How to Measure and Lay Out a Paver or Concrete Patio

A newly installed patio after layout and installation is complete

Are you planning to install a new 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 simple improvement can provide a great place to cook and entertain let the kids play.

As you decide what 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 layout a patio that you might like to finish, and from there, determine a reasonable budget.

Laying out and installing a new patio is an excellent project if you are a DIY’er and already have a good idea of how to install a 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 want. Do you need a cooking space? Do you have a patio dining set in mind with a specific size that you need to fit in the area?

You should consider all of these things as you draw your space on a piece of paper before you ever begin digging.

How to Lay Out a Patio

The real work begins once your head outside to measure, calculate, and layout the space. You’ll need to do several things 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 lying around, just about anything will work. You just need something that you can put in the ground and wrap the twine around.

string lines installed to 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 patio’s boundaries and will be used as a guide when digging the base and guarantee straight edges.

You can also use marking paint 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 see your layout easily.

How to Lay Out Curves for a Patio or Pathway

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

A great trick is to use a garden hose to lay out the curve, as a hose makes it easier to lay out more sweeping radius curves and is pretty easy to work with.

Take your time and reposition the hose as much as needed until you’ve got the desired curve. Once you have the curve just the way you want it, you can paint a line using marking paint to preserve the layout throughout the installation.

patio curves laid out using a garden hose on the left, and then painted using marking paint on the right

How to Get Square Corners

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.

image illustrating how to use the pythagorean theorem to get perfectly square patio corners with the top image showing string lines and a tape measure and the bottom showing the 3, 4, 5 lines

Don’t Forget to Lay Out Utilities

Once you have completed this process and are happy with your patio’s size, location, and layout, 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. You must 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. Suppose you damage any public utility and you didn’t have location services come out and mark your property. In that case, 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

Conclusion

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 you will need. 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 choose the right material and start ordering. Use our paver calculator to estimate how many pavers you’ll need for your patio, driveway, or walkway project.