Renovations from PoPville – A Fixer Upper in Park View Episode Five – Back Patio

Ed. Note: Critiquing the renovations is not the point of these posts. It’s simply to show what some folks have done. If you like it, obviously, feel free to let them know but again – well let me be clear – don’t be a jerk. Thanks. Sorry to have to preface with that. I really do love these features. These renovations can be extensive – like a whole house gut or simply a 1/2 bath added, floor refinished or even smaller. It can be a whole series of posts or just one. If you’d like to share one of your projects please email princeofpetworth(at)gmail thanks and thanks for understanding!


We have a big backyard and decided we wanted a patio, which was convenient since we recently joined the RiverSmart Homes program and they do pervious paver patios. However, after getting about five quotes (most were around $2100) we were still going to pay about $900-$1500 out of pocket depending on which company we used. My fiancée priced it out and said she could do it for around $500. We both realized it was a lot of work, but as far as DIY goes this was one of the easier things to do. It was just going to take a lot of labor and time. We went to Home Depot to start gathering materials one weekend, but turns out Harry Homeowner was also building a patio and pretty much had all the paver sand in his cart along with a million bricks! After picking up some of the bricks and sand we realized it was going to be really difficult to get the materials in our car and then from the car to the backyard. We went home and looked online, but of course Home Depot said we could only purchase it in the store. However, Lowe’s would deliver the materials for $85!


Lowe’s messed up the delivery time and wouldn’t pick up the phone. They actually delivered it about five hours late and ended up waiving the $85 fee! Full disclosure: I went to New York City and my fiancée did all the digging, laid the weed barrier, gravel, and sand. She even did the first row of pavers. I got home that Sunday and began laying pavers and realized this was not easy at all! It was so tedious, and quite a work out as the pavers were toward the back of the yard so we would gather four to five pavers and then bring them up to the patio in a wheelbarrow. Then came carrying it from there to the patio. And when the sand wasn’t perfectly level and smooth the paver was wobbly! I gave up after a few pavers, but then on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I laid pavers after work. The most frustrating part was when I couldn’t get a paver level and kept having to pick it up, smooth and move the sand with the 2×4, and place the paver back only to find out it still wasn’t level. I think I picked up and put back one paver twenty times.


We finished it off the next weekend though and then filled the gaps with paver sand. We also bought two chairs for it and made an outdoor coffee table on wheels out of the leftover pallets from Lowe’s! (Side note: If you’re going to make something out of pallets make sure the ones you use are not stamped with “MB” and that it has a legit stamp. Many pallets in general are treated with gross chemicals! You can google and read more on it.) Lastly, we put some solar lights around the two sides of the patio. We also bought and attempted to hang some edison bulb string lights, but that didn’t go so well! I am going to order some new ones online and hopefully try that again. In the end the patio cost us $485, which includes the gravel, sand, weed barrier, and pavers! I also have a much bigger appreciation for people that do landscape work for a living.

46 Comment

  • This looks so good. We are going to be doing the same one of these weekends. Our house came with a little gravel patio but it drives me absolutely nuts (gravel in my shoes every single time!). We keep reading that it’s really easy to DIY a patio with pavers but haven’t actually seen anyone do it themselves. Thanks for sharing the pictures and stories.

  • Solar lights? How cool! Where did you buy them?

  • Very nice!
    (And I am envious of your super-deep backyard — on my block in northern Park View, our backyards are tiny. Mine is deep enough for a parking space and that’s about it.)

  • What was your problem with the Edison lights? If it was a problem of stringing them high enough, you can mount 1/2″ conduit with metal straps to your fencing, drill a hole at the top of each one, and use zip ties to string the lights up high.

  • justinbc

    There are some pretty easy to follow DIY portable firepit instructions out there as well, if you’re interested in that.

    • I heard somewhere that firepits were illegal in D.C. — not sure if that’s accurate, though.

      • justinbc

        They probably are, or at least required to be X amount of distance away from property lines / fences. That’s why it’s best to ensure it’s portable 🙂

  • Feeling pretty lucky to have scored an invite to a bbq on this patio this weekend. It looks great!

  • Great job! I think I’m most impressed you stayed right n budget.

  • Is there a reason you didn’t go to the edge of your house? Seems a little odd to me to just have the patio hanging out there and having to walk over dirt to get to it, but maybe I’m missing something. Also, who’s Harry Homeowner?

    • Yes, we are going to tear the current POS deck off and expand it so you walk right down onto the patio.

    • In the advertising for Hechingers (some time ago), Harry and Harriet Homeowner were the DIYers shopping there regularly.

