Paver Installation Guide

© 2007 - 2015 Decorative Landscapes - Titusville, FL -material calculator

How to Install Pavers

Pavers provide a long lasting and durable surface. Proper base installation is key.

This guide explains step by step how to plan and build a pavers surface for a professional result.

Laying the Groundwork

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Factors to consider while determining paver location and size.

A garage, house, and walkway boundaries define sizes of some jobs. Other jobs can grow or shrink with budget and planning.

Job Access

Excavation and material supply require access proportionate to the job size. Access can affect the price and labor. 90 square feet standard 2 and 3/8 inch pavers weigh 2500 pounds. 90 square feet with 6 inch base, requires 2.5 cubic yards be excavated and moved. Crushed limestone as base material for 90 square feet and 6 inch depth will weigh 2.9 tons.

Straight corners may not require cutting pavers if they fit into boundary, curves require saw cuts to prevent large gaps.

Paver's type, color, shape and border are important considerations.

Popular easy to install pavers are the Cobble Series pavers. Cobble non weathered pavers have tight fitting corners give better results, in opinion. Some paver products have rounded corners. Rounded corners can require many times more joint sand and can lead to higher maintenance with regard to ants, weeds, and possibly chair bottoms not sitting well. Be aware and take into consideration the different pavers shapes. Most pavers are 2-3/8" thick. But, come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Do it yourself, or hire an experienced contractor. Run your dimensions through a calculator and see if you can manage a job like this. A 10x10 feet patio requires at least 2.2 cubic yards fill be excavated and hauled out of the area.

Decorative Landscapes

Consider a compact loader for larger jobs. For accuracy, you will still edge the pavers area outline by hand. image of compact loader


Examine the patio area. You will be excavating approximately 7 inches in depth. Excavated fill needs be hauled out of the area. The calculator will list how many cubic yards fill need be removed as well as material amounts required.

Gutters in the paver area. When down spouts from gutters are in the paver area, it may be preferable to remove the elbow near ground and install drain pipe. We use 4 inch corrugated drain pipe in a 16 inch depth trench, and run this under the paver area, emitting in a planter or the lawn. Downspout adapters are available to connect 4 inch drain pipe to the downspout. Adapters are available for both 2 inch by 3 inch and 3 inch by 4 inch down spouts.

Downspout connected to drain pipe with apapter.
2X3 inch DOWNSPOUT ADAPTER to 4 inch corrugated drain pipe
downspout adater for drain pipe

3x4 inch down spout to 4 inch corrugated drain pipe.
downspout adater for drain pipe

Downspout adapters designed to fit between existing home gutters and 4 inch corrugated drain pipe.
Important! Debris guards over gutters need be in place. You do not want leaves and sticks getting into the drain pipe.
Tip: Heating wire is available to install into the drain pipe for cold areas.

4-Inch Pop-Up Drainage Emitter 4-Inch Pop-Up Drainage Emitter
Coupler used for emitter connect. 4 inch Drain Pipe Coupler Adapter, 4-Inch Pop-Up Drainage Emitter

The 4 inch corrugated solid (non perforated) pipe is used for down spout into drain pipe. The object is to route water away from the house. This pipe is best purchased from Home Depot, a commercial quality Landscape Supply etc. Flimsy expanding versions will not hold up.
4-Inch Pop-Up Drainage Emitter The down spout adapters shown above will connect directly to the pipe. The emitter requires a coupling.

It is important to install the drain pipe at the bottom of a minimum 16 inch depth trench. Compact carefully while backfilling the trench. You want to prevent the drain pipe from rising during backfill. We use 4 inch drain pipe as opposed to 3 inch pipe. 4 inch is larger and should not clog.
Important! Debris guards over gutters need be in place. You do not want leaves and sticks getting into the drain pipe.
Tip: Heating wire is available to install into the drain pipe for cold areas.

More Drainage Correction Solutions

Paver manufacturer web site provides detailed information for their paver selection. The popular cobble series is made of 4 paver sizes. Example: Willow Creek cobble series comes in 3 inch by 6 inch, 6 inch by 6 inch, 6 inch by 9 inch, and 9 inch by 12 inch.

Willow Creek cobble series example

Visit suppliers for pavers samples. Most retail outlets that carry pavers will have some installed. For color examining, look at the palettes. Color blends can vary with batch.


Most landscape websites feature portfolios for pavers jobs!

Decorative Landscapes
Installation Service N Brevard - Titusville, FL
Large Job Photo Porfolio


When excavating in wet conditions it is a good idea to compact the first inch of base, with the idea you are compacting the ground as well.
Clay soils should be excavated an extra inch or more. This is relative to how well the overall area drains. If we excavate behind a house and find conditions wetter than normal, we will make the base a few to several inches thicker. This is especialy true where the pavers area is at the base of hills, and clay is an issue.


