Build Your Own Patio: A 12 Step Guide


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Step 1: Tell Your Friends

Recently my wife and I decided to expand our measly 10×10 back patio to a 40×10 Patio Extravaganza! While the wife was going through the process of getting bids from different contractors I had a few friends over to drink beer and talk about said patio.

“They are quoting like 3000 or 5000 dollars!” I said vehemently to said friends.

“Why don’t we hire the last guy, who will do it for 1500 dollars?” my wife said accusatorily. (not a word? should be.)

“Hell man, I could salsa dance half way around the world with 1500 dollars!” said Bebop, swaying his hips mesmerizingly. By the way my friends are named Bebop and Rocksteady in this recounting.

“Why don’t we just do it? It will be a piece of cake man.” said Rocksteady confidently, as he finished off another beer.

 

 Step 2: Convince Your Wife That You Can Do It

So after a few days of deliberation and a couple of youtube videos, I started to think, yeah this doesn’t seem so bad. It’s like baking a cake! Is what I was thinking at the time. As the days went by and the wife got closer and closer to calling back the lowest bidder I finally broke.

“Stop!” I yelled by myself in an empty room for no particular reason.

I explained in great detail to the wife exactly how it would be so much better if Bebop, Rocksteady and myself were to complete this project instead. I did some quick math and decided that I could basically do this thing for under 1000 dollars and then we would have 500 dollars for shopping! (not really.)

The wife was not buying it, but after some continued persistence I guaranteed her that there was no possible way this could end poorly.

Here is a picture of us being happy together. (It’s from a long time ago)

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Let’s really hold on to the moment in the picture and cherish it. We are going to need it.

 

Step 3: Wake Up Early and Rent a Bobcat

“I’ll be there at 5:30 tomorrow morning.” said Rocksteady.

I had just finished telling him that it was go time.

“It’s go time.” I had said earlier.

“Oh dude. I can’t make it, are we really doing this?” said Bebop as I had called him after calling Rocksteady.

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One thing to note, anytime that you have to get large things into your backyard, the only way to do it is to take down part of your fence, which sucks.

Rocksteady proved to be an excellent Bobcat driver as he had previous experience and soon the backyard was looking like a dirty, muddy mess!

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Also, look at how cute! My dogs liked to ride in the Bobcat with their new best friend, Rocksteady!

 

Step 4: Put Some Dirt Back Holmes

Man, Rocksteady and I sure did a good job of leveling out the backyard. We did such a good job that when we went to measure how deep the patio was going to be we realized that we had leveled it off at about a foot deep! I thought this sounded pretty good but Rocksteady didn’t think so. Apparently a foot is a lot of concrete, like a LOT of concrete.

“We really want the patio to be about 4 to 6 inches deep at most.” said Rocksteady.

Pouring a foot of concrete for around 300 square feet would cost 2 or 3 thousand dollars just for concrete, I later found out. Oh also, we already returned the Bobcat, because it’s the next day now.

To make this part of the story shorter I spent the next weekend buying dirt and rocks and filling the patio back in.

 

Step 5: Schedule the Cement Truck Before You are Ready

Finally, it was seriously time to pour some concrete. So I called the place and scheduled a truck to come out on a Tuesday.

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But wait! We are not ready for the truck yet!

 

Step 6: Keep Putting Dirt Back Until 2 AM!

The night before the truck was to arrive I realized that I still had not quite filled in the patio up to 6 inches, and with only 8 1/2 yards of concrete coming some quick math said that I was in trouble. Luckily Bebop was staying the night because I didn’t trust him to actually arrive at 6 the next morning.

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Would you trust this man?

So Bebop and I purchased more rocks and dirt and filled in the rest of the patio until about 2 in the morning.

 

Step 7: Set the Forms!

6 AM came very quickly the next day, actually 4 hours after we finished the dirt to be exact, and with it came Rocksteady. The concrete truck was showing up at 1 pm so we had all morning to do things. And man did we have things to do.

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Crap, that’s not good enough. I feel like some concrete might escape…

 

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Oh also, holy crap! Put some rebar or something and yeah, probably drill and epoxy it into the existing foundation! Science!

 

Step 8: Compact That Shit!

Wait crap, did we do the rebar? No don’t do that yet. First, COMPACT THAT SHIT!

