Laying a Paver Walk
Concrete pavers require a fraction of the work that mortared walks require, yet they provide a solid surface underfoot. The walk is a system of materials: Landscape fabric lines the excavation that holds the walk, while compacted gravel place on top of it provides drainage. A sand bed provides support, sand between the pavers keep them from rocking. While paver walks share the same basic construction, many types of walks can be created. Pavers come in a variety of shapes, colours, and textures-and each can be laid in a variety of patterns. Edge restraints vary widely, too, from subsurface plastic to bricks to landscape timbers. The success or failure of a paver walk depends largely on how well you compact the layers, including the subgrade. Loose dirt or gravel will cause sections of the walk to sink. Pavers need to be compacted firmly into the sand below them, forcing a bit of sand between the pavers and locking them in place.
- Install edge restraints
- Make a screed
- Adjust the sloped lines
- Stretch Guidelines
- Lay The First Paver
- Begin The Next Row
- Check The Alignment of the Pattern
- Compact the Surface
- Spread And Sweep Sand Across The Walk
Lay out the path
Lay out the path with batterboards and mason's line. Make sure the layout is square using the 3-4-5 method. Check that your layout lines are level with either a water level or a line level. Drive stakes at the corners of the walk and run level lines between them. To prevent flooding, the walk should slope away from the house at a rate of 1/8 to 1/4 inch per foot. (Check local codes.) Measure down the appropriate amount on the stakes farthest from the house and slide the lines down to the marks.
Remove the sod. Remove an amount of soil equal to the combined thickness of the gravel base, and bed, and pavers. (The gravel base is 4 inches thick; the sand base is 1-1/2 inches thick; the thickness of pavers varies.) Leave enough soil around the corner stakes so they stay firmly in the ground. Measure down from the staked lines to make sure the excavation follows the recommended slope. The distance from the line to the bottom of the excavation should be constant and equal to the combined thickness of the gravel, sand, and pavers.
Check the bed
Check the bottom of the excavation with an 8-foot straightedge to see if its flat. Remove the high spots and fill in the low spots so the gap between the straightedge and the surface is never more that 3/8 inch. Compact the surface thoroughly with a power tamper running at full speed. Landscape fabric keeps the gravel from working into the subgrade and weakening the base. Spread a woven landscape fabric across the excavation and up the sides of the edges. (Woven fabric is the strongest.) If you need more than one length of fabric, overlap the pieces by 12 to 18 inches along the edges.
Spread and compact a gravel base
Spread a 2- inch layer of gravel across the excavation and rake it smooth. Compact with the power tamper running at full speed. Spread and compact another 2-inch layer of gravel. Add and compact gravel in small until you have a base 4 inches thick. (If you were to put all 4 inches of gravel in at one time, the compactor would compact on the top, leaving the rest too loose.)
Test the gravel
Make sure the gravel is compacted enough by testing it with a steel spike. If you can drive the spike into the gravel with anything less than a 3-pound sledgehammer, the gravel is not compacted enough. Compact until it is.
Install edge restraints
Put in whatever edge restraints you have chosen, using the sloped lines as a guide. In this case the edging is a plastic restraint held in place by steel spikes driven into the compacted gravel. Use a restraint designed for pavers (not garden edging) and install it as recommended by the manufacturer. Shovel bedding sand on top of the gravel to create a layer about 1-1/2 inches thick. Rake it smooth.
Make a screed
A screed is a straightedge, usually a piece of wood, pulled along sand to smooth it. Ask a home centre or lumberyard to cut a straight piece of 3/4-inch plywood about 3 inches wide and as long as the walk is wide. Reinforce it by screwing a 2x4 to the back. Drive a nail in each end of the 2x4 so the distance between the nail and an edge of the plywood is the thickness of a paver.
Adjust the sloped lines
Slide the sloped lines down the stakes an equal distance until they are at the same level as the intended top of the sidewalk.
Work with a helper to smooth the sand by guiding the nails along the top of the mason's line. Use the lines as a guide only and be careful not to move them by pushing down on them with the screed. Have a second helper add sand to the low spots and remove san that builds up in front of the screed. Screed until the surface is smooth. Starting at the end where you finished, work the other way across the walk.
Its easier than you think to get pavers a little bit out of line. Making a few little mistakes over the course of a long walk can result in a diagonal end rather than a squarer end. To prevent the problem stretch lines across the walk every 10 pavers and make sure the pavers align with them when youre laying.
Lay The First Paver
This walk, which is a running-bond walk, begins by putting the first paver in a corner of the walk. Exactly where the first paver goes depends on the pattern youre using, but start against the house so that the pavers there are guaranteed to be full width. Continue laying the first row until you come to the edge restraint on the opposite side. Cut a paver to fit in the opening.
Begin The Next Row
In a running-bond pattern, the second row will begin with a half paver. Cut the block as needed to suit the pattern youre laying and put it in place. Continue laying the second row until you reach the edge restraint on the opposite side. If necessary cut the final paver to fit.
Check The Alignment of the Pattern
Lay pavers until you reach the first guideline. Check that the ends of the pavers align with the line. Make any necessary corrections before continuing. Follow the pattern and work your way to the next guideline. Check that the pavers are properly aligned before moving on. Work your way to the end of the walk.
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. Mark them with a permanent marker to make finding them again easier. Remove and replace the damaged pieces and run the tamper over them.
Spread And Sweep Sand Across The Walk
Spread mason's sand across the pavers and sweep it into the spaces between them. The fine sand works its way easily between the pavers. Run the power tamper over the walk, first along the edges, then down the middle. Have a helper sweep sand to refill the joints, and compact again. Sweep and compact 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: 5 hours
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