A newly installed patio after layout and installation is complete

Are you wanting to measure and lay out a patio this summer? Improvements to your backyard living space are one of the easiest ways to add value to your home. Whether it be pavers or a concrete patio this basic improvement can provide a great place to cook and entertain let the kids play. As you decide what it is that you want to do with your backyard space you may be leaning towards a patio option. The first thing to do when planning your backyard upgrade is to lay out the patio.

With a few easy steps, you can measure and lay out a patio that you might like to finish and from there determine a good budget. This is a great project if you are a DIY’er and already have a good idea of how to install a paver patio.

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Determine the Size of the Patio

The first step required to measure and lay out a patio is to determine how much square footage you really want. Do you need a cooking space? Do you have a patio dining set in mind with specific size that you need to fit in the area? All of these things need to be considered as you draw your space on a piece of paper before you ever begin digging.

Laying Out a Patio

The real work begins once your head outside to measure, calculate and lay out the space. There are several things that you’ll need in order to do this correctly and ensure that your new patio is square and spaced correctly.

Tape measure

In order to be accurate, make sure that the tape is at least as long as the longest side of your anticipated patio space. Trying to splice together measurements over grass is usually not a recipe for accuracy.

Contractor using a tape measure to lay out a paver patio

Stakes and twine

If you don’t have any wooden stakes laying around, just about anything will work. You just need something that you can put in the ground and wrap the twine around.

string lines outline the boundary of a new patio

Now that you have tools in hand, go ahead and start laying out your space, sinking stakes into the places where you anticipate your corners to be and wrap the string from stake to stake to create the footprint of your new patio. The string locates the boundaries of the patio and will be used as a guide when digging the base and to guarantee straight edges.

Marking paint can also be used to mark the location of edges and other landmarks such as a fire-pit or grill. Marking paint will remain for a few weeks and allows you to easily see your layout.

Laying Out Curves for a Patio or Pathway

Laying out curves for the edge of a patio or pathway is a little different than laying out a straight edge. For simple curves marking paint can be used without a hose to mark the edge of a patio or path.

A great trick is to use a garden hose to lay out the curve as a hose makes it easier to lay out wider radius curves and is pretty easy to work with. Take your time and reposition the hose as much as needed until you’ve go the desired curve. Once you have the curve just the way you want it you can paint a line using marking paint so the layout can be used during installation.

patio curves laid out using a garden hose and paint

Laying Out Square Corners for a Patio

Patio corners must be square and there are a few ways to accomplish this. If your patio is a rectangle then you can measure from one corner to the opposite diagonal corner and when the measurements are equal the patio is square.

Another method to ensure a patio corner is square is to use the Pythagorean Theorem, or the 3, 4, 5 rule. When side a is 3 units and side b is 4 units the measurement that connects the end of those measurements to form a triangle should be exactly 5 units.

To use the Pythagorean Theorem, measure one edge of the patio to 6’ and measure the adjacent edge to 8’. The measurement between the 6’ mark and the 8’ mark should be exactly 10’ when the corner is square.

using the pythagorean theorem to get perfectly square patio corners

Laying Out Utilities

Once you have completed this process and are happy with the size, location and layout of your patio. STOP. Don’t do anything else until you complete this next crucial step.

Pick up the phone and call your local municipality and ask how you go about getting utilities located. It is very important that you do this for several reasons.

  1. 1) It is a safety issue. Before you go sinking a shovel or post hole digger into the dirt, you sure do want to know where those underground electrical lines are buried. This one really shouldn’t take a lot of explanation.
  2. 2) It can lead to very costly mistakes. If you have a septic system with finger drains or anything like it, you’ll want to make sure you aren’t breaking it apart. These can be very expensive to repair/replace. If you do damage to any public utility and you didn’t have location services come out and mark your property, you can also be held liable for the cost to repair the public utility. Don’t get in too big of a hurry and make this mistake!
warning flag indicating a gas line is buried beneath the ground


Once the space is marked and you are confident you have the patio size and layout that you want, you can now begin the installation process. If you haven’t ordered materials be sure to use a paver calculator or concrete calculator to determine just how much material that you will need before you order. There are also some fantastic design tools available that will help you measure and lay out a patio. As soon as materials are on site it’s time to begin installing your new patio.

Next Step – After laying out the project it’s time to start ordering materials. Use our paver calculator to estimate how many pavers you’ll need for your patio, driveway, or walkway project.