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Install a Patio or Walkway

Adding a patio or walkway to your home is a great way to personalize your landscape and extend your living space to the outdoors.

Paver Patio and Walkway.

Patio or Walkway Design and Location

Patio with Grill, Dining Set and Fire Pit.

Before you begin your project, create a plan. Map out your existing landscape on graph paper, including major elements such as your home, existing walkways and trees. Consider sight lines from windows and doors and how your project will affect them. Add your project to the plan, and work toward a finished design accurate to 1 inch.

When you plan your patio or walkway, your desired use will help determine the location:

  • Build a patio near a pool or along the house as a place to entertain or just relax.
  • Create a walkway and small patio near a garden for a quiet retreat.
  • Construct an outdoor kitchen with a barbecue area near your house so you don't have to walk far for cooking supplies.

There are some other practical considerations: Keep away from underground utilities and avoid areas near large trees — the roots will be difficult to deal with, and damaging them could harm the trees.

Project shape and paver style, color and pattern are largely a matter of personal taste. They should reflect your style and complement your home and landscape. They should also fit the function of your project and the needs of the people who will use the patio or walkway. For example, tumbled-stone pavers provide a classic, timeworn look, while a smoother, more regular surface may work better for guests who use walkers or wheelchairs.

Good to Know

Complicated paver patterns usually require more paver cuts.

Sizing the Patio or Walkway

Patio Size Examples.

Design a patio large enough to accommodate the furnishings you want. For example, if you plan to have meals on your patio, you need enough space to comfortably use a dining set. The chart indicates examples of estimated space requirements, factoring in space for the chairs to slide out and walking space around them. Add room for any other furnishings you want on your patio, such as additional furniture, planters or a fire pit.

If you're creating a walkway, plan for a width of at least 2 feet to accommodate one person and at least 4 feet to allow two people to walk side-by-side. A wheelchair will need a pathway that's at least 3 feet wide and a 5-foot-wide turn around area.

Caution

Before beginning any excavation, check for underground utilities. Call the North America One Call Referral Service at 1-888-258-0808 (or just dial 811) for a national directory of utility companies.

Patio or Walkway Materials

Once you decide the size, shape and design of your patio or walkway, estimate the amount of materials you need. The examples here are estimates for a rectangular patio measuring 12 by 8 feet. Use the examples as guides and adjust them to fit your project. Your material needs may vary depending on your specific design.

Before you buy materials or begin work, check local building codes and your homeowner's association regulations to see if there are any restrictions or requirements you need to follow. A permit may be mandatory in some areas.

Good to Know

Pavers can be heavy, and moving and placing them requires physical exertion. Avoid some of the effort by enlisting a helper and by having your materials delivered.

Estimating the Patio or Walkway Materials

Step 1

Calculate the total area of your project in square feet. This measurement determines the number of pavers and the amount of paver base and paver sand you need.

(length of area in feet) x (width of area in feet) = area in square feet

For example: 12 ft x 8 ft = 96 sq ft

Good to Know

If your design has an irregular shape, break it down into multiple sections. Calculate the area of each individual section and add these together.

Step 2

Determine the square footage per piece of your pavers. You may find paver dimensions listed as "common" or "nominal" with a slightly smaller actual measurement. Use the actual dimensions of the paver when calculating this figure. These examples use pavers that are 7.7 inches long and 3.8 inches wide. (A square foot equals 144 square inches.)

(length of paver in inches) x (width of paver in inches) ÷ 144 = square footage per piece

7.7 in x 3.8 in ÷ 144 = 0.20 sq ft

Good to Know

When you shop for pavers, look for planning guides that list the square footage per piece for various pavers — including those with irregular shapes — and that provide information to help you estimate your needs if you use a combination of pavers with different sizes.

Step 3

Estimate the number of pavers you need.

(area of project in square feet) ÷ (square footage per piece) = estimated minimum number of pavers

96 sq ft ÷ 0.20 sq ft = 480 pavers

Good to Know

Purchase 10 percent more pavers than your estimate. The excess should account for breakage, pavers that you need to cut and replacements for future repairs.

Step 4

Determine the amount of paver base necessary. Paver base is gravel that creates a solid base and helps the area drain properly. The paver base for a patio or walkway should be 4 inches deep when compacted. The calculation below factors in compaction.

(length of project in inches) x (width of project in inches) x [(depth of base material in inches) + (depth of base material in inches x 0.20)] ÷ 1728 = cubic feet of base material

144 in x 96 in x [4 in + (4 in x 0.20)] ÷ 1728 = 38.40 cu ft

Step 5

Estimate the amount of paver sand you need. The sand holds the pavers in place and allows you to adjust them. The paver sand needs to be 1 inch deep. The calculation below accounts for sand filtering into the paver base and into the joints between the pavers.

(area of project in square feet) ÷ 6 = cubic feet of paver sand

96 sq ft ÷ 6 = 16 cu ft

Step 6

Calculate the perimeter of your project. This figure defines how much paver edge restraint you need.

(length of side in feet) + (length of side in feet) + (length of side in feet) + (length of side in feet) = perimeter

12 ft + 8 ft + 12 ft + 8 ft = 40 ft

Good to Know

If you're installing a patio or walkway against a structure, you only need to include the open edges of the project in your perimeter calculations. You won't need paver edge restraints on the edges that are next to the structure.

Step 7

Calculate the required quantity of paver edge restraints. You'll base this on the perimeter of the project and the edge restraints you choose. The example below uses paver edge restraints available in 6-foot sections.

