Building a brick patio without digging

joyfulgardener(NJ z6)March 29, 2006

I have watched a couple of home and garden shows recently where they have built a brick or stone patio without excavating. They create the outline of the patio with bender board, then fill it with a couple of inches of sand and place the bricks on top of the sand. This idea is intriguing to me because I'd like to put in a small brick patio in the corner of my yard where I have a seating area. However, I cannot dig down to excavate the area as there are too many tree roots in the area.

Has anyone ever built a patio in this manner? How has it held up? How do you secure the bender board so that it does not bow outward?

Any thoughts are appreciated. Thanks in advance!

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gardenscout(z6 NE RI)

However, I cannot dig down to excavate the area as there are too many tree roots in the area.

Beware tree roots. The weight of new hardscape could damage or even kill the trees. If the roots are near the surface, that's because they need to be. Try to resist the urge to cover them with sand and brick.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 5:56PM
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I built an elevated patio four years ago. I built it along side a row of American arborvitae evergreen tress. The tress make a nice privacy fence. I used treated 2x4 for the framing and on the side that had no tress I built a wall from castle wall blocks with a three foot space between the wall and the patio. I filled that with dirt and planted flowers.
The reason I built the patio raised was the lawn has a slope and I wanted the patio to be the same height as the water garden that is nearby.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 7:41PM
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GingerBlue(z6 MO)

Another little-used patio idea is that of making a floating deck. Because it's low to the ground (not suspended on footings), it's not an abrupt raise in elevation and so therefore looks more like a patio than a deck.

Mine's made with a treated lumber frame, leveled on concrete landscaping stones, and faced with a nice grade western red cedar. It's worked for me. weeds between the joints!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 9:41PM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

Those tree roots will eventually cause problems with a brick patio, making it very uneven. I agree with GingerBlue, a deck would allow water and air through to the roots.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 6:06AM
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jimca05(z5/6 OH)

I think it depends. First, the programs showing that method are probably in a climate that does not have freeze/thaw cycles. In the North your bricks would heave unless you use really thick stones. You could build up your foundation if your patio area is small and the trees are large and established. Even if you build up, the roots might cause some uneven pavers. These can be pulled up and releveled though. I think you won't like the result if you simply laid some pavers on a sand base.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 10:58AM
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Gingerblue, your floating deck sounds intriguing but I'm having trouble picturing how it is leveled on concrete landscaping stones. I tried googling floating deck but I got a lot of pictures of docks! Also a few pages relating to creating a deck that is not attached to a structure but those seemed to all be supported by footings. Do you have a picture by any chance? It seems to be a very ingenious solution to conditions such a joyful describes and many of us experience. I sense a marketing opportunity for you!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 11:23AM
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This is exactly what I hate about those home/garden shows on tv. Do they ever go back in 2 or 3 years to see if the shoddy work they've done has held up? I don't think so.

The floating deck is so much better for this kind of situation. Levelling on the concrete pavers would be done the same way you'd level any paving - you don't put the deck on until the supporting stones are level. I suppose you could install footings, if there are tree roots that are likely to wreck your levelling over time, they just wouldn't extend above grade.

This is a better solution around trees, because the tree roots are not going to stay exactly where they are - *especially* if you kill the tree.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 1:08PM
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GingerBlue(z6 MO)

Hi, Accordian. A floating deck is just one that's not attached to a building or sitting on footings. I've linked to a picture from last summer of my deck. (We were in a serious drought, so it looks terrible!) Because of the sycamore and maple trees that are just off to the right, I knew better than to make a patio out of pavers. And I didn't want the problem of cold/hot concrete either. So we came up with the deck. It's made of treated 2x8s. Just a box with joists like a floor. I think 18" centers. The deck is, I believe 12x14ft. There are no footings. We just set it directly on the ground and used concrete paver stones at the corners and at all contact points intermittently where it looked necessary. (It's not actually sitting on the's sitting on the pavers.) We actually just took some cheap 8x16x2 blocks and cracked them in half. We used them to level, did some digging under a few to make it work. Really low tech. It's not attached to the house. Then when we got the frame set and stable, we attached western red cedar decking with coated deck screws. I had to move some dirt to some low spots to keep animals from going under. Had a possum once.

