Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How to Build a Paver Walkway

If you want to increase curb appeal, replace a sidewalk in disrepair, or add a hard walking surface, concrete pavers will give you the look you want. This tutorial details each step and provides all the information you need. Whether a walkway or patio, this is what to do.

The completed project.

The pattern is cobblestone in three different colors.

My house had no sidewalk or walkway to the front door. If I was using the front door, I'd have to walk through the grass no matter the weather. That needed to change.
The only way to reach my front door is through the grass.
Most pavers are 2" thick. The pavers will sit on a bed of setting sand between 1" to 1.5" thick. The sand is on top of gravel. The gravel provides a solid base for the pavers to prevent shifting over time and allows for water to drain. Finish the walkway with edge restraints at the perimeter and polymeric sand in joints which will harden when wet.

Products required:
Tools required:
  • PVC pipe or stakes and string to mark the trench limits of digging
  • Square nose shovel to dig the trench.
  • Wheel barrow to carry dirt away
  • Hack saw or sawzall for large roots if applicable
  • Rake to spread gravel
  • PVC pipe or wood blocking and level to level and spread sand
  • Work gloves to handle pavers
  • (Optional) Rubber mallet to level pavers. You can also stomp on them.
  • Wet diamond saw to cut pavers if required
  • Broom to clear pavers of dirt and debris and spread sand into joints
  • Hose to wet the poly-sand
While I provide product links, these are for reference only. I bought my supplies from a concrete distributor.
The original plan. Determine how you want the walkway to look before you start digging.

The first step is determining the walkway layout and location. I wanted my walkway to extend from my front stoop, adjacent to the flower bed, and extend to the driveway. I placed it next to the flower bed to avoid disruption to my yard and having a small strip of grass to mow.

I measured the house and front stoop and drew up a plan in Google Sketchup. This helped me determine square footage area and perimeter length to begin calculating cost. Ensure your plans and measurements are accurate. If not, my two intersecting patterns from the front door and walkway may not have lined up when I began placing pavers, causing additional digging or the cutting of many pavers. You need to determine locations before you start digging.

Decide which style of paver you want. There are many different sizes and colors and an endless number of patterns. I decided on a cobblestone pattern using 8x12 and 8x8 pavers. I also have a few 4x12 pavers where the pattern was cut. I wanted to avoid any distinct horizontal or vertical patterns. The colors are a mix of three including hickory, chestnut, and walnut.


While you can purchase pavers at a big box home improvement store, I got mine from a local concrete distributor. I liked the look more and the price was better.

For gravel thickness, 4" is sufficient for human traffic and warmer climates. For lawn tractors and colder climates in the Northeast, 6" of gravel is needed. If vehicle traffic is expected, 12" of gravel is needed.

I used 6" of #57 gravel along the walkway with 8" at the front door. On occasion a truck has been backed to the front door.

Stake out the walkway. I adjusted the radius of the curve upon initial layout.
I used PVC pipe staked into the ground at each corner of the walkway, and then I then tied string to each stake. This provided an outline of what the walkway would look like and where I should dig. You don't want to dig more than is necessary. You will want to dig slightly wider than the finished walkway dimension to account for edge restraints and room to work at the edges. Dig six inches wider on both sides. Keep in mind the walkway needs to slope 1" for every 4' to 8' for water drainage. The natural contours of my yard already sloped enough.
It took many wheelbarrow trips to empty the trench.
Calculate how deep to dig and dig 6" wider on each side
Figure out where to put the dirt so you don't have to move it later.
Before you dig, call the utility company and have underground utilities marked. I could have hit a phone line if I had not done this initially. Accounting for the thickness of my materials, I dug down 9.5", and 11.5" at the door. I had a number of tree roots that had begun protruding from the ground in the backyard so I dumped my dirt there.to cover them. Figure out where the dirt will go so you don't have to move it multiple times.
Once the trench is done, add gravel. It will take a few wheelbarrow trips..
Determine how much gravel you need. Gravel is sold by the ton. There are 18 CF of gravel in a ton. Determine the area of your walkway in feet and multiply that by the depth of gravel in feet, .5 for 6 " or .3 for 4". You can have gravel delivered and dumped in a specified location. I had access to a dump truck and unloaded the truck directly to the wheelbarrow.
Gravel in the trench and five pallets of pavers ready to go.

