How to build a backyard patio, in 24 miserable steps

'Paver' stones are also known by their official title, 'fucking things.'

'Paver' stones are also known by their official title, 'fucking things.' Lowe's Home Improvement Youtube

1. Tell everyone.

Announce loudly and unprompted to friends and quickly annoyed strangers that you plan to build a patio once this weather gets nice. Ignore their frowns.

2. Presume competence.

3. Assemble materials.

Make a shopping list based on your perusal of up to two online guides. Stuff is delivered via semi-truck, forklift, and pallet. Examine the lighter items in your hands and tap your knuckles on the big ones so the delivery guy knows you appreciate quality material when you see it.

4. Recruit friends.

Promise “tacos!!!” and “beers till they run out!” Bonus round: The real repayment will be your expertise when they all build their own patios.

5. Delay, via group text.

“so pumped! but not sure about the weather this weekend…” (Punctuate with macho emoji.)

6. Commence pre-commencement.

Gather your crew early one morning so everyone can watch instructional Youtube videos and discuss a comprehensive work plan.

7. Watch one instructional YouTube video.

Or part of it. (It gets super boring in the middle.)

8. Watch funny YouTube videos.

Your friend knows a few good ones you haven’t seen.

9. Break for lunch.

10. Break ground.

Remove the grass and topsoil with a “sod-stripper,” a crude device consisting of a stick and a thin blade, which you’ve rented, and your foot, which you own. Feel like a proud, 855-year-old farmer.

11. Excavate.

A patio bed five inches deep means unearthing more dirt than you knew existed. Fill a wheelbarrow several hundred times, taking care to deposit its payload onto your shoes. After several hours announce, “Close enough,” and quit.

12. “Level” the dirt.

Now physically exhausted, try something that commands precision. Give it a couple minutes. Quit.

13. Deflect.

Six hours in, and you are the proud owner of a misshapen dirt pit. Plant seeds of self-doubt in volunteers. Glance at them sideways and ask, “You sure you’re doing that right?” Ask if they paid attention to the video. If this patio sucks, you will need a scapegoat.

14. Re-level the dirt.

Use a “plate compactor,” a behemoth that weighs 250 pounds and steers like a snowblower on Neptune. Its main feature is kicking up immense plumes of dirt, which you consume by the mouthful. Spray lightly with water until the dust you’re eating is easier to chew.

15. Google “plate compactor doesn’t work.”


16. Lay sand.

More than you will find on some islands that have an official flag. Imagine carrying Guam into your backyard. The store has thoughtfully ripped softball-sized holes in each bag. But at least most of it spills in your garage, making the sandbags noticeably lighter as you carry them.

17. Level the sand.

Note: This is your last chance to bury small, incriminating items. Think: receipts.

18. Break.

Consume four to six beers, pausing only to tell everyone they’re almost done. Remind them how good lunch was.

19. Place stones.

Pick up each heavy stone — they’re known as “pavers,” though you prefer the official title “those fucking things” — and place gently. If two stones do not adjoin properly, pound them into place with a rubber mallet. If they still don’t fit, use the mallet on whoever just set them down.

20. Rethink your friends.

Is this really their best effort? Clearly not: Just look at it! When King Tut saw stonework like this, he had the whole crew dipped in bronze and dumped in the basement of the Sphinx. You don’t owe these people anything. You’ve revealed their incompetence. What could be more valuable?

21. Fill gaps with sand.

This sand is “polymeric,” which means it is more expensive, comes in a giant jug, turns to glue, and has sex with both genders. Toss it all over the place and use brooms to carefully sweep it into the cracks between your just-set stones. This takes a long time. Perhaps forever.

22. Remove excess sand.

Use a leafblower, which will also blast away every single grain of sand you just spent so long sweeping in between the cracks. Drink two more beers. Repeat step 21.

23. Consider your neighbor.

That silent man who has never so much as made eye contact, despite your increasingly friendly gestures, which have turned you into a Miss America bobblehead doll. Once finished, your patio should carry rainwater away from your home’s foundation... and into a pool that will form in his judiciously manicured lawn. Some day you will die on this patio by his hand.

24. Wet sand, quit.

Using the last remaining strength in your arm, spray a light mist over the patio. This, plus the many layers so carefully constructed beneath, should hold your patio in place for decades. Those beers must be kicking in. Or maybe it’s the sunset. Or a sense of accomplishment. But you realize it’s the most beautiful, best-built thing you’ve ever seen. If only Tut was here. He would’ve loved it.

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