From walkways to driveways, patios to pool decks, if you’re looking for a durable, beautiful, highly practical solution, pre-cast concrete pavers may be just what you’re after. Pavers are available in wide array of colors, sizes, and shapes. They can be laid in straight lines or curves, in regular patterns or random layouts, and you can mix and match to create the perfect look for any part of your yard, large or small.

Pavers are dry-laid on a bed of sand, with no wet concrete, no adhesives, and no mortar joints. They also make for a great do-it-yourself project, requiring only imagination, patience, and a willingness to put in a couple of days of physical labor. 

First, you need to select your pavers. Most dealers have displays set up to show you the different colors and patterns, and offer some visual suggestions on how you might want to do your own installation. After you have made your selections, purchase one or two of each size you’ll be using to have on hand for reference when doing your layouts.

Next, you need to plan out where your new patio, walkway, or other paver project will be going, and what shape it will be in.  Having the sample pavers to refer to will help you layout a design that will minimize cutting. For example, if you are using an 8-inch paver, it’s better to design a walkway that is 40 inches wide (or any multiple of 8) in order to utilize five full pavers, rather than end up with one that is 39 or 41 inches and requires a lot of cutting and filling. Mark the layout directly on the ground using chalk or spray paint.

Once the layout is complete, remove any grass or other landscaping as needed, and rake the soil to remove rocks and debris. Using a long, straight board and a level, or, better yet, a laser level, which can be rented, begin rough grading the soil. For drainage, paver installations should slope a minimum of 1 1/2 inches in 10 feet. Using a gas-powered flat plate compactor, which can also be rented, compact the soil.

Next comes a layer of 3/4 minus gravel, which is available from wherever you buy your pavers, or from any retailer of landscaping supplies. Plan on about 4 inches of gravel for pedestrian walking areas, and 6 to 8 inches of gravel for vehicular traffic. Level the gravel, then compact it.

To keep the pavers from moving at the outside edges, some type of edge restraint is needed. If you have cut the pavers into an existing lawn, the edges of the lawn may offer enough side resistance to keep the pavers in place. You can also utilize treated wood or special plastic paver edging, which is especially helpful if your layout has curves. Whatever edging you use, make sure it is secured to the gravel sub-base with 8 to 10 inch long spikes.

Next comes the sand base.  First, lay 1-inch-thick screeds on top of the compacted gravel. These can be made from 1-inch plastic pipe, lumber, or whatever is convenient. Between the screeds, lay in a bed of sand of the same grade used in making concrete. Smooth and level the sand by running a straight board along the tops of your screeds.

Now you’re ready to begin installing the pavers. Use layout strings attached to wood stakes as needed to give yourself guidelines to keep the installation straight and the pattern regular. If the paver area will have a border, begin by installing those pavers up against the edge restraint.

Lay full pavers next, up as close to the border – or to the edging if you are not using a border – as possible.  Continue laying out full pavers until you have all of them installed, making certain that you carefully follow your pattern design and layout strings. Finally, cut and install the filler pieces between the full pavers and the edges, using a powered masonry saw that can also be rented.

When all the pavers are installed, compact them with the plate compactor until they are uniformly level and are at the desired grade. Spread a final layer of coarse, dry sand over the top of the pavers and work the sand into the cracks with a push broom. Spray the installation with a light mist of water to help settle the sand, then repeat with additional sand after the installation has had a couple of days to settle.

Pavers, sand, edging and other supplies are available through retailers of masonry products. Some larger home centers also carry the paving stones, but may be limited in selection and color, as well as bulk sand and gravel. Most paver manufacturers offer complete instruction booklets, and many paver distributors regularly offer short classes on the basics of installation, often at no charge.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@direcway.com.

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