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
Any preferences among the group?
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
*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
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
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
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...
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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:)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.