Shall I lay plastic or fabric down before installing base material?
It is ok to lay fabric over ground before installing base material. This can provide minimal protection against settling. It is not adviseable to lay plastic sheeting. Plastic underlayment can cause water to accumulate.


Level and Line Reel Level and Line Reel

Excavating The Pavers Area.

How deep to excavate?

Depth to excavate is the base thickness plus bedding sand thickness plus pavers thickness minus the finished above grade paver height. About an inch on average. Excavate 4 to 6 inches deep for base. (Don't skimp here!) Standard patio and driveway grade pavers are 2-3/8" thick. Excavate at least a few to 6 inches wider where possible. This way you have room to lay whole pavers on straight edges instead of cutting to fit the border. Paver edge restraint is at least 2 inches wide. Many times we re-grade the area around our paver work. Re-grading may be required for drainage, or better match to the adjoining grade.

We start the excavation with the walk behind loader, and finish edges using straight blade shovels. Here the house serves as paver restraint along one side. Other areas should be marked out with string and painted white. Mark remaining sides and extra 4 inches wide for paver restraint. We usually lay plywood on the ground to protect access to work area. This saves on lawn repair.

Excavating with shovels is possible, we used the Torro Dingo as well.

For round paver areas, place a nail in center. Measure string and spray a paint line 4 inches larger than pavers area. This leaves room for paver restraint.

Measuring and marking for a round paver and patio area.

Checking excavated base depth is necessary for any size project. Use a string and tape measure to verify excavated depth. It is important that base material is compacted to proper minimum thickness. This will allow for a degree of accuracy during excavation. Over excavation of depth will use more base material. Using a line level on the string will show grade. It is important to provide drainage away from buildings and towards an area which will allow further runoff. Many publications specify 1 inch pitch for each 4 feet. We install 1/4 to 1/2 inch pitch for each 4 feet. We do take the time to grade our base to perfection. Sidewalks can be pitched much more, as they generally have to meet existing grade at each end point.

Check excavted base area for flat and depth with string.

Base material is brought in with the compact loader as well. For larger jobs, we start bringing in base while excavating in order to save trips.

Image of compact loader used for excavation and material handling.

Install base material

"Base Material" is crushed rock, usually crushed limestone also called class 5. "Recycled", is a mix of crushed concrete with dirt. Most "Recycled" does not qualify as quality base material. We never use recycled.

Good Advice... Most of the work is in base preparation. Take a straight 2x4 and get the base perfectly flat with a slight pitch for drainage. It should be compacted 6 or more times for this.

Base material provides a layer between the pavers and earth. An adequate base layer keeps pavers from sinking into the mud. Do not cut corners with the base material or base thickness.

image of compact loader installing paver base to sidewalk

Base material will be leveled with a 2x4 and pitched before compaction. Take time to get the base material as flat as possible with a pitch for drainage. It becomes increasingly difficult to grade the base material after compaction. It is best to grade and compact no more than 2 inches base depth at a time. This gets tedious but provides a robust paver base. We grade and compact. Let's call "grade and compact" a "grade and compact cycle". We will perform 6 or more grade and compact cycles to get it right. Larger areas require more grade and compact cycles. You will place a level on a 2 by 4 used for grading, and check the pitch for drainage. For larger jobs it helps to have several 2 by 4's for grading. An 8 foot, 10 foot, 12 foot length etc. This is how a professional robust job is accomplished. This is the most important part of a paver install.

This is one of the levels we use for grading base material. It has nice handles, is durable, fits in tighter areas than the 8, 10, and 12 feet long 2 x 4; which we also use. These levels provide a perfectly straight surface. Use the bottom edge for grading. The bubble will be on top. When choosing 2 x 4, eye them up for a straight edge. The 2 x 4 is used on it's edge. Larger paver areas require long 2 x 4; up to 12 feet. The long straight edge allows for grading base material to perfection.

Johnson 72-Inch Aluminum Box Beam Level Johnson 72-Inch Aluminum Box Beam Level

With larger jobs, a compact loader with leveling bar can be used to help grade base material.

A compact loader with leveling bar is used to help grading base material.

The pitch for drainage should be at least 1/4 inch for each 4 feet. More pitch is a personal preference. You may have to match an existing grade.

Use a plate compacter to compact the base material. Begin compacting from the middle and work your way out. After each pass with the compacter use a string to check for flatness and grade accordingly. You may have to add base material in low spots, or shave material off high spots. The base needs to be made as perfect as possible. The pavers will settle in to the surface shape of the base and reflect any dips or humps. Dragging a straight 2x4 on edge over the base helps to get it flat. Compact the entire base area after each leveling. Keep leveling with the 2x4 as needed. A string and line level will let you check your pitch easily and accurately.

Set pavers on the base to check height with respect to finished grade. If you are using bedding sand, Pavers will compact about 1/4 inches into sand. Here is an area where experience helps.