It's now three years old and doesn't move at all. For making a flat spot for furniture in an area with trees, it works.

Here is a link that might be useful: My deck

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 10:11PM
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Thanks for the photo and in-depth explanation. Your deck really looks terrific. I'm definitely going to use it as an inspiration for a similar deck I'd like in a tree shaded spot near our pond. I'll toast you with a nice icy margarita from a deck chair atop it when it's done!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 2:19PM
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I'll toast you, Accordian, for reading through and following good practical advice. Many people cling to their first thought and ignore anything that is not supportive. It is refreshing to have someone ask for advice and then happily accept it.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 10:16PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)


LOVE the bottle post!

I'm planning on putting a floating deck down by our creek. We'll have to anchor it on a "leash" because every few years we get enough rain, in a short period, that the creek hops it's banks.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 9:14AM
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GingerBlue(z6 MO)

Thanks Melanie. I do have a thing for cobalt, as you can see. It's been interesting seeing people's responses to it. Of course there's the obvious outsider art connotations. But I'm more trying for a look all my own. I've also got a blue shed and lots of blue accents sprinkled throughout the yard. It's interesting walking the fine line between expressive and tacky. But as I mentioned on the other thread, with all this blue I've got to really watch my colors. It can easily get cacophonous.

And if you put that deck might REALLY be a floating deck! I was raised next to a creek like that...I've got some stories....think floating buildings, treading water, and baby pigs. OY!!!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 11:13AM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Well, I'm a bit of a magpie--I like anything that sparkles.

We've never had baby pigs in the creek (we are in town, after all) But we have seen coolers (?!)go floating by. And once, a dorm-sized refrigerator. (Chapel Hill IS a college town, after all...)


    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 11:34AM
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Oh gosh, with all the talk about floating pigs (how does that happen anyway?!) and drifting refrigerators I'm getting worried. melanie, I think I'd better ask how you plan to leash you deck and follow suit as mine will be in some danger from a seasonal creek. I don't want to be toastng and floating all at the same time!

And laag, I'm blushing. I must say I'd snap up any advice you ever offered, you are one of the people who makes this forum worth reading.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 11:58AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Gingerblue, I also love love love cobalt blue and think your bottle art piece is great.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 12:46PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

GB I LOVE that deck! Wish I had seen your pics before I broke the bank and put in my kinda drab cement paver patio. I hired a "landscape designer" for advice about my yard. This idea never occured to her apparently. Or, like my doctor, she went with the standard paver patio because that's what she was trained to do and the paver installer were the folks she worked with. No matter what I go to my doctor for she invariably writes me a prescription for something. Whatever is wrong with me she has some pill or potion for it. I only fill about 1/4 of them. Most either do nothing or are worse than the ailment. But that's the information she received in med. school and she works hand in hand with the pharmeceutical companies. Please, I'm not doctor bashing or pharmacy bashing, or landscape designer bashing, just commenting on why sometimes "professionals" don't have all the creative answers. Including myself.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2006 at 1:36PM
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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

I certainly would not have any 'snarky comments' about your bottle tree! I love it, and have one of my own, only with not so many cobalt bottles.

As usual, I am a day late, as we laid a brick patio between a pecan tree and a mulberry tree a couple of weeks ago. I know that we could have problems with roots, but we don't have the heave factor here, and I have never seen pecan roots close to the surface. Not like an Oak tree at all.

It was really done so I can decide what I really want in my back yard. If I decide I really like this arrangement, we can do a more permanent installation. If not, I can always use the bricks to make pathways.

Love the deck too.


    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 8:11PM
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OK ... "back to the patio without digging" question. I have an 18'x20' area in my backyard that was once a playground area (my girls have outgrown it). I want to make it a casual sitting area with a fire pit. The floating deck doesn't seem like a good idea unless I'm looking for some easily accessible material for the fire. The area has about 1' of sand over some landscaping cover. It's not perfectly level but that can be fixed with some sand and raking. I'm not sure I'm up to digging down 4-6 inches and hauling in sand, gravel and bricks for this area. I was hoping to lay down some irregularly shaped pavers on the sand and fill in the gaps with pea gravel or something similar material . Any suggestions? Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 1:47PM
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