Step 3: Grade the Slope for Excavation

grade the slope for excavation
Photo: Wendell T. Webber
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The patio must slope away from the house or other structure to direct runoff away from the foundation. Grade the slope about 1/8 inch per foot
keep track by running a mason's line at the proper slope and measuring down from it as you dig. You have to dig deep enough to remove the dark topsoil layer—how deep depends on the soil conditions in your area. But you must go down at least 6 inches to accommodate the base.

To create a graded line, set stakes a few feet deep at what will be the high and low corners of one side. Moving a level along it as a guide, run a level mason's line between the two stakes about ½ foot above the ground. Multiply the length of the side in feet by 1/8 inch. Move the line on the low-side stake down by that amount. For example, if the side is 5 feet long, lower the string 5/8 inch.

Set two stakes on the opposite side of the patio. Using a level, transfer the height of the line from the top and bottom across, then connect the sloped line on the other side at the same height as the lengthwise lines.
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    Tools List

    • angle grinder
      grinder
    • brick hammer
      brick hammer
    • mason's chisel and maul
      mason's chisel and maul
    • square spade
      spade
    • pointed shovel
      shovel
    • bubble level
      line level
    • tamper
      hand tamper or compactor (rents for about $85 a day)
    • metal garden rake
      garden rake
    • mallet
      rubber mallet
    • four-foot level
      4-foot level
    • push broom
      push broom
    • hand trowel
      garden spade

    Shopping List

    1. 1½-inch Broken Bluestone Sold in stone yards by the ton; 1½ tons cover about 100 square feet with wide joints. Choose an assortment of small and large stones of varying shapes. If possible, lay the stones out at the yard so that you know you have what you need.

    2. Stakes and Mason's line to lay out the pitch of the patio and keep the stones level.3. Paver Base A mixture of ¾-inch gravel and stone dust. One yard covers 108 square feet 3 inches deep.

    4. Leveling Sand One yard covers 324 square feet 1 inch deep.

    5. Moss Sold by the square foot. Buy enough to cover one-fifth of the area of the patio.