Plate Compactor

Compact the base after each re-grade.
Plate compactors are available for rent at all rental stores which carry power tools. This item is necessary for any size job. Do not get fooled into using a hand tamper!

Plate Compactor Plate Compactor

Compact the base after each re-grade.

Note: We do not use bedding sand. We grade our base material to perfection and install pavers directly on top of base.
Please see the NOTE below next to Bedding Sand.

Compact the base after each re-grade.

Note: We do not use bedding sand. We grade our base material to perfection and install pavers directly on top of base. Bedding sand will provide an easier way to have a flat surface. I have heard it said that bedding sand is necessary to provide drainage. I do not believe this. Bedding sand is located below grade, and will collect water. Where does the water really drain to? A paver area properly finished with polymeric sand will run water over the top.

With this said, I do recommend using bedding sand for first timers. It can make the base surface easier to work on. It also will add more labor, and material.

For completeness, this guide should mention that after having installed dozens of paver areas, some of us do evolve away from bedding sand. To do without bedding sand on 1 inch pipe, you will have graded your base perfectly flat with pitch for drainage.

Bedding sand

3/4 inch or 1 inch diameter schedule 40 PVC pipe can be used as guides to get the bedding sand graded out. You can also use steel pipe. It is easier to cut PVC pipe and many times having both 10 feet long and 5 feet long pipe will make the job easier.

Lay 2-10 feet long PVC pipes down on the base in a corner of the patio area. This will be the starting point for pavers. The pipe should butt up to any structure. Sand will be shoveled on top of the pipe first to anchor it down. Then fill in enough sand to grade 3 to 4 feet. Grade sand by dragging a 2x4 over the pipes. Sand should be flat to the top of the pipes. Pipes 6 feet apart and 8 feet long 2x4 work well. You need to be able to reach across the leveled sand to set pavers. You will work your way along in 2 to 3 feet segments to get started. Larger areas of sand can be graded after enough pavers are laid. When the pavers area is large enough to kneel on, you can work from the pavers surface.

When the area between the pipes is filled with pavers, more pipes can go down to widen the area. Pipe slides along the base to work in that direction.

Lay pipe down flat onto the base material. Pipe should be placed about 6 feet apart. Shovel sand onto the pipe to hold it down flat. Then shovel in enough sand to form a ridge between the pipes. Use a 2x4 across the top of the pipes such that the sand is leveled to the height of the pipe. Keep the sand in a small area say 4 feet by 8 feet.

Slide the pipes in the direction of the patio where sand is not yet installed. You will leave a foot or so of pipe in the leveled sand. Fill in the depression with sand. Sometimes the sand doesn't collapse when the pipe is pulled out. Make certain to get sand in the areas where pipe has been removed. Use a short 2x4 or better yet a level to lightly flatten out the sand where the pipe was.

You will begin laying pavers on top of the leveled sand working your way out from the beginning area. As the pavers cover the leveled sand you will add more pipes and create more leveled sand area to install pavers. The pipes that were moved outward will be covered with sand and the sand leveled in the same way. The idea is to work your way from one side to the other in this manner.

You are simply starting with a small area of leveled sand, sliding the pipe part way out of the leveled sand, laying pavers on the leveled sand, when the pavers get near where pipe is under sand, it's time to install and level more sand, slide the pipes, install pavers etc. repeating the process working your way across the patio area. Besides sliding pipes along the base surface, if your patio is wide you will be adding new pipes to the width as your work area grows.

Install pavers on top of bedding sand

Just set pavers flat on top of the sand. You don't need to tamp them in. If you have a corner are near the house or similar, this is where you should be starting. You want to get both directions going taking care to keep the pavers rows square. Once enough pavers are installed it is ok to kneel on the pavers and work from them. This helps keep your sand area level and flat.

Occasionally you will need to level sand with a straight edge as you go along. A 24-inch to 36-inch level works well here. Take care, as generally the pipes will no longer be under the surface of their areas.

Take care not to set pavers over pipe along the edges of the leveled sand. Take your time; continue sliding the pipe away from the pavers after installing and bedding sand. Remember to fill in the depression areas where pipe was removed, and level with the straight edge. Continue laying pavers.

From time to time a 2x4 may be used to keep the pavers rows straight. Remember to keep rows square with any corners created by adjacent walks, or house.

Saw cuts are needed with curves.

The sidewalk is curved along both sides and requires all edge pavers be cut. Both ends of the sidewalk are not square with the garage or the existing concrete sidewalk and need to be cut to fit. This is very labor intensive design by the homeowner who also helped. The dirt where the saw stands, are where thay install their seasonal pool. We normally do lay ground cover down under the saw area as it can get messy fast.

Installing pavers onto base at proper height and flatness with pitch for drainage.

