Many years ago, I wrote about installing a brick patio floor on a sandy base. I received a rather emphatic letter from a professional who said I should not be giving such poor advice--that bricks laid on a sand base never stood the test of time unless they were laid in wet mortar on a concrete slab poured over gravel.
I recall taking the letter and going outside to look at the patio, which seemed in good condition after six months (and, as it turned out, still was after six years) and then went back into the house and answered the letter. I reminded the writer that I had said that brick laid on sand was not as sturdy as brick laid in mortar, that it required a little maintenance about once a year and that it was about 10 times easier to install. I never heard from the gentleman again, but I was reminded of the entire incident the other day while I was reading an interesting book called "Patios and Deck," written by Michael Landis and Ray Moholt (HP Books, P.O. Box 5367, Tucson, Ariz. 85703).
The authors not only went into great detail about building a patio floor on sand base but also passed along many tips that I thought might be of value to anybody contemplating such a venture. Here are some of them.
"Paving in small sections is especially easy when you are laying bricks on sand. You can stop at any point without worrying about a mortar or concrete base setting up before you finish a section.
"After you have excavated and graded the site, use a tamper to tamp the soil firmly. Construct a form of 2x4s around the perimeter of the excavation. The height between the top of the form and the bottom of the excavation should be about five inches. Spread a layer of sand over the patio area, wetting it so that it will settle.
"Tamp the sand. If necessary, add more sand to maintain the desired level.
"Usually, bricks are set on and with sides butted snugly together.
"Use a rubber mallet or a hammer and wood block to gently tap the pricks into the sand.
"As you lay the bricks, check each row with a level to make sure you're maintaining the proper grade. Use a straight length of 2x4 as a straightedge to make sure that all bricks are the same height.
"The bricks will settle, so set them a little high. Don't kneel on the bricks you have just laid.
"After the bricks are laid, use a level to recheck the grade. Then spread a fine layer of sand over the surface. If the sand is moist let it dry for a few hours. Sweep the sand into the cracks. Repeat this procedure until the cracks are filled. Spray a mist of water on the patio to settle the sand in the joints.
Those are only a few of the details necessary to do the job, but they give you a good idea of the important elements. Landis and Moholt also go into great detail about how to install bricks via both a dry-and wet-morter process and offer many suggestions for making different styles of patios, as well as similar ideas and instructions on the building of outdoor decks. Very helpful to any would-be bricklayer.