Building a Paver Patio – Hints and Tips

A new driveway is probably the best investment you can make in your home’s hardscape and landscape. But a close second is a new patio, as it’s both a great financial investment and an investment in your enjoyment of your home and backyard. In addition, the best material to use for this purpose – the material that will maximize the beauty and value of your new patio – are concrete pavers.

Best of all, if you have any sort of home improvement skill, you can install these patio pavers yourself! Note that if you don’t think you can handle building a paver patio, there are plenty of paver contractors who you can hire to do the job for you. Still, you should consider giving a DIY patio a try. This article will give you some tips and tricks to help inform you how to build a paver patio for the lowest cost and the lowest hassle.

In addition, we want you to get the job done right! So some of these tips will be essentials when it comes to properly installing your new paving stone project, so listen up!

Picturing and Designing Your Paver Patio

The first step, after deciding to install a new patio, of course, is to plan and design your new application. Of course, you have near limitless options here, both in the size, shape, pattern, and color scheme of your new patio, so we can’t go into all those options here. The key is, of course, getting all of those features down in a sketch, or at least in writing, so that you can move on to the next stages in your building project.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, or don’t have any ‘eye’ for design, you can outsource this step. At the same time, I’d advise you not to underrate your own abilities – you know what you want and what you like better than anyone else. This site can give you plenty of ideas for sizes, shapes, colors, and patterns, so there’s a start for you at least. Check out our section on design ideas!

You should also tailor your design to your skill level. In other words, adding fancy curves and dips and steps to your project will be an unfortunate proposition if this is your first DIY concrete pavers project. Thus, sticking to the basics (rectangles and squares) is a good idea for most homeowners. While curves are nice, some patios may actually be better designed when they stick to the ‘basics.’

Your Material Choices – Pavers for Patio

This article assumes that you’re using concrete pavers, or paving stones, for your next project. In truth, natural stone or brick pavers will be similar to concrete pavers in many ways, though there may be some tips specific to those materials as well.

Once you’ve figured out the plan for your next project, you need to pick the brand of paver you’ll use, the type, and the colors. Of course, picking one of these options will, in some ways, require adhering to another choice. For example, if you pick one brand of pavers over the others due to price, you’ll be limited to the colors and types of brick that that company sells.

You’ll need to order your brick, crushed aggregate, and sand according to the square footage of your project. Before you call the paver manufacturer or mason supply yard, make sure to have the dimensions and square footage, along with any other special needs, at hand. They will tell you how much material you’ll need to complete the job. The exact amount will vary on so many factors that it won’t be very helpful if you were given an estimate here.

If saving money is your game, there’s plenty of information on this site on how to find pavers for sale.

Beginning Your Paver Project

This section will just be a brief overview of the important factors that you need to consider when installing your new patio. For a more detailed discussion of the steps needed to install paving stones, see this CPG article on paver installation.

One thing you’ll want to do is ‘simulate’ using your patio. This means laying down your furniture in the dimensions of your new project. This is done to ensure that the space is ‘liveable’ and that no conflicts between the size of the patio and your furniture will develop.

Another thing to keep in mind is grading, or pitch. You want to make sure that your patio is sloped away from your house or other sensitive areas of your yard. This will make sure that water doesn’t flood your basement, garden, or other areas of your home.

Before digging in your backyard, make sure that you note the location of any utility lines. It can be both messy and dangerous if you split a wire or water line. You can call your utility company to do this for you; many will do the service for free, so don’t worry about the expense.

The most important thing, bar none, when it comes to the quality of your project is the foundation, or sub-base. Spend most of your time on this aspect of the project – it will be time well spent. A poor base will mar even the strongest patio installation for years to come.

When installing your patio, make sure your family members know not to step in the area while construction is under way. Disturbing the base or sand bed is obviously a good thing, but they should not even walk on the pavers until they have been properly edged and compacted. This includes pets, too – having Fido do his business in your freshly prepared base is a headache and a half!

Don’t feel compelled to do all this work in one sitting or one weekend. In fact, for large patios, this may not even be possible. Dedicate one weekend, for example, to properly preparing the base. Spend the next on laying the pavers and applying the finishing touches.

The Verdict

In the end, installing a new paver patio is within the ‘wheelhouse’ of more homeowners than may be normally assumed. Pavers are relatively easy to work with a forgiving to newbies – unlike poured concrete and asphalt, as their drying process is a “one shot deal.”

In addition, if you want some more outdoor patio ideas, go ahead and read this CPG article that will give you ten great ones to get you started on your next project!

10 DIY Patio Ideas

Among all the outdoor projects that you can build to enhance your own, the patio is among the most fun and valuable. Having a comfortable and beatiful place to entertain friends and family is worth the price of installation, and it will pay itself off many times over the years of use you’ll get out of it.

Best of all, if you have the skills and desire, you can make your own patio without needing to hire a contractor and bear the brunt of that expense. In fact, a DIY patio is a great first project, as it is hidden in your backyard and doesn’t have to deal with vehicular traffic. If you messed up a new DIY driveway, for example, you’d have much more of a headache on your hands.

To help you with your DIY paving project, we are giving you ten DIY patio tips to stimulate your creativity and get you thinking about your next project.

Note: You can also find 10 DIY concrete pavers tips here.

