Cleaning your weatherworn patio
At this time of year in this part of North Carolina, the days are getting shorter, there’s a slight chill to the air and Saturdays are punctuated with the sound of leaf blowers.
As it turns out, your yard might not be the only thing that needs attention. Underneath the leaves, somewhere, there’s a clay brick patio. And cleaning it up so it looks like it did the day it was installed is an excellent weekend project.
This patio actually got its start decades ago. The former homeowner of this 1976 brick ranch house on the western edge of Greensboro, NC, had two daughters who wanted a playhouse. A concrete slab was poured in the backyard and a playhouse, complete with windows and doors and a shingle roof, was built atop it. As the two little girls grew up, the playhouse was moved to the back of the lot and converted into a small storage building. The slab remained where it was.
In 2006, the slab was used as the base for a prototype patio for Pine Hall Brick’s line of thin pavers.
The patio was installed as a DIY project to demonstrate how a homeowner could dress up a concrete slab or sidewalk with clay pavers. A basketweave pattern, which is easy to install because no brick cuts are required, was chosen. A soldier course was glued in place with masonry cement along the edges of the slab, the roofing felt was rolled out onto the surface and the pavers were put into place. Sand was swept in between the pavers.
After that, brick experts from Pine Hall Brick Company came out and inspected the installation, made a few adjustments and a professional photographer took pictures. Over the years, the patio was regularly hosed down and weeds were removed in between the pavers. New sand was occasionally swept into the joints.
But this year was different. The patio clearly needed help. An unseasonably wet summer in 2013 meant that grass grew quickly over the edges of the patio and into the sand joints between the pavers. Because the patio is shaded much of the day by tulip poplar trees, a greenish black fungus had grown over much of the patio surface.
To begin, the leaves and other loose debris were blown off the patio with a leaf blower. A putty knife was used to cut the grass out of the paver joints. A solution of one part of chlorine bleach to three parts of water was poured onto the surface, allowed to stand for a few moments, then scrubbed with a nylon bristle brush and a broom.
It’s best to work on a small section at a time, so that the cleaning solution doesn’t dry on the pavers. Rinse it thoroughly and if needed, scrub it a second time. After the patio is cleaned, sweep fresh sand into the joints. Keep an eye on it, because in several weeks, you will probably want to sweep in more sand as the joints settle.
After that, get back to work on the leaves. You will need rakes, leaf blowers, plastic bags and teenage children who want the car keys. Sit in a chair on your newly cleaned patio, reach for a lemonade and watch them work.