How to Lay Pavers
Bringing over 80 years of collective experience to the table, Seattle Rockeries specializes in a wide variety of hardscaping projects that help our customers transform their properties into beautiful outdoor living spaces. From the design phase all the way through to the finishing touches, we work on block walls, rockery walls, outdoor steps, pavers, and more.
Whether you need driveway pavers to park your cars, a walkway for your yard, or patio pavers to turn an unused area into a beautiful sitting or entertaining space, Seattle Rockeries has you covered. Whatever your needs might be, pavers are a great way to level a surface and create a more functional area in a way that is more durable and more esthetically pleasing than traditional poured-in concrete methods.
If you need help with a paver project or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. We are always more than happy to help you with your hardscaping needs.
However, if you want to tackle this project on your own, this blog will show you how to lay pavers from start to finish. There are many ways this type of project can be done, but we will show you the method that we found works best for most of our customers.
Table of Contents
Step 1: Design and planning
Step 2: Excavation
Step 3: Lay Gravel
Step 4: Lay Pavers
Step 5: Finishing touches
Step 1 – Design and Planning
The first step of any DIY hardscaping project is to thoughtfully design and plan your finished product. Pavers are no exception. Be sure to take extra time and care with this step to ensure the proper design and execution of your project.
You will need to determine the type of material that will be used for your project. There are two main types of material that can be utilized: concrete pavers and stone pavers.
Concrete pavers are artificial materials comprised of uniformly cut concrete blocks. This helps give your project a clean and organized aesthetic appearance.
On the flip side, we have stone pavers (also known as flagstone pavers). Like rockery walls, these are made from natural materials that lack uniformity in their size and color. However, they provide a beautiful and unique aesthetic, giving you a one-of-a-kind look that fits in with your property’s natural features. You may also use dimensional paving stones. These are natural stone materials that have been cut into a uniform shape, giving you the best of both worlds.
Let’s talk about permeable pavers, which are a type of concrete paver that is designed to allow water to penetrate the surface. This type of material makes for a better drainage solution compared to other types of pavers, which are non-permeable (water runs off them rather than being absorbed). You never have to worry about water buildup when working with permeable pavers, but the process of site prep and construction is far more difficult and time-consuming.
With that exception in mind, the building process outlined in this article applies whether you are working with concrete or stone pavers.
Other needed materials:
- Gravel (used as the base for your project)
- Sand (used to fill gaps between pavers)
Our preferred vendor for paver materials:
Once you’ve settled on a material, it’s important to check that you have all the right tools for the job. Some of these tools may already be in your garage or tool shed, but others may require a special purchase or rental.
You’ll need the following:
- Hand tamper
- Gravel rake
- (optional) Spray paint
- (optional) Excavator
- (optional) Sledgehammer
- (optional) Hammer jack
Our preferred dealers/rentals:
The next step is to determine where your pavers will be located, which will depend on the purpose that your project will serve (driveway, walkway, patio seating, etc.).
Survey your yard and visualize the space where you want to put your pavers. We always recommend that you use a can of spray paint to outline the perimeter of your final project. This will help ensure that you don’t over-excavate the land (you want to avoid digging up more space than you have material for).
Next, make note of what is currently occupying that space. Is the area grassy or heavily vegetated? Is there concrete in the way? Is the surface uneven or flat? In any case, we need to make sure that the area is cleared and ready for construction.
An excavator is a perfect tool for clearing out any trees or shrubbery, but a shovel will work just fine if there isn’t too much vegetation. If tree removal is necessary for your project, you may be able to find another space for those trees to be re-planted.
*If you are working with Seattle Rockeries on your project, we are more than happy to remove your trees/vegetation for you. However, you will need to seek the assistance of a landscaper if you want help with re-planting. For concrete, a sledgehammer or hammer jack will help you break it down into smaller pieces for easy removal.
