Patio Pavers: What You Need to Know

An example of a paver patio. Used under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en. Original photo by Sarah S. Tate.

An example of a paver patio.

Paver patios are a great addition to any home. If you want  a space in your backyard to hold a party, have a barbecue, or just enjoy your yard, a patio is the way to go. And as we’ll see, pavers are one of the best materials you can use to create these projects.

Patio pavers go well in nearly any backyard with any decor. The design options are near limitless, and they require little maintenance. Best of all,  the patio paver usually requires a simple installation, especially if there are no curves or cutting of the paving stones required (such as if the patio will be a perfect rectangle without any restrictive borders like your home, a walkway, a pool, etc.). Thus, it is well within the range of the typical DIY homeowner.

Overall, the look, feel, and comfort of any backyard can be improved with the addition of patio pavers. As we can see in this picture, adding a table and chairs to your patio can make it a great place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors.

Types of Paver Patios

There are three general types of paver that can be used for a backyard patio: concrete, stone, or clay pavers. While this page will focus on the concrete variety, stone and clay (or brick) pavers are also a viable option. The major differences between these pavers and the concrete type are primarily in their looks and price. Stone pavers, for instance, look more ‘natural’ than concrete paving stones. However, this beauty costs. Otherwise, brick, stone, and concrete are largely the same in the following parameters.

There are many reasons to select concrete paving stones as the material that will make up your patio. The major reason is strength – they are both durable and flexible. The compact base underneath, as long as it is installed correctly, gives the concrete pavers patio stability while preventing major settling due to the bending and buckling when water freezes and thaws. This flexibility and durability is also increased by the joints between the pavers. For these reasons, pavers resist cracking and splitting which may befall other materials options. While the installation of a patio paver is usually more expensive than other options, like poured or stamped concrete or asphalt, the results are much more pleasing to the eye and easier to maintain in the long run.

Other Benefits of Patio Pavers

Using concrete pavers for patio construction is an especially good option if the patio is near a pool or if you live in an rainy environment, as the surface of the pavers are simultaneously smooth, ensuring a great look, while also being slip-resistant. Even if someone’s feet are wet and the pavers are wet, they will not slip as the surface gives enough friction to prevent this. Furthermore, as discussed above, unlike asphalt and concrete the patio  will not develop any cracks which someone could fall over. Thus patio patio paving stones are a great option if you like to entertain or if you have active children.

Maintenance and repair of these brick is also relatively simple. If you need to replace a paver that has been chipped or stained, simply pop it out and replace it with a new one. Maintenance is limited to periodic cleanings of the surface, refilling the joints with sand or joint material, and sealing the surface to protect it from water, fading, and stains.

What about other materials choices? Sure, you could throw down some easy and quick concrete. However, this material won’t look nearly as good as pavers,  even if you get the stamped or colored variety, and it won’t last as long – it will crack eventually. Even if budget is a consideration, you may still be able to find a paver project that’s right for you and your home.

Original photo by field outdoor spaces. http://www.flickr.com/photos/7282451@N02/417067726/ Used under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en.

Another example of a patio made with pavers. Note the waterfall in the background and the 'square' shape of the project.

Patio Paver Design

One of the other benefits of paving stones is the sheer number of options you have for design. As seen in the two photos on this site, you can create many different projects depending on the shape, dimensions, pattern, and color selections you make.

Here are some general design tips for a concrete paver patio. When it comes to design, the first major choice you need to made is on the brick level – what kind of paver to use. There are different styles, textures, surfaces, shapes, sizes, and colors of pavers. The paver you select will have a profound impact on the design options available to you.

Take, for instance, the shape of the pavers. You can buy paving stones in a variety of shapes, from the standard rectangles and squares to the more daring circles, octagons, zigzags, hexagons, and even irregular shapes. Obviously, the shape you pick will both determine and limit the patterns you can lay the brick in.

When choosing patio paver colors, make sure to see what would look the best given the color scheme of your house and backyard and any other distinguishing features of it. When deciding upon paver patterns for the patio (like herringbone or running bond) consider what might look the best given whatever structures are surrounding your project. Certain patterns will look different and give a different appearance, so be sure you know what a pattern will look like, and how it will interact with other features of your landscape and hardscape. You may consider working with a professional designer to maximize the beauty of your project, or you could try it yourself, especially if the project is simple.