  1. The first major decision you have to make is picking your material that will use. Some are more appropriate for homeowner installation than others. Concrete pavers, for example, are highly recommended here, as they are easy to work with and install. The only difficult aspect of a DIY patio pavers project is preparing the base – this is the most important part of the project, so the utmost amount of care should be taken to make sure it’s right. Your other options are brick pavers and natural stone pavers – these are similar to install, but they are more expensive, so are usually not recommended for beginners. Concrete is easy to work with if you know what you are doing, but difficult if you are unskilled.
  2. When designing your new patio, don’t be hemmed in by the old shape and size (if you have an old patio that you’re replacing, of course). Be creative and aggressive – expand your DIY patios beyond their original borders and outside of their previous shape.
  3. Even if you want to do the entire project yourself, you have a backup plan if things go sour – you can subcontract out pieces of the project that you can’t handle or are having problems with. This way you can still save money while making sure the job is done right. An example of this is with the paver patio – you might want to have someone come in and excavate the old base and install the new one. You can then lay the pavers on the sand bed yourself and complete the finishing touches.
  4. Speaking of finishing touches, don’t forget them. Many little tweeks are easy to do yourself and can add much beauty and value to your patio. For example, when laying your pavers, your do it yourself patio can be fashioned into an interesting pattern with a good color scheme. If you are installing a concrete patio, you can use concrete patio paint or outdoor patio tile to help spruce up the appearance of the plain concrete slab.
  5. If you want the look of pavers without the expense, go with stamped concrete for your DIY patio. You can find concrete stamps for sale and concrete patio molds to make the shapes and designs you want; simply press them into the surface of the still wet concrete. You should only do this, however, if you live in a mild environment that doesn’t experience regular freezing and thawing in the winter.
  6. Don’t forget the accessories. You can also DIY your own enclosed patios, patio doors, awnings, canopies, and other aspects of your patio that will add both form and function. Don’t forget the furniture or barbecue, either.
  7. If you are having trouble coming up with a unique and effective design for your patio, you can hire a contractor or designer to create the plans for you. This is often worth the investment, as the designer can give you suggestions as to what works best with your backyard, home style, and landscape theme.
  8. Think big. Just because you’re working on a patio doesn’t mean you can’t add other pieces at the same time. Consider building walkways, driveways, and pool decks at the same time as you’re making your patio. It will be easier and more cost effective to create all of it at once than to split up the projects across many months and years.
  9. Be free with your design. Don’t stick to straight (perpendicular and parallel) lines if you want something more. For example, if you are using pavers, consider adding circle kits and curves to your design.
  10. If you want more information on how to build a patio, consult with resources pertaining to your particular material. This website deals especially with pavers and paving stones of all kinds, so you might have to find other resources on concrete and other materials.

10 DIY Concrete Pavers Tips

If you are thinking of trying your hand at a DIY concrete pavers project, there’s a lot you should know before you begin. Whether you’re building a driveway, walkway, patio, or some other project, the more informed you are, and the more effort you put into the project, the better the final results.

While we can’t give you every piece of information you’ll need – though much of it can be found in other articles on this website – we can give you the top 10 most important pieces of information that you can use for your DIY pavers project. Some of them have to do with cutting costs, others with making sure the project is built correctly, and still others about paver designs and project ideas. All together, these tips represent the most important things you should know (and think about) before attempting your own paving project:

Ten DIY Concrete Pavers Tips

(1) Plan ahead – don’t wing it and expect that the project will turn out brilliantly. Think about the project you want to make, its dimensions, its patterns and designs. For instance, if you’re laying a DIY paver patio, sketch out its dimensions on paper and then use spray paint, stakes, and string to lay out the dimensions of the project in your yard. The more you plan, the better you’ll be able to anticipate potential problems. Plus, it will tell you how much material you’ll need.

(2) The key to any paver project is its base. The more effort you put into the sub-base – made of crushed aggregate and sand – the better the project will turn out and the longer it will last. Don’t take shortcuts here – it may be tempting to lay the pavers over concrete, but this will be a suboptimal solution. You might consider contracting this part of the process if you don’t feel comfortable in your abilities.

(3) Though DIY paving projects are a great way to save money, don’t go too cheap, both in the amount of time and money you spend. You don’t want substandard materials, especially the brick, as these will fade and break over time. You want to use quality material and quality tools in addition to quality processes to ensure that the final product will turn out to be of professional grade.

(4) Speaking of grades, pay special attention to making sure the slope of your project will permit water to drain in the right places. The project should slope away from the home, flowerbeds, or any other sensitive area; if possible, have it slope towards a drain of some kind so that the majority of the water will leave your property (this is most appopriate for driveways that are close to the street). Having a flooded basement or landscaping can ruin what was otherwise a successful project!

(5) When digging, be careful not to dig up any utility lines. This can be both expensive and dangerous if you cut or damage these lines. If you don’t know where they are, hire a utility expert (or ask the town) to find out where the lines are.

(6) If you are thinking about installing more than one project (such as a paver walkway and patio), consider doing them at the same time. “Chunking” them in this way will be the most efficient, both in terms of time and money, as you’ll be able to order materials and pavers in bulk and use your own time and labor more efficiently than if you separate the installations of the projects in time.

(7) To that end, do think about adding other additions to your projects. If you started out thinking only of doing a DIY patio pavers project, for instance, you may want to consider adding a walkway, driveway, pool deck, garden project, or other application to the schedule. If you already have the materials and the time, it may not be that much more expense to expand the project and have more of your yard look integrated within the overall design.

(8) Though we advocate concrete pavers here, do realize that there are other hardscape options at your disposal, such as brick and natural stone pavers. While these materials are more expensive than concrete, you will at least be able to install them yourself, removing labor costs from the equation.

(9) Use the right tools for the job. This will save you both time and aggravation. You don’t have to buy these paver tools, either – you can rent a plate compactor and diamond blade wet saw, for example.

(10) If you are unsure, ask for help. Your paver manufacturer is the first source to go with specific questions about your project, as they will be able to offer you free advice that may help. For more specific, urgent problems, lean on the advice of paver contractors, even if this means you have to pay one for the help. Paying a little up front for good information may save you a lot of money and hassle down the line.

A Definitive Driveway Paving Guide

The first thing visitors and passerbys will see when they look at your house – besides your house, of course – will be the driveway. A well designed and well installed residential driveway, made from quality materials, will accentuate the fine appearance of your home, even taking a modest home and turning it into something more. A pathetic driveway, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect – a crumbling mess can make even the nicest home look less valuable.

So, you’re probably considering a new driveway paving project, either for functional or aesthetic reasons, or perhaps both. Fortunately, and unfortunately, there are plenty of driveway paving materials available for you to choose from. Fortunately, insofar as you’ll be able to pick the perfect driveway for your home, given your budget, but unfortunately because the inexperienced homeowner may feel overwhelmed by choice. Paving a driveway is a complex affair: Which material should you use? Should you install it yourself as a DIY paving project? How do you hire a contractor? These and many other questions might be going through your mind right now. To help you out, this driveway paving guide will help you sort out the various aspects of this process, both to help answer questions you have and to better inform your ongoing research process.

A driveway is a huge investment in your home, both in your time and financial resources, so you’ll want to spend time doing your due diligence. The more research, the better. We hope that this article reveals and guides you in your quest!

BUDGETS AND COSTS

Before going further, you’ll need to sketch out your basic budget. Obviously, you’ll want to have a range, as sometimes costs can add up faster than you expect, especially if your job will require special work.

Which material is the cheapest? This is a different question from “which material is the most valuable?” You may pay more money, in absolute terms, for one material, but end up making more in the long run given the quality of the material and the potential to increase your home’s value. Thus, don’t necessarily think only in terms of sheer prices per square foot, but rather in short and long term costs and value.

If you’d like a general cost estimate to get you started, here is a general scale for price for the most common driveway materials for both materials and labor, all other things being equal: To

Stone < Asphalt < Concrete < Concrete Pavers < Brick Pavers < Natural Stone Pavers

To get a more specific estimate, you can read this article on driveway paving cost or you can find  a cost calculator for these products for a decent guide, but the only true measure will be an estimate from a local contractor.

Let’s talk about the relative merits of each material.

WHAT DO YOU WANT IN A DRIVEWAY?

After budget, the next questions you need to ask yourself are about performance and looks. First, performance – you’re going to be driving and parking on this surface, so you want to make sure it won’t break apart. Most driveway materials will have no problem standing up to this kind of abuse – as long as they’re installed in a proper manner. This is why it’s critical to find a skilled contractor – if you look for a bargain, you may get a disaster instead. Go with quality.

Next, aesthetics. This may be a very small concern of yours after the above two – paving cost and how well and long the driveway holds up – but it’s still important, especially considering you’ll be living with the driveway for many years. In general, go with the materials that have more design options – usually, these are your paving stone materials, as they come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, and thus give you more freedom to create.

Depending on your project and circumstance, you may have other concerns to consider. For example, you may have environmental concerns to balance; in this case, you’d want to avoid materials like asphalt that damage the environment or any driveway material that isn’t permeable in order to allow for proper water drainage. A good material to look into in this case are grass pavers or other permeable alternatives.

DRIVEWAY PAVING MATERIALS

As stated in the cost section above, the most popular materials for your driveway include loose stone (gravel, for example), asphalt, concrete, concrete pavers, brick pavers, and natural stone pavers. The material you choose will depend on a large number of factors, not least of which is your budget. This will probably be the main determinant of your final selection. Truth be told, if you had an unlimited budget, you’d surely go for one of the pavers options, and probably with the most expensive option – one of the natural stone pavers. However, most of us need to settle with more affordable options, which is why concrete and asphalt, in particular, are so popular.

For a long discussion of the relative merits of each material, check out this discussion on the merits of stamped concrete vs pavers and a comparison of all the other materials mentioned above in terms of strength, durability, maintenance, price/value, and more. Note, however, that there also other materials out there, from paving flags and concrete slabs to macadam and block paving and everything in between. Thus, this discussion isn’t exhaustive, but it will at least highlight the most common and popular material types available.

Even if we go with these inexpensive options, we still shouldn’t settle for “cheap” necessarily. There is a big, big difference between high quality and low quality asphalt driveway paving, for example, so keep this in mind when shopping around with potential driveway paving contractors.

MAINTENANCE AND YOUR DRIVEWAY

The sticker price you pay at first installation may not be the only money you lay out over the lifetime of the driveway. Consider what maintenance costs, both in dollars and in your time, may also come with that material. It may be prudent, for example, to invest more now for a low-maintenance material (concrete) than to pay a little bit now for a material that won’t hold up as well over time and will require more maintenance and repair (e.g. asphalt).

Blacktop, for instance, will require periodic maintenance to keep it looking fine. Over time, it will fade and crack, showing the aggregate within the structure, and will thus not look as nice. To keep it looking great, you’ll probably have to get some sealcoating or resurfacing work done; if you don’t, that’s fine, but be ready to deal with a less than optimal driveway. Even paving stones will require occasional concrete paver sealer; usually homeowners will be able to go on sealing pavers themselves, so it usually is not much more of an added expense aside from the time spent working on the project.

TEN DRIVEWAY PAVING IDEAS

To finish this article, we’d like to leave you with ten design ideas and construction tips that you may want to consider when getting your new driveway. Of course, these are just suggestions, but hopefully they’ll spur your own ideas and thoughts when it comes time to craft designs and plan your own outdoor creation.

1. If you’re going with the traditional materials, like concrete or asphalt, don’t limit yourself to the standard iteration of these materials. For instance, you can get stamped concrete to look like paving stones at a fraction of the cost. You can also use stains and finishes to make your concrete look totally different from the typical drab, grey appearance.