(perimeter of project in feet) ÷ (length in feet of an individual edge restraint section) = number of sections of edge restraint

40 ft ÷ 6 ft = 6.7 sections

Preparing the Patio or Walkway Foundation

Step 1

Measure the area for the patio or walkway in the desired location. Move out 6 inches on all sides from the planned area and drive stakes into the ground, running string or mason's line between the stakes to outline the excavation area. If you're installing a patio or walkway against a structure, move out from the sides that are not adjacent to the structure. The extra space will allow you to install paver edge restraints around the patio or walkway to hold the pavers in place.

Step 2

If your design is rectangular, check the layout for square. Measure the distance diagonally between the corners. If the two diagonal measurements are equal, the area is square. Adjust the layout as needed.

Step 3

Excavating the Project Area.

Estimate the inches of drop from the edge of the project closest to your house or other structure to the edge farthest away, allowing a slope of 1/4 inch per foot. Excavate at least 6 inches of soil to maintain this slope. Periodically check the depth and slope. The ground should always slope away from structures for proper drainage. If it doesn't, expand your excavation at the far edge to accommodate a boundary of retaining wall blocks in two or more courses or consider regrading that portion of your yard. For information on installing retaining wall block, see Build a Block Retaining Wall.

Good to Know

After you remove the sod, keep it slightly wet so you can use it elsewhere in your landscape. You may want to place some of it around the perimeter of your new patio or walkway.

Step 4

Compacting the Paver Base with a Plate Compactor.

Use a rake to spread paver base to a compacted thickness of 4 inches. Add the material in 2-inch increments and thoroughly compact each layer before adding the next. Make sure the finished base has a uniform surface and maintains the slope for drainage.

Good to Know

You can compact the base with a hand tamper or rent a plate compactor to make the work quicker and easier. Wear work gloves, safety glasses and hearing protection when using a plate compactor.

Step 5

Cover the excavation area with landscape fabric to inhibit weed growth.

Step 6

Smoothing the Paver Sand.

Lay a pair of 1-inch-outside-diameter pipes parallel to each other on the compacted base. Spread paver sand over the base. Smooth the sand at a 1-inch depth by pulling a 2-x-4 board across the pipes. Remove the pipes. Fill in and level the gaps they leave. Depending on the size and shape of your project, you may have to repeat the process until you have a uniform 1-inch bed of sand across the entire area

Good to Know

Sand can filter down into the paver base. Check the depth and slope before laying pavers.

Laying the Patio or Walkway Pavers

Step 1

Laying the Pavers.

Beginning at the corner where you have the least flexibility for adjustment (such as next to a structure), lay pavers in the desired pattern. Keep the pavers tight against each other. Do not place pavers in the extra 6-inch perimeter you established in Step 1. Maintain a uniform surface and the proper slope. Tap the pavers with a rubber mallet to adjust and set them.

Caution

Wear work gloves when handling and laying pavers.

Step 2

You will likely need to cut some pavers to create your pattern or to finish off edges. Use a hammer and chisel or a circular saw and masonry blade to cut the pavers. For information on cutting pavers, see Cut Patio Block.

Good to Know

To create a 90-degree mitered corner, cut a 45-degree angle on two pavers. Glue the cut sides together with exterior-grade concrete adhesive so the two faces form the finished outside corner.

Good to Know

Wear eye protection and work gloves when cutting pavers. If you use a power saw, you also need hearing protection and a safety mask / respirator.

Step 3

Installing the Paver Edge Restraints.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions to install paver edge restraints around the entire project.

Step 4

Sweeping Polymeric Sand into Paver Joints.

Make sure the surface is completely dry, and spread joint sand or polymeric sand on the installation. The packaging should tell you how to determine the amount of material you need. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for filling the joints between the pavers and setting the material.

Making Curves in Your Patio or Walkway

Creating a Curve.

While rectangular paver creations are the simplest to plan and install, you can go beyond straight lines and right angles. Use the tips below to incorporate curves into your project.

Replace Corners with Curves

  1. Drive a stake inside a corner of your layout, equidistant from the two adjacent edges.
  2. Tie one end of a length of string to the stake and the other end to a can of marking paint to create a compass. Adjust the length of the string so the paint can arcs across the edges of the layout and creates the desired curve.
  3. Paint the curve onto the ground as a guide for excavation.
  4. Check the layout and make any needed adjustments.

Create Random Curves

  1. Lay a garden hose on the ground in the desired shape.
  2. Cover the hose with sand.
  3. Remove the hose and use the resulting curve as an excavation guide.

Finishing Your Patio or Walkway

Lights along a Pathway.

Complete your project with some touches that make the new space stand out:

Fill in the perimeter. Cover the remaining excavation area with some of the sod you removed or add stone or mulch to separate the pavers from your lawn.

Landscape with Mulch

Install edging. Before placing the paver restraints, install edging stones to keep grass, plants or mulched beds separate from the patio or walkway. After adding the edging stones, install the paver edge restraints.

Create a Border Using Edging Stones

Add plants. Plants complement your outdoor space with natural color and beauty. Planting beds set off your creation from the rest of your landscape. Container plants require less prep work and can be mobile. Trellises add a vertical element to your plantings.

Add a Planting Bed to Your Home Landscape

Create a Container Garden

Selecting and Growing Vining Plants

Decorate your space. Garden decor items such as bird feeders, arbors, fountains and wind chimes let you personalize your outdoor space

Bird Feeder Buying Guide

Install lighting. Landscape lighting enhances the look of your space at night, lights dark walkways and extends the usefulness of your patio beyond the daylight hours.

Lighting Ideas for Outdoor Living