A step-by-step process for an easy do-it-yourself patio or walkway using brick or stone pavers. Follow these instructions for a quick way to increase outdoor seating and enhance the look or approach to any home.
The creation or improvement of outdoor space increases the value and enjoyment of a home, but is often cost prohibitive. One way to lessen the expense is to do-it-yourself, but the time investment and lack of expertise usually intimidates owners. It does not have to be that way. When it comes to adding seating space or sprucing up the paths leading to and from your house, brick and stone pavers are an easy and relatively inexpensive solution that most people can do themselves.
1. Prepare the Area- As with just about any process, proper preparation of the planned surface is key. Stake out the shape of the proposed walkway or patio and clear the surface. Use a shovel and a good old wheel barrow to dig up the lawn and dirt within the footprint of the planned project. (These instructions are assuming reasonable sized areas that can be completed by hand. This entire process can be scaled up to larger patios, walkways, driveways, etc. and be done with small machinery to assist. It is up to the individual's comfort zone on how big is too big to be tackled with manual tools). Dig down 4-6" inches below where the bottom surface of the paver will sit. This depends on the depth of the pavers being used and the finished level desired for the new surface.
Once all the dirt and debris are removed, compact the exposed dirt using a hand tamper or a water-filled rolling compactor. Hand tampers are inexpensive and can useful for a variety of landscaping needs. Rolling compactors are not something the average homeowner will need often, but they can usually be rented for little money from any of the big box home stores or some local garden supply shops. It only takes a few minutes to achieve the desired compaction at this stage. There is no need to be perfect or worry too much about grading.
2. Create the Base- All good construction needs a good foundation. There are a number of materials that can be used to create the base for the pavers, but stone dust (or variations of it) is a very easy and forgiving material to work with and again is reasonably priced. Depending on the amount required, consumers can load up there own truck at a quarry or stone/gravel supplier or have the material delivered and dumped at the site for them. Most stores have a yardage calculator to help people figure out the quantity they need based on the dimensions of the area and the depth desired.
Once the stone dust is delivered, break out the wheel barrow again and start laying it out in the prepared area. This is the point in which compaction becomes more critical. Place about 1" of stone over the entire area and then compact well. (Tip: Spraying the installed stone dust lightly with water aids compaction). Repeat this process, laying down about 1" of stone at a time and compact tightly until you are approximately 2.75" to 3" below the desired finish surface (this example assumes standard paver thickness of 2.25" inches. Adjust the finished level of the compacted stone dust accordingly if you have a different size brick).
Once compaction is complete, put the shovel down and tamper down for a moment to create the edges for your new walkway. Use plastic landscape edging to outline the perimeter of the area. Metal stakes are generally used to anchor these strips into the ground and the pieces can be cut or bent to conform to just about any shape. The rigidity and form that these provide will help keep your final paver design locked together during construction and afterwards. The edging can be put in low enough to hold the bottom of the brick, but be covered by the surrounding landscape so it cannot be seen.
For the last layer of stone dust, distribute about 1 to 1.5" liberally across the whole area which will often bring it level to the top of the plastic edging. Do NOT compact this layer. Use a long screed to smooth and level the entire surface, in the process shaving off the top .25" of loose stone dust. The base is now ready to accept the pavers.
3. Install the Pavers- Now is the time to break out your design talent. Begin laying the pavers from one end of the prepared area. Be sure to keep them tightly packed together and level them in the loose layer of stone dust as you go. A rubber mallet is a good tool to help manipulate the pavers without risking damage to them. While some designs may be perfectly square, most will require the cutting of at least some pavers to achieve the desired end result. There are a couple ways to cut the bricks depending on how many units need to be addressed. If there are only a handful, a regular circular saw outfitted with a diamond blade can handle the job. Diamond blades are not cheap, but if there is only a few cuts required, it is probably the most economical since many homeowners already own a circular saw. If the are many bricks to cut, however, a wet saw is the ideal piece of equipment to use. Most people do not have one of these laying around, but they are generally available at a reasonable rental rate at any local equipment place or big box store. This option is easier and more precise than cutting by hand with a circular saw. Although the more cuts required generally means a more complex install and will certainly take longer, it should not deter anyone from tackling the design they truly want.
The Finish- Once the pavers are all laid, the project is almost complete. Double check the level and the tightness of the lines for any glaring problem areas. Once you are satisfied with how it looks, dump several bags of very fine sand (kid's play sand works the best) on top of the surface. Use a stiff broom to sweep the sand back and forth over top of all the brick. As tight as the bricks may be, the fine sand will work its way into all the cracks and tighten everything up even further. Do not be shy with the amount of sand used, making several passes over the surface. Walking on it as you sweep helps expose the potential voids and get them filled.
With a layer of sand still on top, the final step is to get the brick to settle as much as possible. It is inevitable that the brick is going to settle a certain amount, but the idea is to try and do it yourself so you can control the uniformity to some extent. The best piece of equipment for the job is a vibrating tamper. Unless you do a lot of road work, chances are you do not own one of these either so it is back to the rental shop. Again, these are generally inexpensive to rent and would only be needed for one day. While always keeping a layer of sand between the tamper and the brick, work your way around the whole area. There is no magic amount of time, but be sure to make several passes and give equal amount of time to all areas. The sand will prevent the tamper from scratching the brick so always make sure that there is a layer in between. Once the vibrating is complete, sweep off the sand, return the tool rentals, and start enjoying what you just built.