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Step 9: Freak Out! (On The Inside)

There comes a point in time when you are on the cusp of doing something great where you think that you may have made a grave mistake. I don’t know the first thing about pouring concrete, this could turn into a very expensive, very heavy pile of sharp pointy rocks.

Dispell these thoughts! These thoughts are the difference between being awesome and having a healthy view of your own limitations.

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 Too late! The truck is here!

 

Step 10: Admire How Stalwart Your Friends Are

One of the most terrible feelings in the world is watching someone else’s face as they slowly realize that they need to extricate from a looming, dire mishap in the nicest, quickest way possible. Such was the face of the cement truck driver as his confident swagger slowly turned into a hesitant retreat as he asked questions like, “Is this your first time pouring concrete?” and “Are you sure you are ready for this?”

“We’ll be fine.” I lied to him and myself.

“Let’s go!” said Rocksteady. I’m still not sure how he was able to be so confident by this point.

“Let me get my camera!” yelled Bebop as he trotted past a bewildered cement truck driver.

8Pro Tip: Maybe spend some time researching and acquiring the tools that professionals use before you result to, hey let’s use this 2×4 for everything!

This wasn’t so bad though, my shoes aren’t even getting dirty.

2After a while though, this gets exhausting. In retrospect, I should have realized that having 8 and a half tons of concrete delivered to my house means that I will be pushing and moving a literal elephant amount of concrete using primarily sticks and measly, pasty inside-y arms.

Also, we should totally measure concrete in elephants.

 

Step 11: Listen To Your Wife Tell You “I Told You So”

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“Damn”, I was thinking at the time. “That looks pro as shit”. (Grammar thought: “Pro as shit” doesn’t make sense at all)

But if you look closely, you can already tell that water is starting to collect unevenly across the surface of the concrete and it is starting to slant down at the corner. You see, pouring concrete is more of an art form than it has any right to be, an unsteady hand (or an exhausted one) will create dips and uneven surfaces all over the place.

Also, you can’t tell from this picture but there is a pile of unfinished concrete drying on the other side of the existing patio in a lump and I’m about to lay down on the ground because the gravity of the situation is physically pulling me down.

Then, the dreaded question.

“Is it going to dry like that?” my wife, who had recused herself to the inside of the house, had sensed a lull in the chaos and emerged outside to rain down judgement and righteous wrath.

“It’s going to bake… like a cake.” I whispered from the safety of the unsettled dust, staring intently at the inside of my hat.

“What about this other side? It’s not done at all and where did the truck go?”

“It left. It emptied the rest of the concrete on the other side and it left.” I sighed.

For what it’s worth the driver lasted a lot longer than I expected him to.

“Is that enough concrete to finish the other side?”

She was so full of questions and thoughts and life.

“No. No it’s not.”

Step 12: Black Out

This one’s going into overtime. It was about 7 pm, the sun was starting to become beautiful and I was nursing a heat headache with beer.

The funny thing about concrete is, it is going to dry whether you want it to or not. You can run a water hose on it and try and move it around and it just marches forward, becoming a permanent fixture of your life.

Did I mention how stalwart my friends are? They are hurting, I can tell by the empty cans littered on the ground. Every second is key now.

I sent the wife to Home Depot to purchase 30 bags of concrete, we are going to be mixing in the last bit of concrete. We had already thrown every rock and piece of trash into the mix, to fill in some space.

Every inch of my body hurts and the playful banter and conversations had died away into silence. Even Bebop could not muster the energy to take pictures of this solemn scene. Hence no blog pictures 🙁

Finally, every last bag of concrete has been thrown into the mass and we smooth it out as it races to dry. It is 9:00 pm. My shoes, pants and hair have also solidified. I’m like the freaking Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, except I’m concrete and have no heart.

Maybe it’s the beer, maybe it’s the heat but I’m done and the weight on my shoulders has been baked into the earth.

Epilogue

It’s been almost a year since I started this project and it’s been 8 months since I started this blog post. I kept coming back to finish it but I wanted to come full circle so here it is. The silver lining.

I hired a contractor to build the roof. While that went much better, that is a story to share some other time. Here’s the finished product.

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And here is the patio in use at Owen’s first birthday party.

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Total cost: $5500.00

Being Awesome: Priceless

 

Tim Schnell

Writer of software/english, tech nerd, and genetically predisposed to fight with words instead of actions.

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