Backyard Paradise 2016

Carisa Scarpa's backyard before the Pavestone Paradise makeover.
Carisa Scarpa’s backyard before the makeover is a blank slate with lots of potential.

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Contest winner Carissa Scarpa with her fiancé, Matt, and Danny Lipford.
Contest winner Carissa Scarpa with her fiancé, Matt McVey, and Danny Lipford.

Carissa Scarpa of Beaufort, S.C., was the enthusiastic winner of our annual Backyard Paradise contest, sponsored by Pavestone.

She lives with her fiancé, Matt McVey, who is a pilot in the Marine Corps. Matt’s been stationed all over the U.S., as well as overseas, so the couple is thrilled that they are finally able to be together. Their wedding is set for October, and winning the contest means they can host the reception in their backyard rather than renting a venue.

Carissa didn’t expect to win the contest, so she and Matt had purchased a gazebo, which they hoped could be incorporated into the design of their backyard paradise. They also envisioned going out into the yard, away from the house, to a separate outdoor entertaining space.

Andy Morton from Pavestone took all of their ideas to heart and presented a design that excited everyone.

Carissa operates the plate compactor in preparation for the pavers.
Carissa operates the plate compactor in preparation for the paver patio.

Laying the Paver Patio

First things first, we called 811 to identify the underground utilities and turned on the sprinklers to find the lines. Then we marked the footprint of the paver patio and serpentine pathway.

To remove the grass, we rented a sod cutter, so the sod could be lifted out in manageable pieces. To move the bulk of the dirt we rented a skid steer tractor and then used shovels to fine tune the grade to the proper depth. We used a plate compactor to compact the soil to prevent settling. All this machinery intrigued Carissa, and she had to try them out for herself.

Once the soil was compacted, we spread the base material evenly and compacted it as well.

Danny Lipford, Allen Lyle and Andy Morton prepare the ground to lay the pavers.
The crew prepares the ground to lay the pavers.

We laid 1-inch thick steel pipes on top of the base material to act as guides for leveling the sand. After pouring 1 inch of sand on top of the base material, we used a 2×4 as a screed on top of the pipes to level the sand to a consistent thickness. We removed the pipes and filled in the void left behind.

Finally, we laid the pavers on top of the sand in a herringbone pattern, being careful not to step on the sand. To secure the border of the patio, we poured concrete halfway up the thickness of the pavers around the outer edge of the patio. After the concrete set, we covered it back up with sod. Then we swept paver sand into the joints between the pavers to fill them.

Watch Tips for Laying a Paver Patio for more info.

Building a Fire Pit and Corner Bench

Fire pit and corner bench
The backyard makeover included a fire pit and corner bench.

Carissa’s new backyard paradise features a spacious 400-square-foot paver patio, and a winding path of pavers connects it to the house. Under the gazebo, a coffee table made of stone and concrete provides a hub for conversation. In one corner a custom gas grill enclosure guarantees that guests will be well fed, while the opposite corner boasts spacious bench seating and a stone fire pit to chase away the chill on cool evenings.

Pavestone provided color-coded plans, which Andy calls “LEGOs for adults,” that makes building the fire pit and corner bench easy enough for a novice. We stacked the stones according to plan and applied adhesive to lock the stones in place.

Last but not least, we filled the planting beds and add solar-powered landscape lights from Lamps Plus.

Check out the time-lapse videos of the crew building the fire pit and 90-degree corner bench.

Watch How to build a Backyard Fire Pit from a Kit for more info.

Carissa's back yard was transformed into a Pavestone Paradise.
Carissa’s back yard was transformed into a Pavestone Paradise.
The Today's Homeowner and Pavestone crews celebrate the completion of the project.
The Today’s Homeowner and Pavestone crews celebrate the completion of the project.

Other Tips from This Episode


Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Tip for Disinfecting Outdoor Trash Can

Spraying the inside and outside of your garbage can with undiluted ammonia will deodorize and sanitize the can, plus keep unwanted critters out of your garbage. Watch video.


Best New Products with Jodi Marks:
Husky Mobile Job Box

The 35-inch work cart has a 25-gallon capacity and a large removable tray for storing power tools, hand tools, accessories and gear. It is available at The Home Depot. Watch video.


Ask Danny Lipford:
How to Change the Color of Concrete

People who want to use concrete in their landscaping often ask how they can change the color. Staining or tinting may be the solution, depending on if the concrete has been poured. Watch video.


  1. The Pavestone Paradise is just that, a paradise. I have dreams of getting my backyard looking like an extra room. I have the pavers, but don’t have the manpower.
    Great job!!!

  2. I saw you show on Sunday for the first time ever, and I was very amazed with how you transformed he couples back yard with the barbecue and fire pit. I am trying to sale my home in Missouri and really need a back yard renovation because it’s very boring. I just retired from the Army and Im living in Minnesota, so I really need some advice and help. Thank you

  3. June 18, 2016
    Just watched your show and came to the website looking for your checklist.
    Love your project lists—look forward to completing a few of my own!
    Will send pics.


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