Compact the gravel with a plate compactor..
See the difference between compacted and non-compacted.
The sidewalk fully compacted. The gravel compacted about half an inch.
My walkway required five tons of gravel. The gravel was spread evenly in sections at a time with a wheelbarrow. Once the gravel was in place I rented a plate compactor to ensure a solid base. Do multiple passes with the plate compactor. If you don't compact the gravel, it will shift overtime, creating an uneven walkway. It's best to compact a depth of gravel no more than 6" at a time. Compacting the gravel only changed the depth about half an inch.
Two tons of sand are ready to unload once the gravel is done.
The layer of leveling or setting sand should be 1" to 1.5" thick. One ton of sand is eighteen cubic feet. I needed two tons. This can be bought in small bags from a store or delivered in a giant bag from a concrete distributor. I had access to a dump truck and used that for a load of sand.
Use a straight edge to determine sand depth both horizontally and vertically.
Fill in with sand as needed.
Use blocking or PVC pipe with a level as a guide to help ensure a uniform thickness as you rake the sand.I used the eight foot long edge restraints and a level. I made sure that the pavers sloped away from the front door. As for slope, I followed the natural contour of my yard which was sufficient for drainage.
To level the sand, I placed the edge restraint from front to back, sloping it so that it hit the yard. I built up sand underneath the level so I knew how high the sand needed to be. It did the same right to left. This left me with a cross pattern of sand indicating the depth of sand needed to achieve the desired slope. I then added and removed sand until the four quadrants were even with the cross. Once that is done double check slope and do this for the rest of the area. You want to have extra sand leftover in the wheelbarrow at the end as you lay the pavers in case you need more to level a paver.
If the trench measurements had been off, the left to right pattern
wouldn't have lined up with the up and down pattern

I used the Sketchup plan to determine how to start placing the paver pattern. You want to center your paver pattern in the walkway or patio. I determined where the center of the walkway and front door crossed and started my pattern there in Sketchup. This dictated the distance from the walkway to the house. I placed the walkway to reduce the number of pavers I needed to cut. All of this was done before digging began. I used the model to determine how to layout the pattern.
Begin the pavers at a straight edge. If you start placing them at an angle, it will
throw off each additional row. Use a level or straight edge to line up each
adjacent tile.


The pattern finally takes shape.
You will need gloves when handling the pavers. It's best to start at a straight edge. I started at my front stoop. Place a few rows of pavers, checking that they are level and edges align from one paver to the next. Add sand, or remove it, to ensure everything lines up. Uneven pavers can be a tripping hazard. A rubber mallet can be used to help align edges and make sure the paver is set. Alternatively, you can also stomp on it. If you don't set it firmly, it will shift later. Use a straight edge and check levelness between the pavers. This will prevent dips and hills in the pavers by ensuring a consistent slope.
Fortunately the walkway lined up with the pattern directly from the door.

Place each paver for the curve and cut them all later.


Many a tile was cut on the wet saw. Notice the grime on the tree leaves.
The pavers in the curve were all placed, and then the radius was drawn across all the pavers before cutting began. A stake was placed in the ground and a curve was drawn with a string and pencil.
Ensuring the cuts are consistent from paver to paver will make installing edge perimeter easier.


Cutting has begun. Ensure the cuts are consistent from tile to tile.

All cuts completed.

Pavers can be cut with a masonry chisel or diamond saw. While I sized the walkway and pattern orientation to reduce cutting, I used a wet saw at the curve, which is one of the quicker methods. Be warned, a wet saw can be very messy because it slings water everywhere. Always take caution when using a power tool. Rinse off the pavers after you cut them. It prevents having to clean them once the concrete dust has dried.
Ensure no loose pavers and then install the edge restraints.

If you want your walkway to last, you will need edge restraints. Edge restrains prevent pavers from shifting over time. Plastic restraints are the best to use, and you'll want to avoid wood as wood will eventually deteriorate as it contracts and expands. Use 10" spikes to secure the edge restrains in place. I used three spikes for each eight foot straight section. On the curve I used five to six spikes per section. Once that's done fill in with dirt so that your yard meets the edge of the pavers.
Dirt has been added over the edge restraints.
Poly sand will be swept into the joints.

A broom was used to sweep the sand into the joints.
Poly sand hardens when wet to prevent weeds in the joints.
Make sure you remove excess sand from the face of pavers.



Once the sand has been swept into joints and excess removed, wet the poly sand.

While you can sweep setting sand into the joints, (polymeric) poly sand  is a better option that will harden once wet to fill joints and prevent vegetation growth. Per the instructions I used a push broom to fill the joints with poly sand. I made sure the pavers were free of sand once done. The sand will harden on the face of the paver once wet if you don't remove it. I used a hose to wet down the walkway, waited a few minutes, and then re-applied the water.
Poly sand complete with dirt used to fill over the edge restraints.


Optionally, you can use sealant to protect the pavers. Be sure to sweep the pavers before application.
The completed project.
You now have a patio or walkway that looks great and will last. Congratulations.
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