2. Consider adding a walkway, patio, or pool deck at the same time as your driveway. You can have an integrated project while also saving more money overall if you get it all done at once.

3. Watch out for scams, especially for companies that will come in, excavate your old driveway, and leave you hanging for weeks or even months while they get other jobs in the area, all just to save them a few bucks. Read reviews, do your research – for instance, here’s some information on how to hire the best paver contractors. These questions can be asked of any contractor, as well.

4. Consider matching your new driveway with new landscaping.

5. Don’t just automatically copy the old design for your new driveway. Consider making the driveway bigger or smaller, depending on your needs, and think about the design flairs you can add, such as curves and sections.

6. You can mix and match options – if you can’t afford driveway pavers, for instance, consider mixing an asphalt or concrete driveway with a paver apron, border, or walkway. Thus, you can capture some of the beauty of this material without the full expense.

7. Don’t balk about hiring professional design services if you need the help. For a small investment up front, you can have a driveway created for your that will go best with your decor and your home’s style and theme.

8. Consider adding other flairs to your driveway, such as fans, circle kits, benches, retaining walls, and more.

9. Pick a color that complements, not necessarily matches, your home’s colors.

10. Finally, if you really need to save money but want to use a brilliant material, consider the driveway a do it yourself project. If you know how to pave a driveway yourself, and have the skills and experience and tools to do the job safely and correctly, you can save money on labor, making a job more affordable, though of course you’ll be paying some of the ‘cost’ of the driveway in your time.

Concrete Stamps for Sale: Finding and Using Them

One of the great advantages of concrete is its relatively cheap price and ease of installation. However, its main downfall, besides the problem of cracking, is its looks – concrete is grey, drab, and pretty boring to look at. It goes fine with most decors, but it isn’t the most optimal material to use for most projects.

However, there are ways to spruce up your concrete project so that it will be more stylistically interesting. The most common method is installing stamped concrete. Stamped concrete has particular designs, shapes, and textures ‘stamped’ into the wet concrete in order to make it look like something else. Combined with concrete paints and finishes, an otherwise boring slab of concrete can be made to look like something finer – concrete or natural stone pavers, bricks, and even wood! Luckily, making your own stamped concrete is relatively easy, as long as you can pour it yourself, making installing stamped concrete a viable DIY project for many homeowners who have the skills and time. Note, however, that some stamping projects can be challenging, so when in doubt, go with a professional whose work you admire to ensure that your project turns out right.

If you are interesting in a do it yourself stamped cement project, you’ll need to buy concrete stamps that you can use to create the designs you want. This article will describe the tools, materials, and products you’ll need for successful concrete stamping. It will also give suggestions for how to find and save money on concrete stamps for sale.

The Different Kinds of Concrete Stamps

The number of concrete stamp patterns out there is simply astounding. You can find every kind of designs, from regular patterns like brick and stone to irregular shapes and textures. You can also find interesting shapes and designs that you can use to make your concrete patio, walkway, driveway, pool deck, or other installation uniquely your own.

The following is a list of decorative concrete stamps – it is not an exhaustive list, of course, but it does cover many of the most popular varieties of designs and textures. Using stamps, your concrete can look like:

  • Stone
  • Rock
  • Tile
  • Brick
  • Pavers
  • Granite
  • Cobblestone
  • Wood
  • Pebbles
  • Slate

You can also add the following textures and designs:

  • Seamless textures
  • Beach
  • Borders
  • Fans
  • Circles
  • Animals
  • Names
  • Words
  • and much, much more.

In fact, it may even be possible to make or obtain custom stamps – you are thus only limited by your imagination and your budget.

The Properties of Concrete Stamps

Most stamps are made from rubber and plastic, making them flexible, light, and easy to work with. They can be easily washed and reused from job to job, so you won’t have to worry about having to buy new ones.

There are two main types. For small jobs, you can simply buy one unit stamps or stencils. For instance, if it’s a shape of dolphin, you only need to have a single dolphin stencil that you apply where needed. However, if you have a pattern that repeats, such as a cobblestone, paver, brick, or stone appearance, you’ll need to buy mats. Mats are simply big versions of normal stamps – they contain the “unit pattern” so that you can have it repeat regularly throughout the entire surface of the concrete. These mats vary in size, depending on the pattern, but most are in the 4 square feet range.

Using Concrete Stamps – Some How To Notes

How many stamps will you need? Stamps can be expensive, so you may feel tempted to save money by skimping on the number you purchase, but don’t! You’ll need at least enough to go across the whole width of the project, plus a couple to start the next course. Think about it – you want the texture or pattern to be even and nicely distributed. Any mistakes can be costly to the appearance of the final project. In addition, you want to be able to stamp everything necessary within the time that the concrete is wet and amenable to stamping. If you are too slow, you may have serious problems with the final result.

Note that stamps should only be used on concrete 2 inches thick or more. While stamping and staining may be a potential DIY project for someone with the experience and skills to do it, it can be challenging, and mistakes can make a concrete slab look terrible – this can be a very expensive mistake to make. Unless you have the chance to practice and find out what works, it may be best to leave all this to the professionals. In that case you wouldn’t have to buy or rent concrete stamps, so it may be worth it in the end.

The Cost of Concrete Stamps

The cost of the stamps depends on a number of factors, including the size and pattern of the stamp. In general, expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $250 per stamp. Most of the time, these stamps are bought by contractors who will use them on the job. This is due in part to the fact that these stamps are incredibly expensive for many homeowners to purchase in the quantity necessary. However, there are other options available to these homeowners, including renting and buying used stamps. See the saving money section below.

