03 May Family time with a paver project
Your paver project can be as large or small as you please. Here’s a story of how a family used pavers left over from a larger project to tidy up a high-traffic space beside their backdoor deck. Here’s their “patio recipe.”
It’s time to build a patio
By Marc Barnes
In our DIY example, there was both a motive and an opportunity. There’s a mud hole at the bottom of the back steps. There are Pine Hall Brick pavers out behind the storage building, the remnants of an Eagle Scout project a decade ago. And because clay pavers last forever, they will work fine for this project.
Given that the house itself was built out of Pine Hall Brick face brick and a new deck with steps on two sides has replaced an old brick stoop, a 4-by-6 foot clay paver landing adjacent to a concrete driveway would complement the space. The pavers work perfectly to pick up the gray colors on the deck and rail and the red brick wall behind it. And it provides a good place to get out of the car and bring in the groceries.
How it’s done is set out in detail below, but it boils down to digging a hole, putting in crusher run or patio base, tamping it down, putting a layer of sand, setting the pavers and sweeping sand into the joints.
We used pavers, crusher run or patio base, sand and a tamper—which is a solid steel plate that you use to tamp down the materials. You will also need a shovel, a grass rake, a tarp, a framing square and a level, a tape measure, edge restraints, landscape spikes, two six-foot lengths of ¾ – inch PVC pipe, a straight 2-by-4, paint sticks, a bladed screwdriver and a rubber mallet.
You can get the pavers, edge restraints and landscape spikes from Pine Hall Brick Company. Everything else can come from a big-box home improvement retailer. (The crusher run, which may be branded as patio base, is in the garden department, the sand – called general purpose sand – is in the masonry department.)
Both the crusher run and the sand come in bags. Plan to make several trips.
You can arrange delivery of the crusher run paver base and sand, but for this job, it was not cost-effective.
How much paver base and sand? Use the form below to find out or Here’s a link to calculate estimated materials. (Word of advice: Don’t open the bag unless you use it. Keep the receipt and return it for a refund.)
The big dig
Be willing, from the beginning, to take your time, because a paver project has a memory. If the hole isn’t flat, if the crusher run layer isn’t level, if the sand is uneven, then that will be communicated to the surface and the pavers themselves will be mis-aligned. The look and the utility of your project won’t be what you want.
To start, check the weather forecast. If it starts to rain, cover everything with the tarp and fight again another day.
To build a conventional clay paver patio, you start with a perimeter. We went with a simple 4-by-6 rectangle and an easy pattern, the basketweave, which doesn’t require any cuts. You dig a hole that adds about five inches on all sides to the original 4-by-6 layout. That provides enough space to properly install the edge restraints.
Dig two trenches, parallel to each other, about 72 inches in length and about 58 inches apart. Dig the trenches down seven inches deep. Then dig between the two to connect them. As you dig, use the tape measure to check frequently that you are digging down seven inches (no need in doing unnecessary work.) You can put the 2-by-4 across the two trenches and then measure down, using the bottom edge of the 2-by-4 to represent the level of the ground, to make sure that it is deep enough.
Use the tamper to tamp down the earth.
Time to put in the patio base and sand
Next, put in the patio base or the crusher run. This needs to be four inches deep. Because a Pine Hall Brick paver is four inches wide, put a couple of pavers in the hole on edge, then drop the bags where you want them in the hole and cut away the plastic. Fill the hole to the top of the paver-on-edge. Take the paver out and fill the hole that the paver left. Check often to see to it that this layer is level and tapers off slightly to drain water away from the house.
Use the tamper again to tamp down this layer. Recheck it for level, take away or add material as needed and then tamp down a second time.
Atop the now flat and compacted crusher run layer, put the two PVC pipes a couple of feet apart, shovel some sand on top of them and screed them with the 2-by-4, which will leave you with one inch of sand. Remove the pipes and fill in where they were by hand.
Starting five inches in from the edge of the crusher run in a corner and atop the sand, use the builder’s square to start the soldier course, which is a line of pavers perpendicular to the edge. Use a paint stick to measure the gap between each of the pavers. Go in both directions and make sure the corner is square and that each paver stays aligned on the edges and the top with its neighbor. If a paver is a bit off, insert the bladed screwdriver in between the pavers. Use a slight twist to bring it back into line.
Once you have a good start in the corner – and that where the soldier courses meet in the corner is exactly square – then branch out and start laying pavers in the field. Check to make sure each paver is in line with its neighbors and that the gaps are consistent. Check for level constantly. When you get to the corners, re-check them to make sure they are square. Once the pavers are in, tap each paver with the rubber mallet.
Put in the edge restraints and sweep sand into the joints. Using a moving blanket or an old rug on top of the pavers, tamp them down again. Sweep more sand into the joints. As time goes by, the pavers will settle, so sweep more sand in as needed. We’ve found it useful to put sand in a 5-gallon bucket with a lid and set it aside in the garage, to add as needed.
Perfect? Good. Less than perfect? Change it. Make more adjustments with the screwdriver if the lines are crooked; tap them deeper into the sand with the rubber mallet if they are too high, dig them out and put in more crusher run and sand if they are too low.
One of the advantages of clay pavers set into a paver base and sand in a basketweave pattern is that you can have as many do-overs as you want, which is unlike a deck project, in which the joists that support the deck are expensive. Crusher run and sand are cheap.
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