Give an Old Patio a Facelift
By Walt Steele
There’s good news and there’s good news. You can have a new clay paver patio or walkway without digging, without spreading crusher run, without tamping, without measuring out an inch of sand and screeding it smooth. You can do it without cutting a single clay paver. And you can make it look brand-new 10, 20, or even 100 years from now.
Many patios and sidewalks are made of poured concrete. If you’d rather have something that doesn’t look so worn and dirty, and doesn’t need to be power-washed each spring, consider laying new clay brick pavers directly over the old surface.
“There are a number of advantages to doing it this way,” says Laura Schwind, a registered landscape architect for Pine Hall Brick Company, the largest supplier of clay pavers in the United States. “The biggest is that the base is already there, and you instantly improve the appearance of your property without having to dig up your old concrete and haul it away.”
With concrete that’s smooth and even, start by choosing the right type of clay paver. Keep in mind that there are “thinner” pavers (1-3/8 in.) for these applications. If there are exterior doors that must swing out over the new higher surface, that must also be taken into account.
Next up, choose your pattern. Some, like herringbone, require more cuts than other patterns. A basket-weave pattern requires no cuts at all, if you measure carefully.
To start, lay a “soldier course,” which means laying a line of bricks perpendicular to the edge of the concrete to form the outside frame of your project. The secret is to use four dots of masonry adhesive on each brick, each about the size of a penny, which allows rainwater to pass underneath.
On the inside of the soldier course, cut pieces of roofing felt to put a single layer inside the frame covering the concrete, and don’t overlap the felt edges. Then lay a second layer of felt perpendicular over the top of the first layer.
(Roofing felt? Yes. Roofing felt keeps the clay pavers from clacking against the surface of the concrete as you walk on the paver surface.)
Starting at one corner, lay the brick in place inside the “frame” that has been left by the soldier course. You’ll want to leave a 1/8-in. gap between the pavers for sand. Finish by sweeping concrete sand between the joints until they are full.
Here’s a peek at a project that used basketweave:
Taking care of it
The advantage to clay pavers is that they are the same color all the way through. While they are virtually maintenance-free, anything—clay pavers included—that’s left outdoors for years will need to be cleaned up once in a while.
And cleaning it up so it looks like it did the day it was installed is an excellent weekend project, especially if delegated to teenage children who want to use the car keys.