Originally posted in 2005 & 2007 - I've had so many requests that it was then posted again in 2011 and 2013. You can search for "patio mold" in the search box to the right and all the posts on this particular patio will come up.
UPDATED: It's been many years since this post originally was published. Checking the links I provided in 2007, I found they were of course expired, so I have updated the patio paver molds links at the bottom that are available from Amazon. We used the square and rectangle but there are more natural shaped styles available as well.
We moved into a home that was new construction. Although we had a deck in the backyard, that was all we had. A deck with stairs that just went to the grass. I pictured a small cement area at the base. The problem is that we almost no funds to work with. If I could do an entire patio for about $50-100 we could talk, but otherwise? It just wasn't happening.
Walking through the hardware store one day I saw a plastic mold that you use to make your own patio bricks with out of cement. Knowing bags of cement were cheap, my brain started to kick into gear the next thing my poor husband knew, I was determined to build us a patio.
The investment was a brick patio paver mold, bags of cement, a bag of sand, and just because I wanted to, I also bought Liquid Cement Color to tint the bricks to give a nice varied look to the finished patio.
The work involved was to
Remove the grass in a square area as large as we wanted our patio to be
Smooth it out with a rake to a flat surface
Mix the cement in a large plastic container to a good consistency that held form
Pour the wet cement into the plastic brick molds until the mold was full
Fill all the spaces, let it set about 10 more seconds, give it a little jiggle and lift.
The bricks should be perfect and stay in shape assuming your mixture isn't too wet and runny. Place the mold down again immediately next to the new bricks to continue the correct layout and spacing using the mold as your spacer.
They were hard within 24 hours and cured within 48. We spread play sand over the entire patio and using a large broom, swept it into the cracks between the bricks.
The different shades were made by adding a bit of color to the concrete in the large bin, making a paver stone or two in the mold, adding a bit more color to the wet mix, making another stone, and adding additional concrete tint to the batch until that batch was gone and starting with a fresh batch. You add a little color at a time to go from lighter paver stones to darker as you add a little more tint (and different shades of charcoal, brown and red) to the batch. By the time you are done your patio has various shades of paver stones all in the same shade family.
Our patio is now in it's 3rd summer under the hot sun, the rain, the long Midwestern winters with bitter cold temperatures and piles of snow, but it's still as fabulous as ever and it's an investment I'm happy we made!
Links to Amazon for stone molds:
Pathmate Concrete Stepping Stone Mold, Random
Quikrete 6921-34 Walk Maker
Quikrete 6921-32 Walk Maker