What Else You May Need

There are some other concrete stamping tools and products you might need to fill out your concrete project. First, in terms of using the stamps, you may need floppies or flexes; a tamper; and other hand tools. If you want to give your concrete a different color or stain, you may need acid stains, colors, release agents, and other materials. You may also need particular forms and molds to properly shape your concrete creations.

Saving Money on Concrete Stamps

One way to save money if you need stamps for a single job is to find stamps for rent. Finding rental concrete stamps may be difficult to do if you don’t have a supply yard or a contractor in your area willing to do this. You may also be able to find used concrete stamps for sale, either from individual homeowners or from professional contractors.

Note that it also may be possible for you to create your own stamps and patterns out of materials and objects laying around your house. Use your creativity and don’t be afraid to test on sample (and eventually disposable) concrete.

How to Make Concrete Pavers and Stepping Stones

If you want to use concrete pavers for your next outdoor applications, you are not limited to purchasing the materials directly from manufacturers, mason supply yards, or home improvement stores. In fact, if you want to save money, you can make concrete pavers from the comfort of your own home!

Note, as well, that you can make many other concrete materials with this method. If you want to learn how to make concrete stepping stones, bricks, blocks, statues, and other shapes, read on, as much of the information below will apply.

Warnings and Things to Know Before Making Concrete Pavers

The benefits of making your own paving stones are clear. You’ll save money per stone due to the low costs of concrete. (See below, however, on this point, as you may not save as much money as you think.) In addition, you’ll be able to make the brick to your liking, and you won’t have to get involved with dealing with manufacturers, supply yards, and delivery of the material to your home.

There are a few caveats to keep in mind before you make your own concrete pavers. First, realize that you shouldn’t do this unless you have the experience and skills required to work with concrete. If you’ve never poured concrete before and shaped it in molds, you may not be able to create “reproducible” bricks. In other words, each paver needs to be near identical in order for the project to work. (This is true, to an extent, even with an irregular pattern filled with different sized paving stones.) Thus, if you don’t have the abilities required, you’re probably better off buying them pre-made.

Second, if you have a large installation coming up that will require a lot of brick, this may not be the best method for you. Think about it – if you can only produce 10 pavers at a time, and you need 1000, how long is it going to take you to get the supply you’ll need to finish the project? If the project is small, such as a mini-patio, it may be more doable. You could increase the size of the pavers, making the more slabs or flags, to lower the numbers of total stones you’ll need to make. Of course, if you only need a few of the materials, such as for stepping stones, then you won’t have this problem.

In fact, making tons of pavers may not even be cost effective if you take your own time and effort into account. If it takes you twenty hours to make all the brick you need, how much are you really ‘spending’ through the value of your time? This is true even if the concrete itself is dirt cheap.

One final reason not to make your own materials is that you’ll be limited in your design options. Making concrete pavers is difficult enough without worrying about color, size, shape, and so on. With manufactured pavers, you’ll be able to select from a wide variety of style, color blends, and shapes that you can then use to complement your already existing home design. The most basic do-it-yourself pavers will be an ugly, flat grey – usually not that appealing, especially if aesthetics matter for that particular project.

If none of these warnings apply to you, read on!

How to Make Concrete Pavers

First, you’ll have to obtain molds for your pavers. There are two ways of doing this. First, you can buy molds pre-made. Doing this will allow you to pick the size and shape of concrete paving stone that you want to make.

The second option is to make your own paver molds – click here if you want to learn how.

Once you have your molds, it’s time to make your ‘paver factory.’ Set aside a part of your yard that will stay dry if it rains. Put some ‘mold release agent’ inside the mold to prevent the paver from sticking to the mold when it dries.

Mix the concrete as directed, and pour it into your molds. Spread it to make sure it is level and covers all the corners. Bounce the concrete and mold to get rid of any air bubbles. Let them solidify over the next 24-48 hours. Remove the bricks or the molds when they are done, and prepare the next set.

Note: if you want to add color or texture to your brick, do it during the pouring phase, as it will need to be mixed in with the wet concrete ahead of time. Consider experimenting, as well, with the shapes, sizes, and textures on the paver right after it has been poured in the mold.

Once you’ve created all the pavers, stepping stones, or blocks you need, lay them as needed according to your design. Good luck!

Concrete Staining: Do It Yourself!

Concrete is a great material for both outdoor and indoor applications. It is strong, durable, and long-lasting, as well as quite cheap for most projects. Its major downfall is its looks – concrete is simply boring to look at and doesn’t match with many home themes and indoor decors. Luckily, it is possible to change the outward appearance of the concrete through concrete staining. Concrete staining do it yourself is very doable for many homeowners, though there are things to keep in mind to do it economically, safely, and effectively.

Benefits of Staining Concrete

As already explained, staining concrete will add a nice color to your floor, patio, walkway, etc., one that you can match to the other features of your home to have a more integrated design. Another benefit of the stain is its sealing properties, as it will help protect the concrete from unwanted stains, dirt, and damage. Note, however, that you may want to lay down a layer of sealer before you stain the concrete to further protect the surface.

A further benefit has to do with the texture of the concrete. Over time, even the hardest concrete will show signs of wear and tear, including cracks and blemishes and rough textures. Concrete stain will help smooth and even out the surface. This is an advantage over painting, patching, and polishing, as these will have to be redone every once in a while.

There are two main types of stain. The first only lays a thin layer on the top of the concrete. It worms its ways into the pores and imperfections of the surface. This is the acrylic stain; it works best with old concrete, though it can also work with new as well. It is good for hiding these imperfections. While this is less serious and cheaper, it will not last as long to weather, traffic, and abuse. The other kind reacts with the surface of the concrete to provide a deeper, and thus more hardy and long lasting, stain. This is the acid stain – it reacts with the calcium carbonate and lime of the concrete. The acid concrete stain will actually accentuate any imperfections on the concrete and works better with new concrete. The stains you use will depend on the properties of your concrete and the effect you’re going for, as well as the traffic and weathering that you expect the stain to experience. A harder concrete surface will require deeper penetration of the stain, while a rougher and/or more porous concrete surface will require stain that will ooze into the holes best.

