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.
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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.
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.
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.
Pavers can be heavy. Enlist a helper and have your materials delivered.
Before beginning any excavation, call 811 to check for underground utilities.
A typical patio installation has several layers:
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.
Check for square. The layout is square when the diagonal measurements are equal.
If you want curves, you can plan them with a garden hose and outline them with a shovel.
Use a line level to make sure the strings are level.
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.
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.
Keep the sod slightly wet if you plan to reuse it.
If you're installing landscape lighting, bury the cables now.
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.
Add a layer of landscape fabric to block weed growth.
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.
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.
Lay lengths of 1-inch outside-diameter PVC pipe across the area. The pipes will help you get the correct depth of leveling sand.
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.
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.
Sand can filter down into the paver base. Check the depth and slope before laying 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.
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.
Wear work gloves when handling the pavers. Consider wearing a pair of knee pads to make the installation process more comfortable.
Periodically check that the tops are even. To adjust, add sand underneath pavers or tap them down with a rubber mallet.
Use a straightedge to keep the blocks in line. Remember to maintain the correct slope.
After you get some of the pavers in place, install edging along the perimeter with spikes spaced about every foot.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Use a hand tamper to settle the sand. Add more sand and repeat the process as needed.
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.
Follow the jointing sand manufacturer's instructions.
Lightly spray the patio with a hose and allow the sand to cure for 24 hours.
Cut away the excess weed barrier.
Add features to make your new patio the highlight of your landscape: