Do you have those little projects in your landscape where what you have just isn’t working for you? Yeah, us too and here it is or was!
We have two screen doors coming off of the screened in pool and the existing paver walkway just wasn’t what I had ultimately envisioned for the area. In the landscape Master Plan, we conceptually thought that this walk would mimic the front paver walkway and lead to a deck. There is a window on the left which is the master bedroom and looking out on this little corner was not very attractive! Ultimately, we would like to rip out the window and replace it with French doors, but that is way down the Honey Do list! These little projects always go in a file folder in the back of my head (Dean) and I was ready to send this one to the Recycle Bin! Ready, set,go with 5 tips for installing a paver walkway!
Tip #1 Base Preparation
Any paver installation is only as good as the base preparation, so don’t skimp here! Taking the time to do this right will insure that your pavers won’t settle or move once they are installed. To get this right you need to have a solid gravel base. Dig out the existing soil to accommodate 6” of gravel base, 1” of leveling sand/small crushed gravel fines and the paver thickness. Yep, that is about 10” of digging!
Once the base excavation is done, compact the existing soil with a hand tamp or vibrating plate compactor ( you can usually rent one of these) for larger installations. Always dig out a larger area than needed, especially around the edges and I typically go about 3”-6” outside of the area where the pavers will be set. Place the 6” gravel base, spread and compact. We like to use recycled concrete gravel from a source that is about a mile from the house. They take large chunks of concrete and grind it down for just this purpose and we think that it is a great way to divert materials out of the landfill!
After you have placed the gravel, go ahead and compact it. For this little project, we chose not to use the leveling sand and are using the recycled gravel fines as a leveling course. Once the 6” base is set, lay two 1” diameter metal poles on top of the base and make sure that there is a little bit of pitch to help with the drainage. Concrete pavers are not a solid surface like a concrete sidewalk, so it will drain naturally between the joints, but give it a little bit of slope so that the water doesn’t pond.
Use a 2”x4” resting on top of the poles and pull back to screed the leveling course. This will give you the exact 1” that you need! Now, you are ready to lay the pavers!
Tip #2 Sleeve It!
Anytime that you are putting in a new walkway, put a sleeve in! What is a sleeve? I thought that you would never ask! A “sleeve” is very simply a pipe that will allow you to run any type of future wiring (electrical/landscape lighting) or irrigation pipe through without having to dig up all of your hard work. In our case, we had electrical wiring that went to the pool water feature (more on that later) and landscape lighting, so we used a 1 ½” PVC pipe to run everything through and still have room for future landscape lighting wire.
Tip #3 Use Quality Materials
If installed correctly, remember the base preparation, paver walks can and should last for decades! Don’t get all frugal on us and use cheap materials that won’t last or hold up to more foot traffic! In order to mimic the front sidewalk, we used a combination of concrete pavers (we actually had leftovers from the front walk) and Pennsylvania Bluestone or slate. Bluestone/slate is a great, durable natural stone that comes from, you guessed it, Pennsylvania and the Northeast. You can find it at your local stone yard cut in a number of different dimensions or you can purchase it in an uncut fashion called irregular. For a walkway over a gravel base, I always recommend a thickness of 1 ½”-2”. Thinner Bluestone can be mortared over an existing concrete slab, but for this I wanted “beefy”! We used an alternating combination of 24”x24” dimensional bluestone and concrete pavers laid in a basket weave pattern. The only consideration here was that we would have to add extra leveling gravel since the Bluestone wasn’t as thick as the concrete paver. No big deal!
Using a torpedo level and a rubber mallet, the Bluestone is easily set into the pattern and leveled.
Tip #4 Get Edgy!
After the pavers have been set, make sure to install a paver restraint (fancy word for edging) to hold everything in place. The edges of your walkway are the most vulnerable to failure and by extending the base past where the pavers are laid and by using paver edging, the potential damage to the edges can be eliminated. Paver edging/restraint can be found at any Big Blue or Big Orange store and it is easy to cut and install. Place the edging with the flange on the outside right up next to the paver and install either spikes or pins to hold it in place. I like to use a 10” long galvanized nail that is typically used for 6”x6” landscape timber construction. The edging should also have gravel underneath it (that is why we extended the base), so it doesn’t settle or move.
Tip #5 Poly What?
Don’t use play sand to fill the joints of the pavers! While play sand may be less expensive, look for and get Polymeric Sand. Polymeric Sand is specifically formulated for concrete paver installation and hardens over time to keep those pesky weeds from growing in the cracks between the pavers. Once the pavers are all laid, spread Polymeric Sand across the top of the pavers and work the sand into the joints. This can be done with a broom for larger areas, but we just used our hands to make sure that all of the joints were filled. Do this step first before backfilling the pavers so that dirt doesn’t get into the joints first! Also, make sure to fill the joints on the outer edge so that the joints between the pavers and the edging are full. Almost done! It is recommended that you lightly water the Polymeric Sand into the joints, but make sure that any excess sand is swept off of the pavers because it could potentially change the color of the pavers and nobody wants that!
Once the Polymeric Sand has been watered in, backfill the pavers with soil and mulch or decorative gravel. After a little clean up to get rid of any extra soil there you have it! A new paver walk that will last for a long time!
Bonus Tip #6 Enjoy!
Seriously, for a small investment (we spent about $100) and a couple of hours of work, you can change small things that will give you greater enjoyment of your landscape. Don’t try to tackle everything at once, but nibble away at it and it will add up! Working from an overall Master Plan, but phasing the pieces of the puzzle in will help to keep your marriage and your budget in a happy place. This project is now headed for the Recycle Bin in my head! Share pictures of your walkway project and let us know if you have any questions!