Renovating and Recycling a Patio

This week, we’re helping a young couple with a patio makeover that’s as much about recycling as it is about renovation.

This little house, built about 60 years ago, is home to Joe and Audra Essig, along with their daughter, Arlow.

Joe and Audra have a nice-sized backyard, but an old retaining wall closes them off from it and the aging patio is a little rough and difficult to enjoy. Then there’s Joe’s micro-fire pit. It was his first home improvement project here, but it’s not large enough for entertaining outdoors.

And the patio has three levels of different materials: concrete, brick and pavers. The result isn’t just unsightly, it’s also a tripping hazard.

So, besides replacing Joe’s miniature fire pit, there’s plenty of work to do on the patio. We’ll remove the existing brick retaining wall and planter. Then we’ll take up the existing pavers and create a proper foundation before re-installing them in a more interesting pattern and giving them some color.

Finally, we’ll add a concrete countertop to simplify entertaining. 

Remove Pavers and Regrade Patio

We expected to find a concrete slab from an old patio beneath the pavers, but since there’s nothing but dirt, we’ll have to create our own foundation.

Once we remove all of the pavers, we lay out the new footprint and check the grade of the existing ground. You wouldn’t believe how many homes we see where the grade slopes back toward the house, which means rainwater will pool around the foundation, which is never a good thing.

Since the grade here is good, our next step is compressing the soil and broken mortar with a plate compactor.

After that, we add the paver base and grade it. We run the plate compactor over the space again and our handyman, Bear, gets Joe and Audra started on chipping the mortar off old pavers. It’s a slow process, so we set them up with an air chisel to speed things up, and then they pressure wash the pavers. 

Reinstall and Stain Pavers

We’re ready to reinstall the now pressure-washed pavers, so first, we spread sand on the patio foundation, and then we determine the layout. We’re going to switch things up from the earlier arrangement.  

We’re placing the recycled pavers in a basketweave pattern and a grid formation, sweeping sand into the joints, filling the joints with pea gravel and staining the pavers.

Once the stain dries, we coat the whole surface with Quikrete Concrete and Masonry Waterproofing Sealer to complete our recycled patio!

Build a Firepit

Removing Joe’s fire pit is bittersweet because this was his first home improvement project, but we will reuse the bricks from his and Audra’s retaining wall, so we’re being efficient, and the fire pit will still have an interesting backstory.   

To lay out the new fire pit, we use a stake and a string as a compass so we can begin digging and get a nice foundation for the blocks that will later become the fire pit.

Watch: ‘How to Build a Fire Pit’

Pour a Concrete Countertop

Remember those old bricks from the retaining wall and planters? Well, we have one more use for them: we’re recycling those into columns for a concrete countertop.

About a week ago our handyman, Bear, formed a concrete countertop for this project. He poured it upside down in our workshop, and now it’s ready to come out of the forms.  

Watch: ‘How to Pour a Concrete Countertop’

After a little sanding to soften the edges, the countertop is ready for its new home. All we have to do is apply Titebond Construction Adhesive to adhere it to the home, and we have the finishing touch for this recycled patio.   

Post-Production Thoughts

Now, Joe and Audra have a recycled fire pit that the whole family can enjoy without sitting on top of each other!

With the retaining wall gone, the patio is larger, more open, and has much more character, thanks to the addition of a pea gravel grid.

The stain and sealer have given new life to the old, recycled pavers. And the simple concrete counter, sitting on the recycled brick columns, will make family meals and entertaining even easier. 

Plus, we did it all with less than $800 in new materials.

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