Paver installation begins long before you put them on the ground. Planning and design starts with a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. A detailed, measurement inclusive sketch of the overall area is necessary to determine product quantities and project budget. This can range from a simple, drawn sketch or one completed by a landscape professional. Bring us your sketch and our installation experts can determine the quantity of materials required for your project. Then, you can move forward with the multiple steps involved in paver installation.
Begin by marking out the area to be excavated. Excavating removes loose topsoil or fill and allows for the placement of a compacted gravel base. Small areas are easy to excavate by hand, but for larger areas you may wish to hire an excavating contractor. Before you excavate you will need to call local utility companies (e.g. phone, gas, and electric) to ensure that the area in which you plan to dig is free of underground cables or pipes. Technicians will come and mark these areas, usually at no charge. Always excavate the area to be paved slightly wider to give you some breathing room. Fill the area with the correct amount of gravel (see “Base Thickness Chart” below), then grade your base material as closely as possible to the final contour of the patio surface. Remember to slope all installations away from the house for drainage purposes. An attractive alternative to excavating for a patio is creating a raised patio using retaining walls.
Compacting the Gravel Base
The base preparation is the most important part of the entire installation process. Appropriate base material, thickness, and compaction are essential to ensure your installation will last a lifetime. Use either a hand tamper or plate compactor and firmly compact the gravel base material. For best compaction, compact 4″ layers.
Pavers are laid on a bed of coarse sand. This bed should be 1″ to 1-1/2″ thick, no more, and is placed directly on top of the compacted base material. Using screed guides (1″ to 1-1/2″ in diameter) placed on the base, level the sand evenly by pulling a straight board along the guides. You can check the final level of the pavers by placing a paver on a guide. Once you’ve completed an area, remove the guides, filling the grooves, and continue screeding.
Begin placing the pavers directly on the screeded bed of sand, leaving a small space of approximately 1/8″ between each paver. Start laying along the longest straight side of the area to keep lines straight. This will minimize the amount of cutting required. It is important that the lines of your pavers are square, 90 degrees to each other, to fit properly. If you are installing circles, fans, or a soldier course (a border of pavers around the perimeter of an area) you will want to place these first before installing the rest of the pattern.
You may need to cut pavers that don’t fit along edges or around objects. Mark the pavers and cut with either a guillotine cutter or masonry saw. A guillotine cutter is the easiest cutting method, but for an exact cut a masonry saw works best.
Edge restraints are a critical element to the durability of a paver installation, as they prevent the pavers from moving and shifting over time. There are several options for restraint, including plastic edge restraint that is economical and effective. Various concrete edging materials also work well with color and texture.
Compacting the Pavers
After the installation is complete, including edge restraints, the pavers must be swept clean and then compacted with a plate compactor. This helps settle the pavers into the bedding sand and creates a smooth, flat surface.
Sweeping specially graded jointing sand into the joints of the pavers further locks the pavers together.