Laying a Paver Patio
Even beginning do-it-yourselfers can master laying pavers without mastering the techniques of mixing and spreading concrete. Since no concrete is involved, you can start one day and finish another. Most pavers even simplify getting the proper spacing between blocks because tabs on the sides keep them the proper distance apart. The pavers lie on a 5-1/2 -inch bed of sand and gravel. The bottom 4 inches is gravel to provide drainage. The top 1-1/2 inches is bedding sand that helps hold the pavers in place once they're compacted into it. Finer sand, sprinkled between the pavers, keeps them from shifting. Edging around the outside of the outside of the patio holds the pavers in place. When you lay out the patio, slope it away from the house at a rate of 1/8 to 1/4 inch per foot to keep water from working its way into the house. Make sure you compact the gravel in 2-inch layers. If you don't, the top will be hard but the surface beneath it will be soft.
Lay a sample row of pavers on each side of the patio and stretch lines to mark the ends of the rows. Remove the pavers and use the lines as a reference while laying the pavers to make sure you are laying them in straight lines.
LAY THE FIRST PAVER
This patio, which is a running bond pattern, begins by putting the first paver in a corner of the patio. Exactly where the first paver goes depends on the pattern you use. Cut a paver in half and put it next to the first one. Depending on the pattern, you may be able to cut pavers in place or wait until the end and cut the most of the partial pavers at once. The running bond pattern requires a half paver cut with a dry saw (also called quicksaw), or paver breaker. Lay the rest of the row, alternation full pavers and half pavers for running bond.
LAY THE SECOND ROW
Lay the row according to the pattern youre using. For running bond, this row and all but the last row are composed of full pavers. Lay pavers, checking them against the staked lines as you go. Periodically stretch a line, as shown, to check that the ends of the pavers align. Make corrections as necessary while laying the pavers. Continue laying pavers as called for by the pattern to the edges of the patio. If a brick is too long, lay it anyway and save your cutting until you've laid the entire patio.
CUT THE PAVERS ON THE GROUND
Snap a chalk line where the edge of the patio should be and spray it with a clear lacquer to keep it from rubbing off while you work. Cut along the line with a drysaw and remove the scraps. Compacting the joint sand will rub off the lacquer and the chalk line. Put edging along the side of the patio you just cut and along the bottom edge of the patio. Drive landscape spikes through the holes to fasten plastic edging. If you use 4x4s, drill holes for the spikes first. if you use 2x4s, put them in place, drive stakes behind them, and nail the stakes to them.
COMPACT THE SURFACE
For stability the pavers must be compressed into the bedding sand. Compact the edges first, then the middle. Repeat, compacting in passes perpendicular to the first ones. Keep an eye out for pavers that crack during compacting. As you work, mark any cracked pavers with a permanent marker to make finding them again easier. Remove and replace the damaged pieces and run the power tamper over them. Spread mason's sand across the pavers and sweep it into the spaces between them. Mason's sand is fine and works its way easily into the cracks. Run the power tamper over the patio, first along the edges, then down the middle. Have a helper sweep sand to refill the joints, and compact again. Keep sweeping and compacting until the joints are full. Shovel soil into the edges of the excavation to cover the edging, and plant the soil with grass or flowers.
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Skill Level: Intermediate
Time: 4 hours
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