For other pattern and design ideas, check out other parts of this site.

Installation and Laying of Patios

Depending on the size of your proposed patio, completion of the project could take anywhere from two days to a week or more. Budget in some extra time just in case the installation hits any snags or takes longer than expected. For more installation tips, see the “Installation” section of this site.

A very important consideration when planning out your paver designs is to consider the grade, or the slope, around your proposed area. You or your contractor will need to ensure that any water that may fall on the patio, like during heavy rains, will not simply lay there or, worse, flow back to your house, flooding your basement or doing other structural damage.  Also, if you are planning on installing your patio in a new area, make sure there are no important utility lines or cesspools that may disrupt the patio. Think of the behavior of your backyard – certain areas may be more weak than others, which could cause settling. Though concrete paving stones are strong individually and as an interlocking unit, without a firm foundation they can settle (though it is not in principle difficult to fix if they do).

One thing to keep in mind when planning a paver patio: whoever is installing your project, either you or a contractor, will need to get materials into the backyard. If you have a fence that blocks entry, you may have to take it down temporarily to admit machines and materials, if necessary. It is possible to dump the materials in your front yard and wheelbarrow them back by hand. This option however could add expense and time in order to properly complete the project. Work with your contractor to figure out what can be done to expedite the process.

The Cost of a Patio Made with Pavers

The cost of patio pavers will depend on a number of factors. In general, the average paver patio cost for an entire fresh installation (excavation, new sub base, pavers installed) can run anywhere from $8 to $15 a square foot. The actual price will depend on a number of factors, including some of the following:

  • Paver patio cost will depend on how much preparation needs to be done in the area. If there is an already existing installation, or if a lot of excavation and removal of material is required, prices will be higher than if the area is already prepped, or if the pavers will be installed over an existing concrete slab.
  • Geographical location. Your pavers will be more expensive if you live in an area with a higher standard of living.
  • Labor costs. The price of a paver patio will be lower if you do more of the installation and hard labor yourself. The more you give to contractors, the more you’ll have to pay.
  • The specific designs. A complex design will require more time and effort (especially in the form of cuts to the bricks) than a simple design, potentially adding to the expense.
  • The brand of pavers you select. Some are better quality than others and thus require a bit more money to purchase. However, you may want to invest in the higher quality paver so you won’t have to replace the installation as quickly as if you went with a cheaper, but less durable and beautiful, option.

Though the paver patio cost estimate seems rather high, it’s actually a great balance between strength, beauty, and value. You know you’ll have the patio for a long time, and it will also add to the value of your home, representing a strong investment in your home’s beauty and in your own financial life.

How to Install Concrete Pavers Yourself

Perhaps you’ve decided that hiring a professional might cost too much or be too expensive or risky; perhaps you trust in your own abilities to install concrete pavers, or you have a friend or family member in the trade, willing to help you. How do you go about installing paving stones for your driveway, patio, or walkway? Keep reading for some great hints, tips, and secrets for concrete pavers installation, straight from the source: someone who’s done it before! Installing pavers yourself is a great way to get a discount on your own project, as the labor costs are one of the major reasons for the relatively high prices of these installations.

Before beginning your installation, make sure you have all the paver tools and materials you’ll need to complete the project. This process also assumes that you’ve already selected the paver sizes, shape, style and colorof your brick.

Note that many of these instructions also apply to other paver materials – natural stone like flagstone pavers and cobblestone, brick pavers and clay pavers, rubber pavers, and even grass pavers. However, find instructions for these particular materials, as details may and will vary.

If you are ever unsure, it’s best to consult with a professional pavers contractor who can give you advice about your specific project. You may also get contractors to do particular parts of the installation; for instance, you can hire someone to do the excavation while you act as the installer.

For visual hints and tips on how to lay concrete pavers, see the videos at the bottom of this article.