Curves require cuts. If a border is installed, trim the last row of main pavers if needed, leave the border pavers whole.

Photo of brick stone paver patio area in herring bone pattern with triple running bond border.

Paver Restraint

Snap Edge brand shown

   Snap Edge paver restraint used along paver edge.

- Requires 10 inch spikes. (place 1 every 2 or 3 holes) Your paver supplier will supply these by the box which can save money. We use 3 per foot.
- Snip to form curves. For right angles this must be cut.

Pavers Patio Edges

Where pavers meet building foundations, walks etc. edging may not be needed. Place whole pavers until no whole pavers will fit sticking with any pattern you have established for the patio. Pavers will need to be cut to fit open areas along the edge. A brick/pavers saw can be rented from most rental stores. The saw will be electric, 120v ac, and make precise cuts simple. For small amounts of trimming you can elect to split the pavers. Splitters are available. Splitting is mentioned but not the recommended way to cut pavers.

If a border design is installed around your edges, you can lay the border and trimming will occur where the overall pattern meets the border pattern. Most borders will look best in whole pavers. Where buildings or walks etc. do not border pavers, a pavers edge will be installed. It is preferable to finish the patio area with whole pavers where possible before installing the border edge. This way you can finish straight edges with whole pavers rather than cutting. Curves will require the plastic pavers edge. Setting all possible whole pavers that will fit in the curve outline for your patio easily does curves. It is easier to adjust a curve outline occasionally to fit whole pavers avoiding a cut. The flexible plastic pavers edge can then be placed up against the edges of the pavers. This type of edging is nailed down with 10-inch spikes. The areas left will be filled with cut pavers.

Joint Sand - Polymeric Sand

Polymeric sand is sand that contains additives to make it harder when a water mist is applied. Polymeric sand comes in gray, and some brands tan. Polymeric sand has become the standard for joint sand because it does a very good job of preventing weed growth and insect mounds. Polymeric sand is also consistently fine, such that it is easier thus faster to sweep into and fill the paver joints. Polymeric sand is available from your paver supplier. We will compact the pavers lightly after sweeping in the sand. A light compaction settles the sand and the pavers. If you used bedding sand, this compaction is not an option for a professional job.

Use a leaf blower to blow any sand from the paver tops before activating with a water mist. (you can meticulously sweep) Any sand on paver surface will bond and take some time to wear off. The polymeric sand can also stain the pavers. The staining is an acceptable look depending on colors.
50LB GRAY Polymeric Sand polymeric-sand-50lb-gray

Polymeric Sand

- Hardens to fill joints between pavers.
- Prevents weed growth and insect mounds.
- Polymer-fortified to adhere sand in place.
- Long-lasting solution to weed growth and wash-out in paver joints.


The pavers and polymeric joint sand need be dry before sealer is applied.

Joint Sand - Sealer Sandlock

While you can still use sealer, some sealers contain sand lock hardener. Sand lock will allow you to use regular play sand for paver joints. This sand will take longer to sweep in and requires compacting to completely settle in the joints. The sealer with sand lock sprays on with a deck sprayer. Surebond is one such brand that is easy to use.

After all edges have been trimmed with cut pavers, broom in 1 to 2 shovels of sand per 100 square feet. The same coarse sand used as bedding sand can be used. You don't have to sweep all the sand into the joints. The idea here is to get some sand in the joints but not fill them.

With loose sand evenly left on tops of the pavers, run a light duty plate compacter over the pavers. The sand will vibrate into the joints. Throw more sand onto the patio, broom most of it in and plate compact again. We will repeat this process as many times as it takes to get the joints full of sand. Sweep or blow excess sand off paver surface before applying sealer / sand lock.

Apply joint stabilizer and Sealer

The easiest joint stabilizer to install is also a sealer. Surebond is a brand name that sprays on using an inexpensive hand sprayer. Joint stabilizer will lock the sand in the joints such that sand does not wash out with normal use and rain. Joint stabilizer may need extra applications to keep ants from mounding. The sealer helps enhance pavers color.

Brickstone pavers installed as herringbone pattern with triple running bond border.

Brickstone pavers installed as herringbone pattern with triple running bond border.

Clay recycled pavers provided by home owner installed as herringbone pattern.

Clay recycled pavers provided by home owner installed as herringbone pattern.

Clay recycled pavers provided by home owner installed as herringbone pattern.

Tools Required

You will need a variety of hand tools and power tools. All are available at rental yards.

Measuring tools
Tape measure, 4 feet grading Level, string and quality line level
Straight blade shovel, Dirt rake, anything over a few hundred square feet, consider compact loader
straight 2 by 4, dirt rake
Good knee pads (single strap are most comfortable), gloves, paver hammer
Paver saw, plate compacter, broom for polymeric sand

© 2007 - 2015 Decorative Landscapes - Titusville, FL