Patio Part 1: The Best Laid Plans

Catie and I have been saving our pennies and we're finally pulling the trigger… we're building a patio!

We're looking for a place to have a fire, grill, eat, drink, and be merry. You know. Patio stuff.

We already have a little 10×10' deck with stairs down to our backyard, so the idea is to put the patio at the foot of those stairs, running along the back of our house.

I'm a nerd so I immediately fire up the drafting app on my computer and start sketching. We knew we didn't want a boring old rectangular shape so I came up with this lima-bean-looking thing below.

Patio version 1.0

You can (hopefully) make out the dotted outline of the deck on the left, the solid line of the back of our house near the bottom, and the curvy shape of the soon-to-be patio. The green and yellow things in the middle are grills and tables and stuff.

Plant Your Flag(s)

This shape gives us enough room for a dining table, a small fire pit, our grill, and a future smoker. Next step: sticking little flags in the ground.

Little flags in the ground

The whole shape of the patio is really just four circular curves, so after carefully placing red flags for the center points of those curves, I:

  • tied strings to the red flags,
  • measured out from the flag,
  • marked the radius we need on the string,
  • slowly crawled around the yard like a fool, pulling the string and sticking orange flags in the ground every foot or so.


Well… not so fast. After Catie and I walked around the "patio" for a while and dragged some furniture down off the deck, we decided it's not big enough. Back to the drawing board!

And that's why you never skip the sticking-little-flags-in-the-ground step.

A bigger lima bean

Same basic shape this time except we bumped up the radius on a few of the curves by a couple of feet. This bumped up the area (and how much concrete we need) up from 325 to 420 ft². Next step: more little flags!

More little flags

Make sure to have your wife, nursing baby, and dog supervise this step. Also, consider offering free sod to your neighbors right around this point. It keeps you from backing out. 😬

We really liked the look of this new shape. Finally, no more flags!

Adventures in Irrigation

Now with our shape and size decided, there were two pesky little sprinkler heads smack in the middle of it all. We needed to pull those suckers out.

Pro Tip: If the heads that need to be removed are at the end of the line, don't just cap them. Cut them off from the source at the next upstream sprinkler head. Otherwise, water can stay in that "dead end" and freeze. Freezing means expanding means bursting means 😖.

Luckily, we have a rough map of our sprinkler system, which is a total lifesaver.

X Marks the WAT?

With map in hand, it was easy to find the next sprinkler head. It should have an inlet and an outlet. The plan was to dig down, cut the pipe that goes out to the removed heads, and plug the pipe to make the dead end really, really short.

Easy enough.

But after digging it out, only a single 1" pipe was connected, not two. So I followed that pipe until it branched. One of the branches made a bee line for the removed heads. Bingo!

Sprinkler line branch, zoomed in Sprinkler line branch, zoomed out

So I get to work cutting the branch that shoots over to the dead heads. I'll plug it with one of these beauties and some stainless steel hose clamps.

The plug The plug, installed


Well… not quite. In my haste, I cut in the wrong place. It turns out that the inlet pipe was somewhere underground between where I cut and the dead heads. So that means when the water turns on, the good sprinklers get nothing and the dead ones get all the water. Trust me.

Next step: backtrack. I have to keep digging to find the inlet, cut on the other side of it, and patch the cut I just made.

It's somewhere in there. Dig, dig, dig… There it is!

Found it!

All patched up

Cut and plugged. Now to patch my last mistake.

The parts The finished product

Pro Tip: Make sure to slide the hose clamps on before you connect the pipes together. The barbs on those couplers mean business.

Okay, we're back on track! I turned the water on to make sure everything was working and it was! Well… kinda. There was a pinhole leak in the pipe near my patch.

This is a job for self-fusing silicone tape. After my third trip to Home Depot, I'm ready to patch it up.

Pretty colors

Pro Tip: There's no such thing as one trip to Home Depot.


I should mention that in the middle of this comedy of irrigation errors, our concrete crew was using a excavator to prep the patio area. Well… it got stuck.

Whoops! Double whoops!

Don't worry. It got unstuck after a half hour or so. And we didn't want those trees anyway. 😉

Icing on the Cake

To cap off the day, we drove some stakes in the ground around the border of the patio and one landed smack in the middle of another sprinkler line. Water gushing everywhere.

The good news was that we already had half of the stuff we needed for the repair from all of the other repairs.

End of Day One

All of this was just day one of the patio project. Here's the view at the end of the day:

  • sprinkler heads (finally) removed
  • sod removed
  • top soil moved (6 inches deep)
  • sand spread (9 yards)

End of day one

We'll post more as more happens. The concrete should be finished by the end of the week. We have enough saved up to pour the concrete and then we'll slow down and add more cool stuff as we can. Stay tuned!

Steve Richert

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