  1. Determine the area in which the pavers will be installed, whether front yard, backyard, or the side of your house. Pavers can be used in many projects, including driveway driveway pavers, patio pavers, walkway pavers, garden pavers, and more. Come up with paver designs (yourself or professionally) for how the project will look. How long and wide will it be? Will it have pedestrian or vehicular traffic? Obtain or make a sketch or plan for your paving stone installation; you can draw it out on graph paper or regular paper, just make sure you have all the dimensions and important features of the terrain marked out. Also make sure that there are no utility lines where you will do the excavation.  TOOLS & MATERIALS: Paper, tape measure, pencil, camera.
  2. You’ll want to figure out the total square footage of the installation, as this will determine how much material (sand, aggregate, pavers, edging, etc.) you’ll need for the project. Don’t look to skimp on the cost of the project by not getting enough material – this will compromise the strength and beauty of the  project.
  3. Once you’re ready to begin the project, sketch out your project dimensions in the area in your yard. You can use spray paint, for instance, to mark out the grass and soil for excavation. Add a buffer of about 8 inches along the sides of the project, as you’ll want to leave extra room around the entire project to complete the job. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Spray paint.
  4. Excavate the area to the appropriate depth (6-8″ pedestrian,9-12″ vehicular). Use shovels and wheelbarrows to remove the grass, sod, soil, and fill as necessary. You may also use a Bobcat or other machine to help this process. Make sure to remove it from everywhere you’ve marked, even the extra 8 inches that you’ve added to all the sides of the project as a buffer. Be careful to note any utility or electrical lines in the area – you don’t want to dig up a nasty surprise! Call utility companies as necessary to prevent any further problems. Note: Make sure you complete your project during the warm months, because if the ground is frozen this step may be impossible or very difficult. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Shovels, wheelbarrow, pick, Bobcat (optional), container/truck (to remove dirt/grass).
  5. Establish grade (slope) to let water flow/drain. Make sure the driveway (or walkway or patio) doesn’t pitch towards the house, as then you may have flooding. Also make sure there are no holes or dips where water can congregate. Interlocking pavers do drain naturally, and advantage it has over poured concrete or asphalt, but you still need to be mindful of where the water is going to go once you’ve installed your concrete pavers. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Level (a laser level is best).
  6. Lay lines and corners with string and stakes to mark out your intended paver installation. Don’t forget to include some breathing room (about 6-8 inches) around the entire design, but make sure to mark out exactly where the pavers are going. Make sure they are straight and parallel/perpendicular to the house, pool, or whatever reference point you are using for your design. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Level, stakes, string, tape measure.
  7. Determine the amount of materials you will require – aggregate, sand, and concrete pavers (and joint dust, if necessary). Make allowances in your order for waste and for cuts – leave some room so you order enough! It is possible to order less than full pallets. You’ll want to add 5% to your square footage for pavers to account for cuts and waste; make it 10% if your project will have lots of cutting. When you order material, simply tell the supplier the square footage of the pavers you need. Note that some pavers and color blends don’t work well with particular sized installations, particularly if they are small.
  8. Compact sub base. You will need to obtain either a hand tamper or a compactor for this. A compactor can be bought, rented, or borrowed. This step will provide you with a solid, compacted base. After compacting, ensure that the grade is correct, as well as the depth. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Hand tamper/compactor, tape measure, shovel.
  9. Spread aggregate base (3-5″ pedestrian, 6-10″ vehicular) and compact. This serves as the main layer of the paver base. You might want to add some moisture to the project before compacting to help it compact together more tightly. You might have to add more aggregate base if the ground is soft, such as if it made of clay, to ensure a more stable installation. Make sure that the grade/depth is correct. You can obtain this aggregate base (recycled concrete) at your local mason or supply yard. You can also use gravel, limestone, or any other large stone material. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Recycled concrete/aggregate base, shovels, Bobcat (optional), wheelbarrow, compactor/hand tamper, tape measure.
