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Replacing a paver patio and building new stairs

September 12, 2015

Back in 2006 we installed a paver patio between our house and garage. We liked the look but after nine years the pavers were settling unevenly and weeds were growing between the pavers. We had also installed the patios before the landscaping was in place, so many of the grades weren't sloped well for drainage. So we decided to replace the pavers with a concrete patio and reuse the pavers to build a walk behind the garage.

Removing the Pavers

One of the reasons the pavers settled so badly was because I used regular sand in the joints. This let weeds grows between the pavers, and didn't lock the pavers together very well. My sand base was also thicker than it should have been, so rain and water dripping from the garage gutters caused them to settle. Thankfully, it was easy to pull them up by slipping a flat prybar under the paver and lifting. I used a flat blade shovel to scrape up as much of the bedding sand as I could to reuse later.

Dismantling the Stairs

I built our back stairs in 2004 when we finished building our house. I didn't put a lot of thought into them, we just wanted to get something in so we could move in. They still looked good from the outside, but as I started dismantling the stairs I discovered a lot of rot on the ends of the cedar boards and cedar posts. So it was good timing to be replacing the stairs.

Busting Out the Old Sidewalk

When we built our house in 2004, we poured a small sidewalk between the house and garage. I was worried about it settling on the backfill around the house, so it was nearly 6" thick and reinforced with rebar. It never settled or cracked over the years, but it took a lot of work to bust it up and haul away the pieces.

Pouring the new patio

Because the patio is boxed in between the house and garage, I decided to pour the slabs in five sections. We poured the odd sections first, then came back to pour the even sections once those were finished. I used 2x10 boards to build simple bridges over the slabs so I could reach both sides of each section for finishing. I used this same method on the opposite side of the garage with great results. Unfortunately, my slabs didn't match up as evenly this time. It is a very minor inconsistency, but being a bit of a perfectionist it is annoying to me. :)

Building the new paver patio

The yard behind the garage never gets sun, so grass never grew there anyway. I decided to dig it out and reuse the old pavers to extend the walkway behind the garage. The walkway needed to slope in two directions, so I spent some time running string lines and setting up forms to ensure the proper slopes. I salvaged enough bedding sand from the old patio to build the new walkway. I only needed to pick up a few bags of sand to finish the new walk. I used polymeric sand to lock the new walkway pavers in place. We still have extra pavers leftover from the old patio, so we'll probably reuse those in a future project in the back yard.

Building the new stairs

The new concrete patio is about four inches higher than the old walkway, so I was able to eliminate a step from the stairs and make the top platform a bit wider. This also gave us a bit more room between the stairs and the garage. After seeing the weaknesses in my old stair design, I designed the new stairs to have better drainage. Hopefully they won't rot as quickly as the old ones did.


It took more than a month to tear out the old patio and rebuild everything, but we are very happy with the results. The new patio drains better, the stairs look nice, and it's great to have the walkway behind the garage. No more walking in mud or mowing in the dust bowl.