Whether you’re planning to pour concrete or lay pavers, the first step to creating a professional-quality patio is to level the foundation. Although it will take a little more work, leveling the ground before you build will ensure that your patio remains stable and even for years to come. Just be sure to use the proper tools and be patient with the process.
To level a yard for a patio, first mark a perimeter and then excavate the site. Using a shovel or a compactor, stamp the ground down until it’s level and firm. Then, rake a layer of gravel over the foundation to help with drainage and prevent erosion. Repeat the process using a layer of sand and then begin laying the pavers or pouring the concrete.
Leveling your yard may sound labor intensive but, with the right tools, you should be able to complete the project within an afternoon. To help you through the process, we’ve prepared a quick guide that will explain every step of the way. For further advice, don’t be afraid to contact a professional.
Why a Level Foundation Matters?
You may be tempted to skip this crucial part of the process—especially if you’re using pavers—but a level foundation is important for two reasons: stability and drainage. If your patio is not level, it will eventually settle and crack. This can ruin the appearance of your patio and, in some cases, make it unsafe to walk on.
In addition to stability, a level foundation is also necessary for proper drainage. If water is allowed to pool on your patio, it can cause the pavers or concrete to shift and settle. This can lead to cracking and, eventually, to the formation of potholes. To avoid these problems, it’s essential that you take the time to level the ground before you begin your project.
Start by Marking the Perimeter
Before you start digging up the ground, you’ll need to mark the perimeter of your patio. This will help you keep track of where you need to excavate and will also make it easier to lay the pavers or concrete evenly. To mark the perimeter, simply drive stakes into the ground at the corners of the patio and then tie string between them.
If you’re not sure how big you want your patio to be, we recommend starting with a small space and then expanding it later if you need to. It’s much easier to add on to a small patio than it is to reduce the size of a large one.
Excavate the Site
Once you’ve marked the perimeter, it’s time to start excavating the site. If you have a small patio, you can probably do this with a shovel. However, for larger patios, you may need to rent a Bobcat or similar piece of equipment.
Start by excavating the area to a depth of 8 inches. Then, use a compactor to stamp the ground down until it’s level and firm. Be sure to compact the ground in multiple directions to ensure that it’s evenly level.
Rake a Layer of Gravel Over the Foundation
Once the ground is excavated and compacted, you’ll need to add a layer of gravel. This will allow water to drain from the foundation whenever it rains and prevent the pavers or concrete from shifting over time. We recommend using a medium-sized, 3/4-inch gravel for optimal drainage.
Start by spreading a layer of gravel over the entire site. Then, use a rake to level it out. The gravel should be about 2 inches deep. If you’re using pavers, you may want to add a layer of sand on top of the gravel. This will help to keep the pavers in place and will also make it easier to level them.
Add an Additional Layer of Sand
If you’re using pavers, you’ll need to add a layer of sand on top of the gravel. This will help to keep the pavers in place and will also make it easier to level them. Start by spreading a layer of sand over the entire site. Then, use a rake to level it out. The sand should be about 1 inch deep.
Begin Laying the Pavers or Pouring the Concrete
Once the foundation is prepared, you can begin laying the pavers if you’re using them. Start by laying the pavers along the perimeter of the patio. Then, work your way inward, using a level to make sure that the pavers are even.
If you’re using concrete, you’ll need to wait for the gravel and sand to settle before you pour. Once the foundation is level, you can begin pouring the concrete. Start by pouring a small amount along the perimeter of the patio. Then, use a trowel to spread it evenly. Be sure to smooth out any bumps or air pockets.
Allow the Concrete to Cure
Once you’ve finished pouring the concrete, you’ll need to allow it to cure. This process can take up to 28 days, so be patient. During this time, it’s important to keep the concrete moist by spraying it with water or covering it with a wet tarp. This will help to prevent cracking.
If you’re in a hurry or worried about the weather, you can use a quick-curing concrete. This type of concrete is designed to cure in as little as 24 hours, although we still recommend waiting at least 48 hours before walking on it. To whether it’s completely cured, simply press your finger into the surface. If it leaves a mark, it’s not ready.
Final Thoughts on Leveling Your Yard
As you can see, leveling your yard is a pretty simple process. Just be sure to use the proper tools and be patient with the process. With a little bit of elbow grease, you should be able to create a level foundation for your patio in no time. If you need additional support, you can also contact a landscaper for their advice.