  10. Note that this process uses no mortar or poured concrete. This material will just crack and decay over time, damaging the integrity of your paving stone project.
  11. You may want to add the aggregate base in multiple layers instead of one single layer – some compactors can only handle 3 inches of material at a time, so make sure you keep the layer thicknesses manageable. The more time and care you put into the base, the better. Once the broad grading is done, you’ll want to go in and confirm that all the levels and grades are correct. You can use pipes and screeds to make sure the aggregate base is at the perfect level. Compact one last time. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Aggregate base, metal pipes, metal screeds.
  12. Spread 1 to 1-1/2” of sand over base and screed. You can either use fine sand or polymeric sand that you purchase from your mason supply yard or paver manufacturer. To screed, lay down 1″ PVC pipes parallel to each other, and use a wooden plank or metal plank to level out the sand. Fill in the pipe holes with sand and level out by hand. This sand base should not be disturbed. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Sand, shovels, 1″ PVC pipes, screed.
  13. Place your concrete pavers in the paver patterns according to your designs, making sure to keep them tight to each other. Carefully think out your laying concrete pavers strategy – will you start the paver installation near the edge of the house? Near another landmark? Somewhere else? Which direction will you go? This is all important to prevent future delays and problems. If you have a border, like a soldier course, you may want to start there first. Make sure you inspect the pallets to ensure you have the right shape and color of concrete pavers that you ordered. When removing bricks from the pallets, don’t just take from one pallet, working from the top down. To ensure color variety, you need to take each column of pavers (from top to bottom) from multiple pallets in order to get the right color blend. Periodically check for depth, alignment, and straightness (using tape measure, carpenter’s square, etc.). Use a rubber mallet to keep the pavers tight together, if necessary, or to level out any individual paver. Make sure you put down a wooden board where you are kneeling, or where you may be walking back and forth, in order to prevent the pavers from being smashed into the ground and thus becoming unlevel and creating holes or dips. Also keep away from the edges of the project totally, as these are the most vulnerable to weight and shifting. While you’re laying pavers, make sure to continually check on the pattern – have you made any mistakes? Catch them and correct them before you lay too many more. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Concrete pavers, mallet, level, tape measure, wooden boards, knee pads.
  14. Cut borders/other stones as necessary. Use a pencil/crayon to mark the pavers as necessary in order to make the cuts. This will be especially important if you will be installing patio pavers near an immovable structure (such as a house or pool or yard) and if you need to have any circular patterns or curves. To make smooth curves, consider using a thin piece of wood and bend it along your edge, marking each brick as a piece of this curve. Use a wet saw with a diamond blade if you will have to do a lot of cuts; if only a few are required, a dry saw will do. If cutting the bricks when they are dry, be extra careful of particles that could damage your eyes, nose, etc. Wear proper safety equipment – gloves, safety glasses, and respiratory protection. Make sure you know cutting concrete pavers tips and methods before attempting it, as you could ruin the brick or hurt yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Wet/dry saw, pencil/crayon, straight edge.
  15. Put in edge restraints. There are many different kinds of paver edging, from plastic to aluminum to concrete. The best, in general, is aluminum edging. Make sure they are tight and backfilled with fill/topsoil if necessary. Pound in the spikes with your mini sledge hammer.
  16. If you are installing pool pavers, you may have to add coping or other material to surround the pool and pool deck aside from edging.
  17. You may want to give the paver project a first compacting without any more sand added to the joints. This first compacting will begin the process by which the pavers interlock.
  18. Sweep the surface clean, and then sweep in more sand (or other joint material) into the spaces between the bricks. You’ll want to make sure the sand is somewhat coarse and irregular to encourage proper compacting. There are special kinds of paver sand out there for you to use for this step if you want to. Then compact with a compactor; this will “lock in” your project due to the interlocking action of concrete pavers. You may have to compact more than once.
  19. Clear off the pavers with a gentle flow of water – make sure everything drains correctly through and across the paving stone project.

