How to Install Patio Pavers

How to Install Patio Pavers

Even beginning do-it-yourselfers can master laying pavers without mastering the techniques of mixing and spreading concrete.

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.

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.

Skill Level: Intermediate
Time:
  1. Step 1 Lay Out the Patio

    Lay Out the Patio
    Lay Out the Patio

    Lay out the outline of the patio with batter boards and mason’s line. Check that your layout lines are level using either a water level or a line level, and drive the batterboards father in as needed. Make sure the corners are square using the 3-4-5 triangle method: Mark a point 3 feet from the corner on one line and another point 4 feet from the corner on the other line. If the distance between the points is 5 feet, the corner is square. If not, make the necessary adjustments. Repeat for each corner. Measure the diagonals of the patio. If the corners are square, the diagonals will be equal. If not, use a framing square to see which corner is out of square; correct it and repeat set 2 and this step.

  2. Step 2 Lay Out the Slope

    Lay Out the Slope
    Lay Out the Slope

    The patio needs to slope away from the house at a rate of 1/8 to ¼ inch per foot to prevent flooding. Check what’s required locally.

    To lay out the slope, first drive stakes about 1 foot beyond the corners of the patio. Run level lines between them with the help of either a line level or a water level. Measure down the appropriate amount on the stakes farthest from the house.

    Slide the lines down to the marks. Drive stakes every 4 feet approximately 1 foot outside the layout lines.

    Tie mason’s line to the stakes to lay out a grid that follows the slope of the lines laid out in step 2.

  3. Step 3 Excavate

    Excavate

    The highest point of a patio surface can be as much as an inch above grade-enough so that the lowest section is at grade.

    Remove the sod. Then remove 4½ inches of soil plus the thickness of the pavers to make room for the 4-inch gravel bed and a 1½-inch sand base, leaving the lowest surface of the pavers 1 inch above grade.

    Excavate the rest of the patio, following the slope of the lines.

  4. Step 4 Check the Slope

    Check the Slope
    Check the Slope

    Measure down from the staked lines to make sure the excavation follows the slop. If the slope is correct, the distance from the line to the bottom of the excavation will be constant. Dig or add soil to correct any problems.

    Using an 8-foot straightedge or have a home center cut an 8-foot length of plywood, 3 to 6 inches wide, that you can use as a straightedge. Check the bottom of the excavation wit hit to see whether it’s flat.

    Mark high spots with spray paint. Remove them and use the soil to fill in low spots so that the gap between the straightedge and the surface is never more than 3/8 inch. Compact the surface with a power tamper running at full speed.

  5. Step 5 Put Down Landscape Fabric

    Put Down Landscape Fabric
    Put Down Landscape Fabric

    Landscape fabric keeps gravel from work into the subgrade and weakening the base-woven fabric is best.

    Spread the landscape fabric across the excavation and up the sides. If you need more than one length of fabric, overlap the edges by 12 to `8 inches.

    Spread and compact at gravel base In layers. If you were to put in all 4 inches of gravel at one time, the power tamper would compact only the top, leaving the rest too loos.

    Spread a 2-inch layer of gravel across the excavation and rake it smooth. Compact with power tamper running at full speed. 

  6. Step 6 Build a 4-inch Base

    Build a 4-inch Base
    Build a 4-inch Base

    Spread and compact another 2-inch layer of gravel. Once compacted, the layers won’t be quite 4 inches deep, so add and compact gravel in small amounts until you have 4-inch-thick base.

    Test the compaction of the gravel by driving a landscape spike into it with a 3 pound sledgehammer. If the gravel hold firm, the base is compact. If you can use less than a 3-pound sledgehammer to drive in the spike, compact again.

  7. Step 7 Install Edging

    Install Edging
    Install Edging

    Use a structure as the edge restraint for one side of the patio. Put edging along one of the adjoining sides. (You'll put in the rest of the edging after the pavers are installed.) Use the layout lines as a guide for both the proper location and slope of the pavers.

    Make sure you use an edging designed for pavers rather than garden edging, and follow the manufacturer's directions. In this example the edging is a plastic restraint held in place by landscape spikes driven into the compacted gravel.

    Shovel bedding sand on top of the gravel to create a layer about 1 1/2 inches deep.

    Rake the bedding sand smooth. 

  8. Step 8 Make a Screed

    Make a Screed
    Make a Screed

    A screed is a straightedge, usually a piece of wood, that you pull along the sand to smooth it.

    Have a home center or lumberyard cut a straight piece of 3/4-inch plywood 8 feet long and about 3 inches 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. Remove all the lines perpendicular to the slope except the one at the edge. Remove every second sloped line so there are lines at the edges of the patio and every 8 feet in between.

    Slide the sloped lines down the stakes. Move each line an equal distance until it is at the same level as the intended top of the patio.

  9. Step 9 Screed

    Screed

    Work with a helper to smooth the sand by guiding the nails along the top of the mason's lines. 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 sand that builds up behind the screed. Repeat until the surface is smooth.

    After you screed the sand, screed it again, starting at the end where you finished and working in the opposite direction across the patio.

  10. Step 10 Stretch Guidelines

    Stretch Guidelines

    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.

  11. Step 11 Lay the First Paver

    Lay the First Paver
    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.

  12. Step 12 Lay the Second Row

    Lay the Second Row
    Lay the Second Row

    Lay the row according to the pattern you’re 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.

  13. Step 13 Cut the Pavers on the Ground

    Cut the Pavers on the Ground
    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.

  14. Step 14 Compact the Surface

    Compact the Surface
    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. 

What You Need for This Project

Related Resources