Concrete Stain Do It Yourself Tips

In general, if you have the skills and are open to staining concrete, do it yourself. You’ll save money and do the job the way you want it to be done. Of course, if you don’t have the skills or the confidence, you can always hire a contractor. Note, however, that a improperly applied stain will look terrible, so make sure you do your research and potentially practice on a less visible area before attempting this. Note that the stain is permanent, so be careful with your design and installation decisions!

Before applying stain, make sure to have safety equipment in place, as this material can be very harmful to your skin and lungs. Whenever engaging in acid stain concrete do it yourself activities, wear goggles, thick clothing, and a mask. Make sure you have plenty of ventilation so that fumes don’t build up.

Next, clean the surface of the concrete as best you can to remove all blemishes and debris that is removable. Get concrete cleaner or use a sandblaster for this step. At this point, you may apply one layer of sealant with a paint brush and paint roller. Allow the sealer to dry before continuing with the next steps.

Follow the instructions on the staining package to determine how to prepare the stain. You may have to experiment here to find the texture, color, and other features of the stain that you want for your concrete. You can do this by finding other concrete, either blocks, old patches in your yard, or concrete slabs you create just for testing. The more you dilute the stain, the different the color will appear; you can also experiment with different ways to create designs and patterns on your concrete, if desired.

How you apply the stain will depend on the effect you’re looking for. If you just want an even coat, apply it with paint brushes and rollers. However, if you want special patterns, you’ll have to be more creative. Consider covering certain objects with the acid stain and then laying them on the concrete to create the patterns you like. Allow the stain to dry, and add a second layer if you want.

Never rush when applying your stain. Properly applied, concrete acid stain can look great. However, if you rush it, it will end up looking terrible, perhaps worse than it did before, and you’ll regret your efforts. Take your time, put in the effort, use your creativity, and it will turn out great.

Sealing Pavers: Everything You Need to Know

Paver installations – driveways, patios, walkways, etc. – are very low maintenance to start. They will last for years with only marginal upkeep. If you wanted them to totally be left alone, you could do this and not worry about the structure falling apart (like concrete) or looking absolutely awful (like asphalt).

Still, you may be wondering how to keep your investment looking as beautiful and strong as the day you got it. One way to further improve and maintain the look and durability of your pavers is by using a sealer. Over time, depending on the brand of paver, wind, water, and the sun might make the colors fade. Joint sand can begin to disappear, and weeds and ants can start invading your installation. Sealing pavers is a great way to prevent or reduce these unwanted effects of time. This article will explain how to seal pavers and give some hints and tips to get the biggest bang for your buck and time.

Why You Want to Seal Pavers in the First Place

There are many reasons to use sealers on your paving stones. Sealers protect your pavers from stains and water damage. The “finish” of the particular sealer may increase the beauty of the paving stone, bringing out the colors vividly. It will also make it easier to maintain, as you can easily wash away any dirt, and weeds and ants become significantly reduced. The sealer can also harden the sand in the joints, making the whole patio, driveway, or walkway even more solid. This also prevents water and ants and wind from scooping out the sand between the joints, requiring you to constantly replace and refill the sand. Sealers can be applied every year or every two years, when possible. In general, a good seal will last you around 2-4 years, though you can do it whenever you think the appearance or durability of the project requires it. However, do not seal your paving stones until the efflorescence (white chalky material) has disappeared from the pavers. This can take about three months occur. The reason for this is that the sealer not only keeps things out – it also keeps them in. Thus, the pavers won’t be able to breath to help get rid of the white chalky material if they’ve been sealed up tight.

How to Seal Pavers Effectively – the Materials

If you decide to go about paver sealing, there are some steps you should follow. First, make sure the installation is clean. You can use acids to do this, but some acids (like muriatic acid) are harsh. Look for masonry cleaners instead. Power washing will also help drastically – look for a washer that can deliver 2400 psi or more.

Clean Before Sealing Pavers

First, give the area a good clean. Make sure no heavy dirt, weeds, stones, and other objects are on the project. Use the power washer to remove surface dirt. When power washing, spread the water from the highest point down in order to push the water down the grade. Some sand will be removed from the joints, but make sure it’s not too much.You will also want to make sure any stains or dirt is removed from the surface before you start sealing concrete pavers. This may require you to do some spot cleaning of particularly troublesome stains – otherwise the stains will be ‘trapped’ underneath the sealer, and it will be difficult or impossible to remove them after the fact.

Also make sure that there are no broken or cracked pavers, and that no settling or other damage has occurred to the project. If there is, fix it before proceeding. Finally, sweep in more joint sand in order to replace any that has been lost, either over time or because of your cleaning. You should spend a lot of time on this part of the process – the more you invest here, the better the final product will look. Don’t rush! If you feel like doing a substandard job, you could outsource this to a contractor who will (hopefully!) do the job right.

Prep is Done – Let’s Complete the Job

After letting the patio, driveway, walkway etc. stand for a few days to dry and settle, you may begin to seal pavers. With the water-based paver sealer you obtained from a store or the internet, follow the directions written for that particular sealer. Each sealer will have varying instructions, but pay attention to how it should be applied, how many coats, how long it should stand, etc. Use a sprayer, roller, or brush to evenly apply the sealer on the surface of the installation. Do not use too much, as this could damage the project. Make sure the area is dry before walking on it.