Congratulations! You’re done installing pavers, and you’ve finished your concrete pavers driveway, patio, walkway, or pool deck! Eventually, you’ll want to seal your pavers according to the instructions given to you by your manufacturer, but you won’t have to do this until the pavers have settled for a bit.

If you need more help, check out these installation videos.

First, a video on how to install the base for your paving stones:

Next, here’s how to install your pavers once the base has been laid:

The Basics of Concrete Pavers and Paving Stones

 

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/freddy/444395421/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Paving stones being installed.

What Are Concrete Pavers?

Concrete pavers (also known as paving stones) are interlocking bricks made out of concrete. They can be used to make beautiful and resilient (and near maintenance free) driveways, patios, walkways, or pool decks, among other uses (including commercial applications). Concrete paving stones have a long history, but have only recently become popular in the United States. Old ruins and archaeological finds have shown how ancient civilizations used them (in stone, not concrete form) for roads and pathways. The first concrete pavers made and installed were in Holland in the 1940s – this is where “Holland Stones” get their name today.

Concrete pavers are a very durable and robust material. Normal concrete can withstand 2000 pounds per square inch (psi). Paving stones, however, must meet a minimum of 8000 psi, and many exceed this number. Thus, a project made with paving stones will be at least four times as strong and durable as the same project made with concrete. These paving stones are built to last.

How They Work

Interlocking pavers interlock because they are bound to their neighbors very closely. The sides of the pavers are very rough, and get caught with each other. The friction prevents each paver from moving, thus keeping the structure together. Furthemore, the joint sand used in between the pavers increases this friction even further, helping bond the brick together in one interconnected whole. In addition, the pavers are “edged,” which helps keep outward pressure on the whole, maintaining the total friction between the blocks. Thus, pavers combine the best of both worlds – the strength of concrete with the flexibility required to withstand the freeze/thaw cycles and other forces of nature that would otherwise crack slabbed materials like concrete and asphalt.

How are Pavers Installed?

Either installed by the homeowner or by qualified and licensed and insured paver contractors (sometime known as a “mason”), these pavers are laid over a bed of compacted crushed aggregate base and fine (a.k.a. concrete) sand. The base of the project is the most important part; if little time is spent on the underlying foundation, the whole project will suffer. The brick are then filled with sand and compacted one more time. Depending on the size of the project, installation of the pavers can take from one to two days to a week or more.

Homeowners with the right skills and tools can also try to install concrete pavers themselves. A DIY paving project can help reduce the cost of the overall paving stone application while ultimately providing the homeowner with a wonderful hardscape creation.

How Can Paving Stones Be Used?

There are many potential projects for pavers, including driveways, patios, walkways, pool decks, garden and landscape applications, retaining walls, and more. Since the same pavers – colors blends and sizes – can be used for all these projects, homeowners can have a yard that looks professionally planned and created; there’s no need to have a hodge podge of materials dotting your hardscape and landscape! In addition, the wide variety of paver shapes, sizes and colors affords the homeowner many design possibilities. Thus, paving stones go well with nearly any home design and theme, as they are a very versatile and useful material.

What Are the Benefits of Paving Stones?

Installing concrete pavers in a new backyard patio or pool deck is a great way to increase the quality time spent with friends and family at your own home, potentially saving you travel costs for expensive vacations. They also offer numerous safety benefits – pool pavers, for instance, do not get slippery when wet, making it safe if people walk or run on them during summer play. Paving stone installations also increase the property value of your home, thus also representing an investment in your family’s financial future. For commercial projects, installing paving stones gives businesses a clean, professional, and aesthetically pleasing look – first impressions are important, and paver stones can give a great first impression to  customers.

Pavers are also relatively maintenance free, especially compared to certain materials options like loose stone and asphalt. Snow removal is quite easy, and sealing pavers occasionally will keep them looking beautiful for many years, though this is not required. In addition, as long as the pavers are well-installed, a paver project should last for many decades. They thus represent a fantastic long-term investment.

How Much Do They Cost?

Paving stones are of moderate cost, usually ranging from $8 to $15 per square foot for materials and installation by a contractor. The pavers cost can be reduced by installing them yourself or by looking for pavers for sale.

Many paving stones companies will guarantee their products with a warranty, so hoemowners won’t have to worry about the material cracking or coming apart for a long time. If any damage does occur, the offending pavers can be easily removed and replaced with fresh, undamaged pavers.

More information about pavers can be by reading this hardscaping FAQ.