A patio's expense depends on its size and the type of pavers used. A larger patio costs more than a smaller patio because more materials are used. Likewise, a patio built from a more ornate paver costs extra. An inexpensive patio will be only large enough to perform its main purpose and will be paved with simple, natural-stone pavers. Determine the patio's size and select a patio paver to determine how much the patio will cost. If the patio costs too much, build it slightly smaller now and add on to it next season, when you have more money.
Mark out the patio's size and shape with either spray paint or rope. Dig an 8 inch deep trench around the patio's edge. Use a flat-edged shovel to peel up the sod inside the trench.
Dig the entire patio area down 8 inches. Lay a level on the ground periodically to ensure that the depth remains the same. Either purchase a hand tamper or rent a plate compactor to compact the ground on which the patio pavers will rest. Set a level on the ground in various locations. Add dirt to any low areas and compact it.
Pour crushed gravel into the dug out area. Use a metal rake to spread the gravel to form a 2 to 3 inch layer. Either hit the gravel with a hand tamper or run a plate compactor over it, to compact it. Pour more crushed gravel over the first layer. Spread this gravel with a metal rake to form a second 2 to 3 inch layer, which makes the entire gravel layer 4 to 6 inches deep. Compact the second layer. Lay the level in various locations and put more gravel in any low areas.
Place two pieces of 1-inch conduit or PVC pipe across the patio, spaced about 3 to 4 feet apart. Pour sand between the two pipes and use a metal rake to spread the sand. Place a 6 foot long 2-by-4 inch board on the pipes. Drag the board forward to smooth the sand's surface.
Pick up one of the pipes -- it will leave behind a small trench. Fill the trench with sand and smooth it with the back of a shovel. Place the pipe 3 to 4 feet away from the other pipe, but on the opposite side from where it was. Fill the gap with sand and spread the sand with a metal rake. Drag the 2-by-4 inch board across the sand's surface to smooth it. Pick up the other pipe and fill in the trench. Place this pipe 3 to 4 feet from the other pipe. Continue until the entire patio surface is covered with a smooth sand layer.
Attach a sprayer to a garden hose and set it to a light sprinkle setting. Dampen the sand surface to settle it. Snap a straight chalk line in the sand, across the accessible patio sides. Do not walk across the sand to snap your chalk lines.
Begin to lay the patio pavers on the sand. The way you lay your pavers depends on the paver style as well as personal preference. Most of the cheaper pavers are simple rectangles or squares. However, you can alter the way you lay them to create a design. For example, if you lay rectangular pavers, lay one paver the long way, then one the short way, then another one the long way and on and on to form a pattern.
Lay the pavers gently on the sand, do not push or slide them into place. Position the paver tight against the surrounding pavers then lower it into place. Set a level on the pavers once you have laid a few. Add sand underneath any pavers that slope down. Follow the chalk line to ensure the patio has straight edges.
Cut pavers in half, if necessary, so the patio's edges are straight. Measure the paver's length and divide by two. Draw a chalk line that intersects the paver down the center. Place a chisel on the chalk line and gently tap the handle with a hammer. Flip the paver over and repeat on the other side. Turn the paver back over and put the chisel in the scored groove. Give the handle a firm tap to split the paver down the center.
Drive a plate compactor over the patio to press the pavers into the sand base. Pour coarse sand over the entire patio. Use a broom to sweep the sand across the pavers and into the grass. Sand should remain in any gaps between pavers.
Water the patio with the garden hose and sprayer set to the light sprinkle setting. This settles the sand. Wait 12 to 24 hours, then pour more sand on the patio and sweep it into the gaps.