The patio that almost killed me...

When we moved into our new house months back, we were THRILLED to finally have some outdoor space. MAJOR outdoor space for us, especially compared to our last place where we had a very small (and sooo not private) backyard.
Part of what made me fall in love with our new house was the huge screened-in porch with more than enough room for a huge living area AND a big table. We also scored a huge backyard that is super private, perfect for entertaining. Outdoor space, check. However, we didn't have a great spot for things like our grill and gas fire pit.   While we had a really nice, level spot right off the screened-in porch stairs, we really wanted a paved area for those things. The other side of the porch slopes way down with more stairs from the backyard to a little area off the basement. Since the stairs from the actual house come down on this side, we thought it made more sense to have a little extension for outdoor living stuff on this side. We always thought that little area should have totally been paved already, so we took the plunge and did it ourselves.

Looking back, I think it's safe to say we definitely would not do this again if we had it to do all over. We LOVE the result, but the work was kind of back-breaking.

Let me just say before we begin... We are not experts at this and definitely did not do this perfectly. The result is pretty darn good (we think), so we're happy with it.
Here's the before...

Our original plan was to pave the entire area from the little cement slab from the porch stairs, all the way to the area where the wood stairs to the backyard begin (around the bottom-center of the photo).  We soon realized that wouldn't work because our irrigation system got in the way. About a foot in from that little corner, an underground sprinkler head pops up when that section is turned on. Not conducive to paving over. So we figured instead of removing it and going through all that trouble, we'd just stop the patio a little shy of it.
This area seems small, but it nearly killed us...
The first trick was picking up the pavers. We chose these from Lowes.

For our area, we calculated that we'd need 68.  Lowes helped us load them which was awesome. Unloading them was awful. Brad is really strong and could get a few at a time. I struggled with one, and I'm usually pretty strong.  These were HEAVY.

Check out all the pavers piled up... At this point, I was thinking, "What have we gotten ourselves in to??"  I think Waylon was thinking the same thing...

Next, we started digging. The main trick to this whole diy-paver patio thing is getting the area perfectly level.  So we each took a shovel and started to sort of "skim" off the grass.  It was SO hard for me to do, so Brad took over most of that job. I went around and scooped dirt and worked to further level areas that were obviously not.
Then, we worked together with our shovels to level it even further. I'll be totally honest here... We didn't "stake off" the area and use string to level it. We didn't use a level. We totally eyeballed this. However, we had a great advantage because the area was already pretty level and we had the nice wood retaining wall to sort of guide us.

Next, we put down 8 bags of "paver base". This stuff is basically really thick, moist sand. When you do this, wear gloves, people. Sometimes we didn't and I ended up with tiny cuts and splinters all over my hands and fingertips. I got really scared for a second there and thought I had totally ruined my hands. All my fingertips felt like I had at least 10 splinters in each. Not a good feeling.
Here's what that looked like during the spreading...

After you spread it (you can use it to further level your area), you can use a flat rake or even a big metal tamper to settle it all and make sure its flat and smooth.

Then you put down paver sand (not polymeric sand...yet) on top of that. Just a thin layer.

Thennnn you put down the pavers. You can put them down in any pattern you like.  This is the part that started really getting to me. One by one, we took turns grabbing the pavers and bringing them over. We'd each work on one, then go get another. It really made the process go quickly.  But the next day, my legs were feeling the burn...haha. All that squatting with the heavy pavers was serious business.

By this time, it was literally 11pm so we called it a day.

The next morning, we did the last (and most fun) step. Applying the polymeric sand. This step was so satisfying. Polymeric sand comes in buckets (we used two big buckets, not sure of the exact size, but you can get an idea from the bucket in the photo below) and basically keeps your pavers in place by turning to cement when you apply water to it. So we dumped it evenly to small areas at a time and spread it with a large push broom. The idea is to push it into the area in between the pavers and off of the paver tops themselves.  Brad did most of the sand dumping, and I did the spreading.
Until he really wanted in on the action and I gave up the broom...

We then took a leaf blower (per the polymeric sand's instructions) and lightly blew off the surface of the pavers to get all the sand off, while keeping as much in-between them as possible.  
Oh and I almost forgot to mention- on the edge of the pavers where they meet the grass (behind Brad in the photo above), we used some of the hammer-in black edging that you purchase especially for these. We didn't use it against the wood (because the wood kept it in place) or on the area to the right in the photo above against the pine straw area because that area goes up a little and we felt the area we dug out would be more than enough to keep it in place. Not that skipping that in those areas is what you should do, but that's what we did and it's working.

Finally, we gave the patio a light shower with the water hose to set the polymeric sand. We followed the sand's directions and stayed off of it for 24 hours. Then, when we stepped on it for the first time, we were pretty darn impressed with ourselves. 

For reference, where the flower pot is on the right side of the patio, is where I always stand for my outdoor OOTD posts. So YAY for no heels in the grass anymore! haha

That little wonky, muddy area to the right of the patio area in the photo above is another sprinkler pop-up area. Yeah we could have cut out the stone pavers in a way that would allow it to pop up through it, but we didn't. We're going to get that area grassy again and maybe add some large river rocks (too large for Waylon to scarf up)  in the same color of the patio to round it out a bit.

We also have some plans for the area to the left of the grill in the photo above. Eventually, we'd like to build (or maybe have it built) a stone grill enclosure there. That would free up some more space on the patio and look so much nicer.

Here's a closer shot...

Oh and the grand total we spent on this project was around $300. Not too bad. We had a sweet Lowe's coupon and the pavers rang up a LOT cheaper than they were advertised. So we're totally not sure what happened there. But we'll take it.

So my final thoughts. Don't do this... 
Unless you have a pretty level surface to start with. If you're dealing with a tricky area that is oddly-shaped, or really uneven, leave this to the professionals.  I would N-E-V-E-R do this again. Ever. haha, dramatic, I know. But seriously, we have been really enjoying it and we love the results, but I don't think I could make it through another one of these guys.  

Have you guys ever done this? Any huge diy projects you've been tackling lately?


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