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How To Build A Patio

How would you like to put down your own slate patio without lugging around all that slate? Outdoors in the summertime, with an adult beverage in hand, and no aches and pains! CBS This Morning's Bob Vila has the way to do it, with an easy to install Instant Patio System.

The Instant Patio System is a new do-it-yourself product that consists of ¼-inch thick slate tiles permanently adhered to 2-inch thick polystyrene-foam panels. The tiles are laid onto a sand bed and the spaces between them are filled with sealant. The panels are 2x2 feet and 2x3 feet, so you can cover lots of ground in little time.

So What's The Difference?
Traditionally, to install a slate patio you would have to hire a contractor to pour a concrete slab, then mix up some more concrete, set each individual stone, and then grout between all the individual slabs. That's a lot of hard work. With this system you should be able to finish a 6X14 entry in a weekend.

How Much Does It Cost?
You can buy the slate panels in prepackaged patio kits from a company called Vermont Natural Stoneworks. The kits come in a variety of sizes and costs, from 8X10 for $600 to 14X15 for $1,575. Or, you can order individual panels to build any size patio or walkway. Whichever way you do it, the cost averages out to about $7.50 per square foot. That is about half to one-quarter of what you might pay for a traditional installation.

Getting Started
Click on the video at right to watch Bob Vila install the patio.

Bob Vila explains to Jane Robelot.
The first step is to do a little ground prep.
First, build a perimeter border to establish the size and shape of the patio. We used 2x4's set on edge and screwed together, but 4x4's, plastic edging or brick pavers will work too.

If you want the patio to sit flush with your lawn instead of building a border, you can dig out the patio area about 5 inches deep and toss in 3 inches of sand.

This borderless way requires more excavation, but it creates a smoother transition because the patio is flush with the grass. It's also easier to mow around a flush patio.

As you're laying out the border, remember that you can avoid cutting any slate panels if you make the length and width of the patio roughly divisible by either two or three. The panels are 2x2 feet and 2x3 feet.

The next thing to do, once you've made your border, is to dig out about one inch of soil from inside the frame. Then spread about 3 inches of sand inside the frame. Then you ant to pack down the sand with a tamper to give it a solid base.

Next, create a level surface for the slate.

You scrape the sand level by using a 2x6 with the ends notched out so that it will fit in the frame. You could also use a 2x6 with a 2x4 screwed to it that extends a few inches outside the frame.

Drag the board across the area to remove any excess sand and create the uniform, 2-inch-deep recess for the patio panels. If you find any low spots while scraping, fill them in with sand and do it again.

Now just start putting the panels in place.

Use the rubber spacers provided to maintain an even 3/8-inch space between panels. If a panel must be trimmed, you can cut it to size using a circular saw fitted with a silicon-carbide abrasive blade.

But you can avoid cutting the panels if you plan your patio with a square footage divisible by two or three to take advantage of the sizes that the panels come in.

Compared to slabs of slate, the panels are real lightweights. They weigh under 30 pounds each, which is one of the main benefits.

Put on the finishing touches.

After setting all the panels, pull out the spacers. Then, use a putty knife to push ½-inch diameter foam backer rod between the panels. The foam should be ¼ inch down from the surface of the slate.

Finally, all you have to do is take a caulk gun to fill the joints with the sealant. The sealant spreads out to an even level by itself so there's no need to smooth it out.

That's pretty much it! Just let the caulk dry overnight, and you have a brand new slate patio.

For more information on the Instant Patio & Walkway and other products, visit

Vermont Natural Stoneworks, Inc.
Box 275 Depot St.
Fair Haven, VT 05743
Toll Free: 1-888-STONE90 (786-6390)
Fax: 802-265-8110

And, for more from Bob Vila, visit his Web site,

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