      • LOL! I didn’t even know that, but it makes total sense because I actually picked it up from my parents. They say it all the time. “Oh, did you see Harry Homeowner is out working on his lawn again?”

      • I loved those ads, and the little DIY instructional booklets featuring Harry and Harriet!

      • When I originally read thing about Harry Homeowner — “We went to Home Depot to start gathering materials one weekend, but turns out Harry Homeowner was also building a patio and pretty much had all the paver sand in his cart along with a million bricks!” — I was a little worried that you had stumbled across someone else’s cart with the necessary materials and just hijacked it. But I thought, “I don’t think ParkViewRes is the kind of person who would hijack someone else’s cart.” 😉

        • LOL, no he was right there next to us doing the same thing is what I was saying. He didn’t leave much for us, but it didn’t matter anyway when we realized we were going to have a tough time transporting all the materials!

          • Ahh, I see. So someone else beat you to most of the supply… but then you realized you couldn’t really take it home directly from the store anyway.

  • Congrats on having the fortitude to take this on yourselves!
    Can you say a little more about the Riversmart Homes program? I’m thinking of paving over my backyard to create a parking pad and am interested in using pervious pavers.

    • Thanks! Sure, I signed up on the website, which was pretty easy. I heard it takes them awhile to get in touch, but they actually reached out to me pretty quickly–within a couple weeks. You set up an appointment for an audit, they take a look at your property, and tell you what you’re eligible for. We’re in the “Bloomingdale Watershed” so we’re eligible for more rebates. Then they send you a personalized report. Shortly after that DC Greenworks (no longer a partner with the program) reached out to us to install the rain barrel. Since we’re not doing the pervious pavers we’re now doing a bayscape garden and waiting for them to reach out to us!

    • We got an audit but never ended up going through with anything. Unless you have a large yard (for DC) your options are very limited. Rain gardens, trees and other types of landscaping that they will help subsidize has to be 10 feet or more away from your home so we basically only qualified for a rain barrel which wasn’t that appealing to us. If you have space for the other options or want to replace a concrete patio or parking spot with pervious pavers they will give you a credit towards those but it’s still very expensive for pervious surfaces even with the credit.

  • It looks great – thanks for sharing the photos (and the process)!

  • Nice job! And just in time to enjoy a long, lazy Memorial Day weekend….

  • Really nice job. I admire your industriousness. How deep did you have to dig?

  • Nice job! Landscaping work can be a back-breaking task.

    I have experience doing a similar patio. Mine was loose bricks and not paver squares, so I built a wood frame to hold the bricks in place. I also spent a lot of time leveling and tapping down the base layer of sand – even let it sit for a few days just to make sure it had settled enough.

    I also did an hourly rental of a van to haul the materials because I knew my car could not take the weight.

  • justinbc

    Good to see you were wise enough to put that weed barrier down, nothing worse for a nice patio than constantly having to pluck little trees of heaven out.

  • Tip for next time, or if you want to expand the patio area: level the sand with a long 2×4 or 2×6 before you start laying pavers. It looks like you were leveling it in places as you went which is a recipe for frustration. Basically get the straightest 12’+ board you can find, have one person on each end and lightly drag it across the surface of the sand. Then starting at one end start laying pavers without stepping into the leveled area. If you want to be really precise about it, or are doing it yourself, lay our two straight boards (or, even better, lengths of pipe) along the edge of the patio and drag the board on top of those. This can also be a good way to slope the patio it that’s needed. Create the slope on the “rails” and everything else falls into place.

  • Did you dispose if dirt? If so where?

    • We put some of the dirt up against our deck because the land there sloped toward the house anyway so it’s helping make it more level. The rest we spread out against the fence on the right and it has flattened out. You can see it in the last photo.

    • If you’re a DC resident, you can take it to the Fort Totten Transfer Station (free of charge). We hauled A LOT of dirt there…

      • Someone commented within the past week on this blog that the fort totten transfer station is now rejecting deliveries of dirt at the facility. I would certainly call to confirm before trying to haul it up there.

  • Nice! You should also consider a garden. I envy the room you have.

    • yeah! my yard is a similar layout and we have a couple raised beds that were super easy to make – and grow TONS of veggies every summer. it looks lovely to boot. you’ve got plenty of space although can’t tell how much sun you get there.

      great job!

      • Thanks. Yeah, we want to try to grow some things ourselves too, but the trees provide a lot of shade. Not sure we get enough sunlight. We’ll see!

  • Your fiance is very enterprising, congrats to you! I can’t believe the DIY was that much cheaper than an estimate and still turned out looking so good! Good job!

    • Yes, she is! I’ve gotten quotes on many different house projects and contracting it out really drives up the price! I wish we could do everything ourselves. Thanks!

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