How to Lay Patio Pavers

Installing Patio Pavers

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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 2 days
  • Total Time: 3 - 5 days
  • Yield: 10-foot by 10-foot patio
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $500 to $1,000

Laying patio pavers is one of the quickest and easiest ways to install patio flooring by yourself. Poured concrete slabs, brick, and natural stone patios do have their advantages, but patio pavers are so cost-effective and simple to work with that you can do the entire job by yourself. In just a few days, you'll have a gorgeous patio for outdoor entertaining or just for enjoying your backyard in comfort.

Before You Begin

Buy pavers by the pallet and have them delivered to your home, as close to the patio area as possible. Concrete pavers come in many different colors and textures, some even simulating natural stone or brick. Pavers 18-inch by 18-inch or smaller are easier to handle.

The base material should be crushed rock, such as 3/4-inch minus construction gravel. The sharp edges and points of the gravel help the material compact well.

For sand, purchase coarse sand in bulk (enough to establish a 1-inch depth across the entire patio area). But the fine sand for sweeping between the joints can be purchased by the bag since so little of it is needed.

Safety Considerations

Moving large amounts of heavy materials can take a toll on your body. Use a wheelbarrow. When shoveling, lift from your legs, not your back. Keep in mind that base materials (crushed gravel) are heavier than dirt, so use only partial shovel loads.

Wear breathing protection. Frequently spray the area with water to keep the dust down.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Hammer
  • Shovel
  • Two-by-four
  • Tamper
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Rake
  • Broom

Materials

  • Pavers
  • Crushed rock base material
  • 1 bag fine sand (10 pounds)
  • Coarse bedding sand
  • Garden hose
  • Twine or thin rope
  • Marking paint
  • Wood stakes
  • 2 PVC or metal pipes (1-inch diameter)

Instructions

  1. Create Layout

    The area where you intend to lay pavers should have a slight slope so that water can run off of it. Pooling will eventually create pits in the base material, which further creates more pooling.

    First, lay out the general area with a garden hose to get a basic sense of space. Refine this layout by hammering in wood stakes and creating a design with a thin rope or twine. Use the marking paint to draw an outline 8 inches beyond the staked area.

    Tip

    Because masonry pavers are difficult to cut, it's often helpful to slightly adjust the size of the patio larger or smaller to accommodate full-size pavers all of the way across.

  2. Calculate Materials to Buy

    Use the outline to help you determine the quantity of pavers, base material, and sand to purchase. Measure the length by the width to arrive at the total square footage. Next, add 10 percent to allow for expected wastage. If you will be laying pavers on curves or laying them on a diagonal, increase the excess to 15 or 20 percent.

    Tip

    It's usually easier and less expensive to buy materials in bulk and have them delivered to your home. Packaged sand and base materials are heavy and costly to buy and transport on your own.

  3. Dig Area

    Dig out the area. If there is turf, remove the turf until you reach the soil below. Place the bubble level on the two-by-four to check for slope. Make sure that the patio slopes down about 1 inch (vertically) per 48 inches (horizontally). You may need to transfer soil or add some sand to create a slope.

    For the pavers to be flush with ground-level, dig about 5 inches down to allow for 4 inches of base material, plus 1 inch of sand bedding, plus the 1-inch thickness of the pavers.

  4. Smooth and Tamp Area

    Use the shovel and the two-by-four to smooth out the area. Follow by tamping down the soil with the tamping tool.

  5. Lay Base Material

    With the wheelbarrow and shovel, transfer the base material to the patio area. After every two or three loads, spread out the material with the shovel and with a rake. Keep the material even across the area.

    Smooth out the base material with the two-by-four. Finish by tamping it firmly down.

    Tip

    Have the garden hose and sprayer nearby. Every so often, lightly spray down the area. This helps the base material to compact better, plus it reduces dust.

  6. Add Edging

    Add the edge restraint of your choice on top of the base material. Some types of edging may need to be staked into the ground.

  7. Lay Down Coarse Sand

    Lay about 1 inch of the coarse (not fine) bedding sand. Be sure to keep the height even across the area as this is the last layer; its height will determine the final height of the patio.

    One way to keep the height consistent is to lay down two 1-inch pipes, then pour the sand over the pipes. When you screed (or pull) the two-by-four over the pipes, the pipes act as guards that stop the screed from digging any farther down.

    After the sand has been laid, carefully remove the pipes.

  8. Lay Pavers

    Lay the pavers on the coarse sand base. Avoid walking on the sand as much as possible. Keep the pavers tight to each other, as wide joints lead to weeds between the pavers.

    As you lay the pavers, occasionally tamp down the pavers by gently tapping them with a hammer. Use a small scrap piece of two-by-four to soften the impact and to use as a leveling gauge, so that adjacent pavers are flush with each other.

  9. Add Sand to Joints

    With the surface of the patio pavers dry, toss a few handfuls of the fine sand on top. Sweep the sand across the surface so that the sand sifts into the joints between the pavers. When the pavers no longer move underfoot when you walk, the joints have enough sand. Sweep up and discard any excess sand.

When to Call a Professional

While laying patio pavers is a fairly simple, straightforward outdoor project, handling the base materials and the pavers is strenuous work. If you have a large project or if you want to use large-format pavers (24-inch by 24-inch or greater), you may want to have a contractor or landscaping company do the job for you.