The secret to success in any remodeling project boils down to one thing: tools. If you’ve got the know-how and the right tools for the job, you can accomplish practically anything, even those projects you may think are out of your league.

As is the case most of the time, the first few steps will set the bar. With painting, it’s all about the prep work. For drywall finishing, it’s about the right progression of layering joint compound. But with projects like adding a patio (regardless of whether you plan to pour a slab or use an outdoor paver) it’s all about the excavation. This is where the right tools will make or break you.

Watch How to Grade a Lot and Excavate for a Driveway or Paver Patio for more info on excavation.

Right Tools for the Job

Do you know what a rock, a shoe and a hammer all have in common? Every one of them can drive a nail; but if you want to drive those nails faster and with less effort, you’re going to use the hammer. For a big job like adding a patio, you’ll need to do the same. While you could dig with a shovel to even the ground, you’re way better off using heavy equipment like a skid steer. You’ll need to move a fair amount of dirt to start with the right base for the foundation. This is particularly true if you plan on laying pavers. In most cases, you need to excavate a minimum of four inches to spread a correct base like crushed limestone.

Watch Tips for Laying a Paver Patio for details.

As I mentioned, my recommendation is to ditch the shovel and rent a skid steer. A skid steer is a heavy-duty piece of machinery that belongs to the tractor family and several brands provide these including Bobcat, Toro, Boxer and Terex. What surprises most people is that almost anyone can operate a skid steer. There are no special licenses to earn and you don’t have to be a contractor. Just rent the right stuff and you’ll have the convenience of professional-grade equipment in no time.

Laying a paver patio in backyard
Digging the footprint for a large patio is a lot easier if you have the right equipment.

Renting Power Equipment

You can look for rental companies in your city to find a skid steer, but my professional advice would be to visit Compact Power Equipment Rental’s website or call them at 888-COMPACT. They’re in over 1,000 Home Depot stores across the U.S. and Canada and offer convenient solutions for your equipment needs. One of the main reasons we always choose Compact Power is because they offer VIP Onsite Delivery. Not only will the equipment be delivered to your jobsite, but a trained technician will also drop it off and walk you through operation of the skid steer step-by-step. Plus, they won’t leave until you’re comfortable operating the machinery.

bobcat skid steer
Renting a skid steer can make the job go much more smoothly.

Using a skid steer on a job like this saves so much time, effort and – let’s face it – sweat-equity that could be better spent in the finer details of building a patio. Not only does the skid steer dig up the dirt for you, it also easily and simply relocates it. You can also use the bucket of the skid steer to properly spread the dirt to the grade you desire.

The equipment’s also pretty handy for moving materials, so keeping the skid steer through the end of the project will definitely pay off. Remember that special base of crushed limestone? Nothing will move and spread it faster than a skid steer. By the way, if you have a smaller yard and you’re concerned about having a really large piece of machinery on site, you can rent a mini skid steer instead. Either way, the heavy equipment from Compact Power adds a ton of convenience to your jobsite – it’ll cut down on time, ease the workload and still make sure you have a terrific finished product.

Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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