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patio and walkway of pavers and sculptured lawn

This is Part IV of the five part series (getting close to the end!) of a backyard transformation at the home belonging to my son and his wife. You may see the first three parts, here, here, and here. They covered the initial stages of design layout, prep, and paver installation.

Because the paver work was the biggest part of the project, we want to back up just a bit and look at the detail involved in the installation. It'll be helpful, especially if this is your first experience in laying pavers. Check out the gallery for some good information and we'll get started.

Build Your Own Patio - Detail Work(click thumbnails to view gallery)

Expansion of the paver patio at the deck.A closeup of the edges.The edge of the patio, leading away from the deck.Another view.The edging for the pavers.

First things first; safety: we cut a bunch of pavers for this project, using a circular saw and way too many masonry blades. That was my bad; I let the budget get in the way. In retrospect, we should have rented a splitter or brick saw to speed the project along. The labor savings would have easily balanced the rental expenditure. The usual helpful items, therefore, are gloves, hearing and eye protection, and knee pads, unless you happen to own a pair of knees younger than, say, 35.

A detailed look at the process of laying the pavers:

  1. When we moved uphill, away from the deck and to the fence patio, we ensured that our paver courses were very straight. Generally all it takes is to give it what I call the "50 foot look" -- move away from the project sufficiently far so that you can discern any wavy lines. If you have a really big stretch of pavers, you may want to put in a bunch of individual string lines to keep things from going astray.
  2. We cut the brick edges with a circular saw mounted with a masonry blade. Aside from the bunch of blades that we went through, the cutting gave rise to dust and hot brick chips; gloves and a dust mask were the solutions to that issue.
  3. We were careful to stagger the joints of the pavers, for both appearance and structural stability. Additionally, we took pains to ensure that we were mixing the tints of the bricks so that we didn't end up with a swath of pavers that were all one color; on more than one occasion, we pulled bricks up and replaced them with a different hue.
  4. We paid attention to our string line, to ensure we followed the grade to the back fence. This also helped us with noting any low points in the work, thus avoiding a visual deficiency and a "watering hole." We wanted none of that, thank you very much.
  5. We cut the edging with our circular saw; you could use a jig saw or a hand saw, as well. The plastic edging is preferable to a steel product, in my view -- it bends and cuts more easily and doesn't rust, a big plus. We stuck it in place with 8" spikes every two feet on the straight edges and half that distance on the curves.
  6. We took great care to have nice, smooth curves on the patios and walkways; for one thing it looks great and also makes cutting the edges a bit easier. That said, we had some fairly tight curves that required a bunch of cuts, on both the outside and inside. No getting around this: if we didn't want big gaps between the pavers, it was going to be a lot of work, but well worth it. Just be patient, the end result will be rewarding.
  7. Tamping the pavers -- noisy and dusty, but absolutely essential to successful completion of the work. We had the luxury of using the sand from the site, so we didn't have to pay for it or have it delivered -- what a deal. Aside from using it as the base, we spread it repeatedly on the top surface, broomed it roughly into place and walked the tamp around on it, going a variety of directions to ensure that the pavers were locked into place. The top-dressing of sand is not just to fill the joints. The sand, on a microscopic level, is very sharp; the grains interlock with others, and the rough edges of the pavers, to provide mechanical stability and keep them from "creeping." (OK; so I managed to sneak in a little engineering -- good for me). It's important to make a number of tamping passes, in different directions, to ensure the pavers aren't going to eventually take a walk. Be aware, also, that tamping is noisy business; ear protection is recommended and take care not to irritate the neighbors; it happened to us. 'Nuff said.
  8. At the conclusion of the tamping, we checked the edging to be certain that it hadn't moved. If it does happen to walk a little bit, pull up the nails, snug it up against the pavers and re-spike it, adding more nails if warranted.
  9. Finally, we took the top soil that we had collected and spread it out in the prospective planting areas. We also packed it into place against the edging to hide it, and add some lateral strength to the pavers. Every little bit helps.

So, there you have some additional info about how we installed the pavers. It's not hard work and it does really make for a sturdy, attractive hardscape.

Next week we will look at the water feature construction, one of the most appealing parts of this whole project. Join us, if you please.



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