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How to Design and Build a Paver Patio

Make a simple backyard beautiful and extend your living space to the outdoors with a paver patio. You can install the paving stones yourself. We'll show you how, and give you paver patio ideas to help you personalize your new space.

See How Your Neighbor Did It

Blogger Sarah Gibson tackles a custom patio paver project.

Don't just take our word for it. Sarah Gibson of Room for Tuesday, took on this project with her husband and the results are impressive. She'll walk you through her real-life process of installing a custom paver patio.

See how she did it.

Planning a Paver Patio

Jack-on-Jack, Running Bond, Herringbone and Pinwheel Paving Stone Patterns.

Begin with a plan. Jack-on-Jack or running bond patterns are the simplest to install. More advanced patterns like herringbone or pinwheel require more cutting. If you want a decorative look that's easy to install, consider stamped pavers that look like stone. Take a look at our Wall Blocks, Pavers and Edging Stones Guide to learn more about paving stones. See Planning for a Paver Patio or Walkway to learn how to estimate the materials you need for your project.

  • Make sure your patio is big enough for all of your outdoor furniture and allows enough space to walk around.
  • Use thicker pavers if you're adding heavy objects like a hot tub or large grill.
  • When planning the location for your patio, consider sight lines from windows and doors and how your project will affect them.

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. Enlist a helper and have your materials delivered.

Caution

Before beginning any excavation, call 811 to check for underground utilities.

Paver Patio Basics

Paver Patio Layers Illustration.

A typical patio installation has several layers:

  • A 6-inch layer of gravel paver base
  • A 1-inch layer of sand
  • Pavers
  • Polymeric / jointing sand in the joints between the pavers
Good to Know

An alternative to the gravel base is interlocking paver base panels. They're lightweight, require less digging, and the pavers sit right on top. See How to Design and Build a Paver Walkway to learn how to use paver base panels.

Preparing the Area

Step 1

Batter Boards Marking the Paver Patio Layout.

To mark the layout, use strings and batter boards made from furring strips. A batter board consists of two stakes and a cross piece that supports the string. You can adjust the layout by simply sliding the strings along the cross pieces.

Step 2

Squared Patio Layout.

Check for square. The layout is square when the diagonal measurements are equal.

Good to Know

If you want curves, you can plan them with a garden hose and outline them with a shovel.

Step 3

Line Level on Layout String.

Use a line level to make sure the strings are level.

Step 4

4-Foot Level with 1-inch Block.

Plan for the proper slope. The patio needs to slope away from the house — about a 1-inch drop every 4 feet. A 4-foot level with a 1-inch block of wood attached to the end is helpful to check the slope as you're digging. Use your yard's natural slope if possible.

Step 5

Digging Out the Patio Layout.

Remove the sod and dirt. The total depth you dig depends on the paver height along with the base. The pavers should sit at or a little above ground level. Dig about 6 inches beyond the strings. The extra space provides room for paver edging to hold the pavers in place. For large excavations, consider renting a sod cutter. As you dig, use the level and block to keep the slope uniform.

Good to Know

Keep the sod slightly wet if you plan to reuse it.

Step 6

Burying Landscape Lighting Cable.

If you're installing landscape lighting, bury the cables now.

Step 7

Tamping the Area with a Plate Compactor.

After you've removed the dirt, tamp the area with a rented plate compactor. You can use a hand tamper for small areas, but the plate compactor makes the job easier and quicker.

Step 8

Add a layer of landscape fabric to block weed growth.

Installing the Patio Foundation

Step 1

Adding Gravel Paver Base.

Your patio needs the support of a gravel paver base. Add the gravel in 2- to 3-inch layers, wet it and run the plate compactor over it. Continue until you have a 6-inch base. Remember to keep the slope uniform.

Step 2

Building a Retaining Wall.

We're adding a low retaining wall along a hill at the edge of the layout. It sits on the gravel base and is held together with construction adhesive. If the yard slopes more than 1 inch every 4 feet, a wall helps contain the patio when you build it up to the recommended slope. Watch How to Build a Retaining Wall for more details on retaining walls.

Step 3

Using PVC Pipes to Indicate Leveling Sand Depth.

Lay lengths of 1-inch outside-diameter PVC pipe across the area. The pipes will help you get the correct depth of leveling sand.

Step 4

Screeding Sand Across the Pipes.

Pour the sand and pull a straight 2 x 4 along the pipes to screed or level the sand and create a flat surface. Work your way across the patio.

Step 5

Remove the pipes and fill in the gaps with more sand. Repeat the process as necessary to create a 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 the pavers.

Installing the Pavers

This patio has 6-inch by 6-inch and 6-inch by 9-inch blocks in a running bond pattern, with 6-inch by 9-inch blocks along the border.

Step 1

Using Strings to Keep the Paving Stones Straight.

Start laying the pavers along the edge of the layout. If possible, start at a hard edge such as a wall. Use strings set low to the ground as a guide to keep the blocks straight. Continue setting the pavers, working toward the middle of the patio area and leaving a small gap — 1/4 inch here — between the pavers.

Good to Know

Wear work gloves when handling the pavers. Consider wearing a pair of knee pads to make the installation process more comfortable.

Step 2

Tapping Down Pavers to Adjust Height.

Periodically check that the tops are even. To adjust, add sand underneath pavers or tap them down with a rubber mallet.

Step 3

Using a Straightedge to Align Paving Stones.

Use a straightedge to keep the blocks in line. Remember to maintain the correct slope.

Step 4

Installing Paver Edging.

After you get some of the pavers in place, install edging along the perimeter with spikes spaced about every foot.

Step 5

Cutting Pavers with a Circular Saw and Concrete Blade.

You'll most likely need to cut some blocks to fit. A speed square helps you mark for angled cuts. Mark the blocks and clamp them one at a time to a stable work surface, cutting each with a circular saw and concrete blade. You may need to make several passes, lowering the blade a little bit each time. Note that concrete dust can collect in the saw and lead to motor wear — follow the manufacturer's instructions to blow out accumulated dust.

Good to Know

A wet saw can be a helpful alternative to a circular saw if you need many cuts. If you have just a few blocks to cut, you can make them without a saw. Use a drilling hammer and mason's chisel to score the block on all sides. Pound the chisel on the score line until the block splits.

Good to Know

Wear eye and hearing protection as well as a dust mask and work gloves when cutting block. Follow the saw and blade manufacturer's instructions.

Adding Jointing Sand

Step 1

Sweeping Polymeric Sand into Paver Joints.

Once you've set the blocks in place, add sand to fill in between the pavers. Polymeric jointing sand has additives that provide a better bond, but the pavers must be completely dry before application. Sweep the sand into the joints.

Step 2

Using a Hand Tamper to Settle the Pavers.

Use a hand tamper to settle the sand. Add more sand and repeat the process as needed.

Step 3

Using a Leaf Blower to Remove Excess Sand.

Remove all of the excess sand with a leaf blower. Pay special attention to textures and crevices on the pavers. Be sure no polymeric sand or dust from the sand remains — it creates a permanent, white haze after it comes into contact with moisture.

Good to Know

Follow the jointing sand manufacturer's instructions.

Step 4

Lightly spray the patio with a hose and allow the sand to cure for 24 hours.

Step 5

Cut Away the Excess Weed Barrier.

Cut away the excess weed barrier.

Finishing Touches

Paver Patio with Container Plants.

Add features to make your new patio the highlight of your landscape: