better is 12 x 12.
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Many years ago streets were paved with bricks. They couldn't hold up to the traffic and weight. While some cities today are putting in brick crosswalks with better materials and prepwork, they still are not holding up.
If you want to do it once, pour a pad.
Hank
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-snip-

Yet- in the two 17th century cities near me, Schenectady & Albany, NY, whenever the city tears up a really old street-- there are those bricks beneath the concrete or blacktop or whatever they used to cover the old brick.
And as soon as they disturb the base and don't replace it as well as the boys in 1650 did, those streets need constant maintenance.
Bricks are bumpy- it wasn't the weight of vehicles, but the poor suspension of early 19th century vehicles that brought brick to disfavor.

Because it doesn't pay to have a road crew do the work necessary to build a base for them. But the difference between a patio and a road is epic. A road needs a 4-5' base with graduated sizes of fill- each layer machine tamped to a point of no more compression.
A 6" machine tamped base over landscape cloth will hold a paver patio secure for decades. A failure can be cured in a 1/2 day by anyone who has ever played in a sandbox.

The prep is the same. It is unlikely that a DIYer has the skills to make it come out looking as nice as pavers. And any failure leads to tear-out-and-start-over.
Jim
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Think about the tree. What happens if or when it dies? Pavers will allow some water to soak thru to the roots.
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OK- I was so nervous about you messing up the concrete work, I forgot your opening line. Now I am *absolutely certain* that you need to do this with pavers, or bricks, or something you can expand.
Mine is roughly 20x20. I'm *so* glad I didn't go with the 12x12 that was my original thought.
We had a big ole wooden picnic table in this space before. 8x8 was all we used-- sometimes we might sit a lawn chair out there. My 12x12 went to 20x20 because it fit better between the tree and the driveway.
First thing the Mrs. did when we had this nice patio was buy some patio furniture. Table, chairs, chaise, loveseat. Then I decided to move the BBQ to the edge of the pavers so my feet didn't track wet grass into the house if I was smoking something & running in and out 20 times.
Then, since we started living out there pretty much in the evenings, we got a little firepit. Bam! patio full.
You can build your 8x8 this year with pavers. With the tiniest bit of pre-planning, you can extend it next year- or 10 years from now with matching, or even contrasting pavers.
Mine is a circle- and one of these summers I'm going to add another 15x15 to the existing patio with another circle.
You can't do that with concrete and not have it look like an add-on.
Jim
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On 5/16/2011 2:21 PM, Pavel314 wrote:

I would be strongly in favor of pavers...we had such in Florida, with no problem. We put down landscape cloth on leveled soil, then very large pavers. Left about 6" around the pavers which was filled with river rock. Eventually, if there is debris that collects, they will grow a few weeds, but than can be treated. A slab under a tree, it seems to me, would invite problems for the slab and the tree. Pavers can be removed or reset. We had 4x4 timbers as a border to keep rock in place. Easy to move the grill around on it. I don't know how the tree root would be affected in terms of air and water...landscape cloth allows good water drainage.
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After the 4th martini is the incline still there? Or has everything leveled out?
--
Work is the curse of the drinking class.

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I no longer notice the tilt but the olives roll out of the glass and under the chaise lounge.
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patio under a large tree?
your probably better off with a paving stone patio, and just level ground and accept pavers may need re leveled in future.
proper site prep digging down for gravel base etc, then ground stone.
doing that around a mature tree may prove to be difficult to impossible, large roots and possibly harming tree:(
Might be better off to dedicate some chairs for that area and attaching pads to chair bottom so it cant sink in!
mature trees are a asset to be protected:)
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This is a huge old beech tree with limbs spreading out quite a ways. The patio wouldn't be right against the tree, it will be about four feet away at the nearest point on the south east side of the tree.
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Treasure the tree. There aren't enough of those. You know you can eat the little nuts, right? Not too many, because of the cyanide in them, but a couple of handfuls is fine.
Trees have their most active roots at the outside drip edge off the outermost leaves. Make sure the soil there remains permeable and NOT compacted. I'd chose the most permeable materials you can find for your patio, and build it up from the current level of the soil, as much as possible not disturbing the roots.
--
Best regards
Han
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-snip-

I don't think you've said where you live-- but if it is in the northeast US & you have a healthy beech tree, then you *really* need to be nice to it.
I second the recommendation to impact the surface as little as possible- and use a permeable cover.
Check with an arborist to see how much stress they think the tree will stand.
Jim
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On 5/17/2011 9:10 AM, Jim Elbrecht wrote:

How about some giant trivets made of treated 2x and cedar deck boards? A portable deck, essentially. 4x4 foot panels should be easy enough to move when needed, and still let water flow through. Shim or scrape as needed so the sleepers set level, and if you don't want weeds to grow through, put a layer of landscape fabric underneath.
--
aem sends...

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-snip-

It depends a lot on the tree. My paver patio starts about 6'-8' from the base of a 200 yr old Swamp Maple. These trees have a lot of surface roots-- and some of them go 50-60 feet from the base of the tree. When installing the patio I chopped off roots as big as 4" in diameter, to a depth of almost 3 feet.
The most severe trimming of the roots was in a semi-circle that was about 25% of the tree's circumference. Similar trimming had been done a couple years earlier - 15-20 feet from the tree, in an adjacent 20% or so.
The tree never noticed.

I'm with you here-- This huge old maple is really too close to the house, but it gives lots of shade, syrup when the spirit moves me, and a bunch of character to the dooryard.
Jim
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On 5/16/2011 1:21 PM, Pavel314 wrote:

If you value the tree, don't risk it by installing a non-permeable surface anywhere between the trunk and four or five feet outside the drip line. You'll injure a great many roots while prepping the area, and will kill others slowly from lack of air and water. That side of the tree will see branch dieback as a result, and there goes your shade.
I'd remove the grass, smooth the surface, pin down permeable landscape cloth, then cover the cloth with something that will permit air and water to pass through. I used large bark chips under my tree, but you could use a decorative gravel, or even those fake bark chunks made of recycled tires (those are springy and comfortable on the feet). That's a compromise you and the tree can both live with.
Another, simpler option would be to buy patio furniture that doesn't have legs that can sink into soft ground. Rocking chairs or swivel rockers that sit on a round base are a couple of possibilities.
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Pavel314 wrote the following:

Bear with me for a few seconds. 8 years ago, I had a paving block patio and walkway professional installed with all the excavation. underlayment, sand, and filler sand installed. The pavers were vibrated down with a machine and they have been great so far. These were the interlocking key shaped pavers with an octagon head and a small rectangular piece attached to one side. There is a little problem with vegetation growing between some of the pavers due to windblown dust, but some weed pulling and vegetation killer keeps it in check. After the job was done, I had a pallet or two of pavers left, including the edge pavers. The installer said he would take them away and credit me. I told him to leave them. Now for your question. With those extra pavers, I built a small pad under the barbecue grill in the side yard. The pad is about 12' x 8' I did not dig any dirt out for an underlayment, and did not use any underlayment at all, not even sand. The ground was just leveled and I built the patio right on the dirt. To this day, the patio is still level and looks as good as the professionally installed patio. It does have the same issue with vegetation as the other patio, but hardly any more so. I am in the NE US with the below freezing winters and all, and my dirt is more clay than not. YMMV.
--

Bill
In Hamptonburgh, NY
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I agree about the active root zone and also that you should be careful about harming the tree in this project - consider (a) consulting with a tree expert from a local university or arboretum, (b) building a deck platform that lays on top of the ground, it would be a lot easier too, or (c) just getting lawn furniture that won't sink in. Even easier. However, I don't think the information about cyanide in the nuts is correct. They may have tannins which can give a bitter taste (like acorns) but not cyanide. I have heard differing opinions on how good they are, some people like them and some not. May depend on individual taste and/or the particular tree. --H
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