WARNING: When selecting any cleaner or sealer to use on your pavers, check with the manufacturer to make sure that the product won’t do any harm to the paving stones. Always consult with your local contractor or manufacturer when you are considering sealing pavers. Some may not recommend it for you, given the climate, paver brand, or installation features. If too much sealant is used, water can get trapped – pavers need to breathe!

Tools and Materials Needed to Install Concrete Pavers

Having the right tools and materials for the job is incredibly important when it comes to installing a new paver project. To help you out with your next DIY paving project, here is a listing of both the paver tools that you need as well as the materials you will need to do the job right. Don’t skimp on any of this list – quality of the project over quantity of money saved is what I always say!

Paver Tools You Need

Here is a general list of the paver tools necessary in order to install concrete pavers on your own. Eventually we hope to provide links for more information, such as where to get the product, how much it will cost, reviews, and more!

Shovels: A very important paver tool. You will need both flat and pointed shovels in order to dig out fill and spread top soil and sand.

Gloves: Use these to protect your hands while shoveling, wheelbarrowing, and carrying and laying brick. Bricklayer gloves are the best option – these are cloth gloves covered with paint on the hand portion. This gives you both grip and protection while digging, carrying and laying brick, etc.

Tape measure: Needed to measure out the length and width of your installation, as well as the necessary depths.

Wood stakes: Used with string line to mark out the dimensions of your project.

String line: With wooden stakes, used to mark out the dimensions of your project. Can also be used to mark relevant heights.

3 lb. hammer (aka mini-sledge, lump hammer):Used to drive in wooden stakes; metal stakes for edging; can be used to lightly tap pavers into place or to forcefully bang brick into line. You can also use a rubber hammer for this as well if you want to avoid potentially damaging the paving stones.

Levels: Used to check grades and make sure concrete pavers are level and laid straightly. Either a hand level can be used or a laser level can be purchased, though obviously the laser level is more expensive and a bit more tricky to use. A laser level may be required, however, if you have to do significant grading work (i.e. make sure the project pitches water in a safe direction).

24” square: Used to make sure corners are square, edges are straight – in other words, to make sure everything is straight and laid properly.

Rake: Used to rake any debris out of the way; also used to level out recycled concrete or to backfill with mulch or topsoil.

Broom: Sweeps off sand and dirt when project is complete; also used to sweep in sand/joint material into the spaces between the brick before the final compacting.

Wheelbarrow: Used to transport material (pavers, sand, recycled concrete) from place to place, if necessary. Hopefully you will be able to move the materials needed as close as possible to the project, because the more wheelbarrowing you have to do will significantly slow down the work process.

Pick: Use this to break up any solid ground.

Marking Crayon: If cuts need to be made, this crayon (or pencil) can be used to make the cut lines.

1″ PVC Pipes: Very important pavers tools. You will probably need two 8′ long pipes. These are laid down on the compacted aggregate base, covered with sand, and then used to screed the sand to a level 1″. The pipes should not be left in, but instead sand should fill in their holes when they are removed from the sand bed.

Screed: Either a long wooden or metal (aluminum) board, this is used to make sand (and sometimes, if needed, crushed aggregate) very precisely level. Use with 1″ PVC pipes.

Utility knife: Used to cut the bands on the pallets of paving stones and for other miscellaneous purposes.

Mason’s chisel: Used to cut pavers (with lump hammer) or for other purposes.

Wooden Board: When laying pavers, it is important not to disturb the sand bed or the already laid pavers. Leaning on the pavers with disproportionate weight and pressure will cause some pavers to sink and get knocked out of place, potentially causing dips and other problems. Thus, when walking on pavers before they are compacted, and when kneeling while installing pavers, lay down long planks of wood to more evenly distribute your weight.

Spray Marking Paint: Can be used to paint lines (of the design) onto grass, dirt, etc. or for making general markings (such as locations of utility lines).

Knee Pads: Because you will be kneeling on pavers and the ground while installing them, these are very important.

Safety Glasses: When cutting brick, wear these to protect your eyes.

Metal Spikes: Used to nail in edging.

Powerwasher or hose: Use the hose to clean down the area and remove excess sand that can’t be swept up. A powerwasher would be overkill for this in the first few months, but eventually you may need it to help remove stains.

Stain remover: There are many different kinds of stain removers out there. Muriatic acid is very harsh but effective. Have some on hand just in case you need to clean pavers.

Additional “Tools”

This is a list of some other stuff you may need on the job site to make the process more fun or less hazardous.

Radio: Listen to music while you work!

Sunscreen: It gets crazy hot when you are on the ground laying the brick. Avoid a nasty sunburn and other harmful effects by applying this liberally.

Drinks: Along the same vein, make sure you have plenty of beverages to keep you hydrated during the day. Water and Gatorade work the best here, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages not so much.

Materials Needed to Install Pavers

Here is a general, and certainly not exhaustive, list of materials you will need for your project. Note that some projects may require other materials, and thus other tools, depending on the kind of work that needs to be done.

Aggregate (base for pavers): Also known as recycled concrete or ¾ modified crushed stone, this is used to provide the paver base on which the paving stones will lay. This type of pavers base is both solid, resisting settling, while also being flexible enough to deal with freeze/thaw cycles and prevent cracking.

Bedding sand (concrete sand, fine sand, paver sand): Pavers sand on top of the aggregate to be the bed for the concrete pavers to lay. Sand for pavers can can also be used in between the joints.

Concrete Pavers: Obviously the most important material for the job. They come on pallets of varying numbers of brick. It’s good to keep some extra ones lying around just in case you need to replace a stained or broken brick sometime down the line.

Edging: Comes in different varieties and materials. The best is aluminum edging, though it’s a bit more pricey. Poured concrete is NEVER a good edging material! All edging products share the same goal: keep the paving stones together and border the new installation. This must be laid down before compacting, otherwise you risk ruining your hard work.