Step 2 – Excavation
Now that the area for your pavers has been prepared, we’re almost ready to get digging! Before excavation can begin, you need to determine the final grade (elevation) of your pavers. Run a string line along one of the sides of your chosen site. You can set this up by simply putting stakes into the ground with a string tied from one end to the other. Alternatively, you can use a string attached to a pavers restraint. In any case, use a level tool to ensure that your string line isn’t slanted.
The placement of this string line will determine the final grade of your finished product. Depending on where you want this to be, you may need to excavate a few extra inches before running your string line.
From here, you can begin excavating your site. Again, an excavator will be the most efficient tool to get this done. A shovel will suffice, but this is far more time-consuming. Be sure to dig 6-8 inches below the height of your stringline. This will give you enough vertical space for your gravel base and pavers. Once you’ve finished digging, use a shovel to square off the corners and edges of your excavated area. Make sure any loose dirt or debris is removed and if necessary, use a compactor to flatten the surface of your dirt.
Step 3 – Lay Gravel
Before you can put down your pavers, you need to pour a gravel base for your concrete or paving stones to sit on top of.
Start by pouring a few inches of gravel. Using a gravel rake, spread the gravel so it covers the entirety of your excavated area. From there, use a compactor or hand tamper on the gravel to ensure your surface remains flat and durable.
If your gravel isn’t properly compacted, your base might not be strong enough to support the weight of your pavers, causing them to sink into the ground when placed.
Rinse and repeat this process until the height of your gravel reaches near the finished grade determined by your string line. Keep in mind, you don’t want to go all the way to the top. Measure the thickness of your pavers to determine how much of a gap needs to be left between the final layer of gravel and the final grade of your project. Before moving to the next step, do one final check to ensure that your gravel base is flat. You can use something simple like a flat wooden board to lay over your surface. If there are any areas where a gap can be seen between the gravel and your board, be sure to fill those low spots in with any excess gravel you have.
Step 4 – Lay Pavers
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for. It’s time to lay your pavers! This is the easy part, as the bulk of the complicated work will happen in the early stages of construction. Lay one row at a time, using a mallet to press each piece into place. This will help ensure that all your materials are tight-fitting, against both each other and the top layer of your gravel. Repeat this process until your entire area is covered.
There are a wide variety of patterns you could use, so go with whatever aesthetic you prefer. If you are using a material that is uniform in size, you could lay each row of pavers so that the seams are parallel to each other or offset from one another.
Step 5 – Finishing Touches
After you’ve laid your pavers, you have what looks like a finished product! But wait – before you start parking cars or buying new patio furniture, there are still crucial steps that need to be taken to help with both the durability and longevity of your new outdoor space.
First, you need to go over your pavers with a compactor. This will help flatten your concrete or stone and make sure you end up with a level surface. You will want to make multiple passes over your pavers to ensure they are as flat and compacted as possible.
After the first round of compacting, pour and spread your sand over the pavers’ surface area. Despite how tight your materials are against each other, there will still be some small gaps that you want to take care of (especially when working with natural stone pavers).
To vibrate the sand off the top of your surface and into those cracks, do another round of compacting. Continue until all the sand has been shaken off the top of your pavers.
From there, you will want to hose down the area with water. This will harden the sand, making it less likely for your materials to slide around.
With all that taken care of, you should now have a beautiful set of pavers on your property! Enjoy the new space for your cars, your parties, or whatever else you may need.
If you need some design inspiration for your pavers project, check out these photos from some of our past work. Using the process outlined in this blog, we’ve helped our clients with a variety of concrete, stone, and brick pavers. With those materials, we’ve built driveways, patios, walkways, and more. Use these photos to inspire ideas for your own property!
Thank you for sticking around until the end!
Pavers are a great way to add both function and aesthetic value to your commercial or residential property. The time, resources, and experience level needed to lay pavers will vary depending on the use case and scope of your project. In any case, we hope that this article has been a useful guide as you navigate the process.
Head to our homepage if you want to learn more about related hardscaping services we provide.
If you have any questions about the building process, do not hesitate to contact us . We are happy to assist you in any way – even if you just want us to come to your property and do it all for you!