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A little brick patio you can build yourself

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That lawn of yours, which looked so green and lush last spring, became a little dogeared by late summer because of the family's preference for cookouts. The worn-out section where the barbecue grill stood looked particularly bad, and you're glad now that snow has covered up the eyesore.

A restoration job awaits you in the spring, and you wonder if it will be worth the effort. There is another option, of course: You can build a little brick patio out there - paving the way, you might say, to a largely maintenance-free future.

Aren't bricks expensive, you ask? To be sure, they aren't cheap, but a few good bricks can go a long way. And they look good. A 10-by-10 square (100 square feet) over the most heavily trafficked area will frequently be all you need. Here's how to go about it:

* Outline the area. Use stakes and string, then excavate to a depth approximately 1 inch greater than the thickness of the brick to be used. Excavation should extend 2 or 3 inches beyond the finished boundary.

* Install the borders. Frame two adjoining edges with pressure-treated 2-by-4 lumber. Secure firmly by nailing the lumber to treated stakes which are driven below grade. Install lumber for two remaining sides in a temporary position some 2 or 3 inches beyond the string line. They will be placed in their final position when the last brick is in place. Meanwhile, they serve as a leveling guide for the sand base.

* Level the sand base. Fill the area with sand or stone screenings and level with wooden screed board which has been end-notched to paver thickness. Moisten with a fine spray from a garden hose and firm it down with a wooden tamper or lawn roller. Add more sand, re-mist, and re-screed until you have a smooth and firm base.

* Lay the brick. Cover the sand with No. 15 building felt (to discourage weed or grass growth). Starting in the corner, lay one run of bricks along each of the permanent borders. The bricks should fit hand-tight against one another. Work from outside the square to avoid disturbing the sand bed.

* Maintain brick alignment. Using a chalk line, mark off the area in 2- to 3 -foot-square sections. With the perimeter brick as a starting point, brick alignment is maintained by working out toward the chalk lines.

A mason's trowel, screwdriver, or wide-blade putty knife can be used to adjust the brick spacing. With the bricks in place, reposition the temporary edge lumber as a permanent border. Secure to below-grade stakes, as with the first two sides. Backfill against the border as needed.

* Stabilize the brick. Inspect the entire area and then make any final adjustments in brick heights and joint alignments. Sweep the sand into all the joints to lock the brick into position. Additional sand sweeping may be required at 2- to 3-day intervals until the bricks are fully stabilized.

Enjoy the effect. Your patio is ready for immediate use. Best of all, you won't have to worry about wearing out the lawn any more.

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