Planning and Preparing for your Concrete Patio

A concrete patio isn’t something that can be easily removed or replaced so if you’re thinking about pouring a patio in your yard, taking some time to plan and prepare properly is time well spent. Here’s some ideas about things you’ll want to consider before you start pouring that concrete.

Upfront Planning

  • Check you local and state building codes to find out whether you need permits to build your patio and ensure you have the proper planning, zoning and home owners association permission before you go any farther.
  • Consider buying some 3D construction planning software that will allow you to actually see how your patio could look in various shapes and configurations before you invest any money or effort in actually building it.
  • Think about how you are going to be using your patio. For example if it is going to have another structure built on top of it (like a brick barbecue), you will to provide extras support where the barbecue will be located. Are you going to want to run electrical, sound or possibly CATV cable out to your patio? Consider installing some 3” PVC pipe in the base so you can easily add those cables (even if you don’t think you want them now). It’s a lot easier to provision for a potential need now, rather than having to figure out how to get those cables out there in a few years.

The base is very important.

  • Take the time necessary to plan where to locate your patio. Ideally you want it in an area that’s relatively level (but hopefully slopes slightly away from the house) and is well drained. Also consider prevailing wind conditions, what direction the sun cones from and if there is shade available.
  • Once you’ve chosen your spot, it’s time to prepare the base. Since the base can’t be seen, many folks are tempted to skimp on the preparation of the base and that is just foolish, since it will ultimately lead to a patio that will potentially crack or shift.
  • You need to remove all the grass, plant and tree roots and a layer of topsoil and if the ground has been disturbed during your home’s construction, it’s a good idea to compact the area before moving on.
  • Finally, add a layer of crushed rock or gravel to provide the base for your patio. A layer 4” thick is commonly used.
  • You need to ensure your base material is level and compacted before you move on. A base that varies in thickness will be prone to shifting and cracking.

How deep do you go?

The actual depth of your base excavation will depend on how you want you want the patio surface to end up relative to the surrounding ground. For example, if you want it to be level with the ground you should go down 8”. At that depth you can add 4 inches of gravel plus a 4” concrete pad and end up with the top of your patio at ground height. However, if your want your patio to rise up slightly above ground level you can save some digging and only go down 7”. In this case, with a 4” base and a 4” pad your patio surface will sit 1” above ground level.

Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer over 500 articles published on the web as well as in print magazines and newspapers in both the United States and Canada. He writes on a wide range of topics and is a regular contributor to He can be contacted by email at -  [email protected]