How to Build a Patio

Learn how to build a patio from wood decking, to extend your home and give you a place to entertain company and relax with family during the warm-weather and temperate months. Building a patio takes time and preparation, but there’s no one part of the project that a basic handyman can’t accomplish.

Planning to Build a Patio

Check with your local city zoning officials and housing authority to make sure you can build a patio on your property. Examine the back yard of your home and property, so you can map out where your wood patio is going to go. Make paper sketch of your patio deck, including the dimensions of your structure and where the stars go.

Building the Patio Foundation

Plan the foundation of your wooden patio by using 4×4 posts set on galvanized post anchors. Embed the anchors into concrete footings about 10 inches in diameter. To know exactly how deep to go, check the frost depth for your region and place the posts deeper than the frost depth, so the deck doesn’t shift in the cold weather months.

File the Paperwork

Once you have this plan ready, file your foundation plan, framing plan and building code permit with the proper authorities. Remember that you may need a zoning permit, as well.

Build the Patio Foundation

Using strings and batter boards, lay out a rectangular grid that should serve as the on-site blueprint for your construction. Remember to square off all the corners. If you aren’t familiar with how to do this, check out our page on “How to Build a Deck” under the paragraph “Lay Out the Vertical Surface”, for an easy description of how this is done.

Attach a Ledger Board

A ledger board is a framing attachment adjacent to your home that you can build off of. Begin construction by attaching a ledger board, so you’ll be able to build adjacent to the house. Make certain this is square with your plan. Mark joist locations every 16″ along this board.

Grade the Ground

How to Build a Patio

How to Build a Patio

Grade the ground underneath your patio, so water drains away from the house and out from under your patio. After the ground is graded, attach a black plastic sheeting on the ground across the scope of your patio, then keep it in place with stones or gravel. Gravel works best, since this shouldn’t block water from draining, but keep the sheeting in place.

Build the Patio Footings

Using a post hole digger, dig your patio footings to a depth below the frost line. Once this is done to specifications, pour concrete mix into the holes and set post anchors into the footing, making certain to do so before the concrete sets. The post anchors need to be galvanized, to maintain your post anchors.

Before these harden, make certain your anchors are in line and then plumb them, to make sure they are the proper depth.

Add the Joist Hanger and Joists

Add the joist hanger, a u-shaped piece of galvanized metal used to support the joists, to the ledger. Create the rectangle of the patio design by nailing a 2×8 to the outside of the 4×4 posts. Mark off where the joists should go along this board, every 16 inches.

Next, nail the joists between your ledger and joist hanger every 16 inches apart, so you have a series of boards running across the distance of your patio. You’ll lay your floor boards of your patio across these joists later.

Block off the joists anywhere you sense the patio might be unstable, then add the joists to your structure, running from the ledger to the outer edge of the patio.

Add Railing Verticals

Remember to add railing verticals before you add the decking. Install decking perpendicular to the joists, so the joists form a solid foundation. Using galvanized nails, nail the decking onto the joists. Leave about 1/8th of an inch between deck planks, for expansion due to heat.

If the deck elevation is uneven, use shims to adjust the elevation. You want the deck flush, so water drains properly. Don’t worry about your patio board overhanging, because you can saw them off later.

Install Trim Boards

Install trim boards around the edges of your patio, to give it a professional look. The upper piece of trim needs to be trimmed out, to account for the depth of the joist.

Also add treads and runners for the deck stairs. This is when you should add your stairs to the patio.

Stain to Maintain Your Patio

Once you’re finished building your patio, you want to add a stain or clear finish to the wood, to protect it from the elements. This also adds a finished appearance to the structure.

Building a Patio

As you see, learning how to build a patio is a matter of figuring out a lot of little skills, but there’s no one skill that’s unattainable for the moderately skillful person. What you need is planning, proper building materials and patience. Building a patio is something you don’t rush.

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