- First step needed to install pavers: Choose a paver. There are many from which to choose. There is one out there that's right for every project. If you're building a brick patio, make sure you use paving bricks, rather than the type that is made for walls and outdoor fireplaces.
- Mark the outside dimensions. If your project is square or rectangular, drive a spike into each corner and spray paint the lines between the spikes to mark where you will be digging. For an irregularly shaped project, simply mark the edges with spray paint. Call the Call Before You Dig phone number before you begin.
- Get your shovel ready. It's time to dig. You need to remove about 8 1/2; inches of earth to install pavers and a base for them. This will allow for 5 inches of crushed stone, 1 inch of sand, and the thickness of the paver, which is generally about 2 1/2; inches. If your pavers are thicker or thinner, change your excavation depth accordingly. It may seem like there's a lot of digging required to install pavers properly, but it's worth the hard work. As you dig, periodically place a straight edge across the edges of the patio and measure down to check the depth of your hole. It is better to dig a little too deep than a little too shallow.
- Fill it back in. Now that you've done all that hard work digging that hole, you're going to fill it back in. This may seem like cruel and unusual punishment, but it's the proper way to install pavers. First, install a layer of landscape fabric in the hole. Now add 5 inches of crushed stone. This will give your pavers a strong base yet allow them to remain flexible. This is especially important if you live in an area exposed to the freeze/thaw cycle. As you add crushed stone, periodically check for depth by laying a straight edge across and measuring down as you did before. Use a hand tamper or rent a compactor to compact the crushed stone.
- Install another layer of landscape fabric. This serves two purposes. Like the first layer of fabric, it helps deter the growth of weeds. It will also prevent the layer of sand you are about to add from mixing with the crushed stone you just installed, while at the same time allowing water to drain through.
- Install 1 inch of sand. This will be the setting bed that your pavers will rest in. The more time you spend getting this close to perfect, the easier the rest of the project will be.
To assist with installing the sand, we'll use 2x4s as our guides (you can also use long pieces of pipe for your guides). Sprinkle some sand along the perimeter of your project. Place the 2x4s along the edge. Using a level and tape measure, add or take away sand as needed to make the 2x4s flat and 2 1/2 inches (the thickness of your paver) below the top of your new walkway or patio. Once your guides are at the proper pitch and height, fill the rest of the space with sand, using a rake and trusting your eyes to make it as flat as possible.
- Use a long 2x4 as a screed. Place each end of the long 2x4 on a guide. Slide the 2x4 across the guides, leveling the sand in the process. Go across the area three or four times, adding or taking away sand as necessary.
- Compact. Using a hand tamper or compactor, compact the sand. This is a very important step. If you don't compact it, the sand will settle over time, which will cause the pavers to settle too, leaving you with dips and valleys in your project area.
- Re-apply sand. Add a little more sand and repeat the screeding process. This should leave you with a nice flat surface for the pavers to be set in. After screeding, avoid walking on the sand.
- Straight edge. Before you start to install pavers (called "setting the pavers"), you need a straight line to work off. You can use a long 2x4 as a straight edge, or, you can drive two spikes and hang a string line between them to serve as your straight edge. If you don't start straight, your pavers won't line-up properly.
- Set the brick pavers. Finally, all the prep work is done. Like most construction projects, most of the work is in the preparation. Start placing your pavers in the sand, using your straight edge as a guide. Butt the pavers close together. There should still be a thin joint line between the pavers that will be filled with sand later. Use a level to check for flatness. Use a rubber mallet to knock down any high pavers. Add more sand and reset any low pavers. If you were careful leveling the sand with your screed, you shouldn't have to do much leveling now.
- Cutting pavers. You may need to cut pavers along the edges of your project. Read this article to learn how to cut pavers.
- Edging. The perimeter of your project will most likely need an edging to keep the pavers in place.
- Polymeric sand. Now that all your pavers are set, it's time to fill in the spaces between them. You'll use special sand: polymeric sand. It's fine sand with additives that react with water to create a strong bond between the pavers. Using a large broom, sweep the sand between the joints of the pavers.
- Clean. Using a broom or a leaf blower (it's easier) remove all the polymeric sand that is on the surface of the pavers. Really, all of it. In the next step we're going to add water to the equation and any sand that's left on the surface will stick to the pavers.
- Last step needed to install pavers: Turn on the hose. Set your hose setting to a light mist and gently water all the pavers. The idea here is to get the polymers in the sand to activate. You don't want to flood the joints or the sand will wash out. A light mist will work well. Allow the sand to dry for 10 to 15 minutes and then wet it down again.
Read this article on patio paver design for more information.