Steps for building a brick-in-sand patio.
A brick-in-sand patio is about the easiest patio to build. It requires just a few basic skills and minimum effort, and it's a job you can leave and pick up again according to your schedule. A mortared installation is not that flexible.
The key to a long-lasting sand-set installation is the quality of the bed. Most building codes require both a gravel subbase and a sand bed. Both materials should be installed in layers. Shovel in about half the gravel required, then tamp it thoroughly. Then shovel in the rest and tamp again. Use the same technique when laying the sand bed, but mist both layers of sand with a fine spray before tamping them.
No matter what size your patio, tamp it with a rented power tamper. Getting the tool to the work site requires some heavy lifting, but it is the best tool for the job. Some rental outlets will deliver such heavy items to you.
Several days to dig and lay a 10x10-foot patio
Round-nose shovel, spade, line level, hose, carpenter's level, hammer, brick set, small sledgehammer, screed, circular saw with masonry blade, broom, rubber mallet, power tamper
Measuring, leveling, laying out square lines, cutting bricks, setting bricks
Lay out site and prepare sand bed
Bricks, bedding and mason's sand, gravel, landscape spikes, landscape fabric, edging, plywood for spacers
Lay out the site and prepare it for a sand bed. When you excavate, make sure the depth of the bed will leave the brick about 1 inch above grade. This will provide drainage and permit you to mow around the edges easily. Set in any edge restraints you're using, then lay the border brick in the pattern of your choice. Starting at one corner, lay the first row, spacing the bricks about 1/8 inch apart and keeping the courses straight with a mason's line.
After laying six to eight units, bed the bricks in the sand bed, tapping them with a rubber mallet. As you progress across the site, use a slope gauge to make sure the surface will drain correctly. When you have to kneel on the laid bricks, use pieces of plywood to distribute your weight.
As you complete about a 4x4-foot section, lay a straightedge on the surface to make sure no bricks are too high or too low. Seat any high brick with the rubber mallet. If a unit is low, pull it out, add sand, and replace the brick. Continue laying bricks using the same techniques.
Once you've finished setting all the brick, spread out a thin layer of fine mason's sand over the surface. Put on enough to fill the joints 1/4 inch deep. Using a soft-bristle broom, sweep the sand into the joints, but don't fill them completely. Mist the surface to bed the sand.