DRAG A screed across the 2x4 frame to level out the sand and create a 2-in.-deep recess for the patio panels.
If your back muscles ache at the mere thought of building a slate patio, you're in for a pleasant surprise. A new panelized product from Vermont Natural Stoneworks offers a fast, foolproof way to build a beautiful slate patio or walkway - even if you've never done masonry work.

Called the Instant Patio System, it consists of 1/4-in.-thick slate tiles permanently adhered to 2-in.-thick polystyrene-foam panels. The tiles are laid onto a sand bed and the spaces between them are filled with traffic-grade sealant. No concrete to mix, mortar to spread or individual stones to set and grout. And because the panels are 2x2 ft. and 2x3 ft., you cover lots of ground in little time. Sound too good to be true? That's what we thought until we completed a 6x14-ft. entry patio in less than one day. This same project would have taken at least two weekends at the very least if we had poured a slab, waited for it to cure and then set each stone in a mortar bed. We also escaped without a single sore muscle or scraped knee. What's Included
Vermont slate comes in six earth tones: black, green, gray, red, purple and mottle (a greenish-purple shade). All six colors are used in the prefab patio panels, though you can also order specific color combinations. Square and rectangular slate tiles are adhered to the polystyrene with a flexible waterproof adhesive. The 3/8-in. spaces between each tile are filled with high-strength masonry grout. Durability is also part of the package. This system has been lab-tested to -40°F with no sign of failure or popped tiles. What's more, the 2-in.-thick Styrofoam base has an R-value of 10 for solid protection against frost heaving - crucial for areas where freeze/thaw cycles are common. Its thickness also provides a cushioning effect beneath the hard slate. The prepackaged patio kit comes in five popular sizes: 8x10 ft. ($600), 10x12 ft. ($900), 10x15 ft. ($1,125), 12x15 ft. ($1,350) and 14x15 ft. ($1,575). Or, you can order enough panels to build any size patio or walkway (about $7.50 per square foot). Either way, panels are shipped directly to your home along with all the necessary supplies, including rubber spacers, foam backer rod, tubes of sealant and installation instructions.
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