You can build a patio by laying bricks on a bed of fine sand. Use either regular building bricks spaced 1/2 inch apart or paving bricks placed tightly together. Select ones rated SW (for severe weathering). Shun thin ones and those with a slippery glaze.
To avoid cutting bricks, pick a design, such as the basket-weave pattern, that doesn’t require half bricks at the edges. You will need about five bricks for each square foot. For borders, buy either pressure-treated 6 x 6’s or extra bricks to stand on end. To make a tamper, nail a 1-foot square of plywood to the end of a 4 x 4.
Outline the area with a row or two of bricks. Then mark it off with stakes and strings. Dig out about 4 inches (brick depth plus a 2-inch sand bed). if the area has clay soil or receives frequent heavy rains or snowfall, excavate another 4 inches and fill it with washed gravel. For drainage, slope the bottom away from the house slightly. Tamp well. Dig a trench for borders along two adjacent edges, allowing for 2 inches of sand beneath.
Spread the sand. Level it with a hoard on edge. Then moisten with a fine spray and tamp well. To keep out weeds, cover the sand with 15-pound roofing felt or plastic sheeting.
Set the two borders in place: make sure they are at patio-surface level. Beginning at the corner they form, lay the bricks. Tap each brick firmly with a rubber mallet. Adjust the level by adding or digging out sand. After laying several bricks, put a piece of plywood over them and tamp them down. Be careful not to shift the bricks. Put in the other borders last.
Pour sand on the bricks; sweep with a broom to fill the joints. Dampen with a fine spray. Wait 15 minutes. Repeat until the joints are filled.
For more permanence, substitute a bed of hard-tamped limestone dust for sand. Put ‘/2 inch of sand on top of the weed barrier for leveling the bricks. Then fill the joints with a dry mixture of 1 part portland cement and 5 parts sand. To avoid staining the bricks, apply the mixture when they are dry and brush off all traces before wetting.