Mulch or Top Soil: Used to back fill around the pavers, especially to cover up the edging or for replanting grass that had to be excavated for the project. Also useful for garden applications.

Fill: Only needed if major grading work needs to be done (that is, leveling out major holes or humps).

Sealer: You will not need this right after installing the pavers, but after a few months you may consider sealing the pavers to protect them from stains and the effects of your climate.

Cleaning Pavers and Removing Stains

Pavers can be beset with all kinds of dirt and stains. Oil, mud, salt, tire marks – these and more can mar a patio, driveway, walkway, or other paving stone application. Luckily, pavers are very easy to clean and repair when necessary. This article will describe how to clean pavers as well as how to prevent any further damage to your installation. Following these steps will ensure clean pavers for the lifetime of the project. (NOTE: Before using any cleaning product or technique, consult with your contractor or paver manufacturer to ensure that it is safe for your pavers. Also follow all instructions carefully and take all proper safety precautions.)

Prevention of Stains

Of course, limiting your installation’s exposure to potential stains is key to preventing stains, but sometimes it’s unavoidable, especially with driveways. As we’ll discuss below, there are ways to help protect your project against stains, but here’s another way: make them blend in. This all comes down to the paver colors you’ve selected. If you go with a single color, a stain or blemish will stand out. If you go with a blend of some kind, stains will often blend in to the pattern, making them harder to see. In addition, some types of pavers will do better against stains than others, so keep that in mind when you do your brand research Still, you may want to remove them anyway even if they are hard to see, so read on for more tips!

The Nuclear Solution for Cleaning Pavers

The ultimate solution for cleaning concrete pavers is simply to remove the offending paver and replace it with a clean one. This is usually necessary when one paver (or at most a few) is severely damaged or stained. It is quite easy to remove the paver, fix the base as necessary, add a new paver, fill in with sand, and compact if needed. While this is a radical solution, it is sometimes required given the circumstances, especially if the paving stone is chipped or broken. This is why it’s important to have some spare brick on hand for replacement and repair. Ask your contractor to leave you some left over brick when the job’s done for this purpose; otherwise, see if any local contractors or manufacturers have some spare material in your blend available. You can learn more about the paver tools needed to build and maintain a  installation by following the link.

Clean Your Paving Stones Regularly

Less radical solutions are possible for cleaning concrete pavers besides simply removing the paver. The general rule for all stains is that the longer you wait, the more the stain will seep into the stone, making it harder to remove it as time goes on. You should attack the stain as soon as you notice it before it “bakes in” to the paver.

A good general regimen for keeping your pavers clean is to do some periodic cleaning. While pavers can be maintenance free, the more care you take of them, the better they’ll look for longer. For weekly or general cleaning of pavers, water is the best choice. A hose with an attachment can easily move dirt or grime from the surface of the pavers, restoring their beautiful looks. For more stubborn dirt, you can try a pressure washer. A pressure washer may also be useful for many other kinds of stains. When using this washer, be careful not to remove too much sand from the joints; you may have to sweep sand back in to the joints to replace any that has been lost.

Even if there are no stains on your paver, it is important to begin paver cleaning if you intend to seal your pavers. Doing so will improve the performance of the sealer. Once you do seal your pavers, cleaning them in the future will be much easier, as a sealer will literally guard the surface against future stains. This is probably the best preventative measure you can take, especially for driveway pavers. For a sealing pavers guide, follow the link.

Targeting Specific Stains

Before using soaps or any other cleaning product, it is best to ‘test’ it on an isolated, hidden part of the paver installation. Check this test spot to ensure that it does no harm to the color or structural integrity of the paving stones.

There are many general products for cleaning pavers. One example is PaveTech. This paver cleaning product is applied to the patio, driveway, walkway, or other application and allowed to sit for 10 minutes. It is then rinsed off with a pressure washer, leaving behind pavers that look like new.

Another general cleaning pavers product is muriatic acid, also known as hydrochloric acid. Be very careful with this substance, at it is highly toxic and damaging to the skin, eyes, throat, lungs, etc. Make sure you sufficiently dilute it and test it on an inconspicuous part of the installation before moving to the larger scale.

Below I’ve listed out some of the more common stains that you will find on your outdoor pavers. Here are some specifc plans to help you deal with specific concrete paver stains:

Asphalt: Chill the area with ice and scrape as much away as you can. Then scrub it with an abrasive powder and rinse with water.

Blood, candy, ketchup, mustard, grease from food: Let liquid detergent set on the stain for 20-30 mins and then rinse with hot water. Clean these stains immediately after they happen!

Caulking: Use poultice of Denatured alcohol, followed by hot water and detergent.

Chewing gum: same as caulking.

Efflorescence: This is the normal residue of a white, chalky substance that can appear on the surface of the paver. It should disappear over time, but if it really bothers you, there are way to clean it, such as with muriatic acid or dedicated efflorescence cleaners.

Mortar: Let the mortar harden and then remove it with a chisel.

Moss and Algae: If your pavers are on the shade, you may have plant growth on the pavers or in the joints. The best cleaning product is anti-algae and moss solutions that can be purchased specifically for this purpose.

Oil or grease: Mop up any excess oil and cover the rest with an oil absorbent. Leave it on stain for a day and then remove it as directed.

Paint: Don’t let this stain settle in – attack it immediately! Do not wipe it as you will spread it and make it sink into the paver deeper. If it is latex paint, soak and scrub it with hot water, scouring powder and a brush.

Rust: Can be removed by using muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid).

Dried paint: Scrape it off and apply commercial paint remover for 20-30 minutes. Then do gentle scrubbing.

Tire skid marks: Scrub them with water, detergent, and scouring powder.