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How to Design and Build a Paver Walkway

A paver walkway can add an attractive touch to your landscape. Interlocking paver base panels make this an easy project. We'll show you how to build it and give you ideas to turn a simple paving stone walkway into a focal point for your outdoors.

Planning for a Paver Walkway

Jack-on-Jack, Running Bond, Herringbone and Pinwheel Paver Patterns.

Start by deciding on a pattern and style. Traditional, basic patterns include Jack-on-Jack or running bond. Patterns such as herringbone or pinwheel are more advanced and require more cutting. If you want a decorative look that's easy to install, consider stamped pavers that look just like stone. Our Wall Blocks, Pavers and Edging Stones Guide can give you more details on paving stones. Read Planning for a Paver Patio or Walkway and learn how to estimate the materials you need for your project.

When it comes to the width of your walkway, 48 inches is comfortable for two people walking side-by-side, but a 36-inch width is standard. A wheelchair needs a pathway that's at least 36 inches wide with a 60-inch-wide turnaround area.

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 Walkway Basics

Paver Walkway Illustration with Paver Base Panels

A traditional paver walkway consists of several layers:

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

For this walkway, we're using interlocking paver base panels (illustration above) instead of the gravel base. They're lightweight, require only 1/2 inch of sand underneath, and the pavers sit directly on top.

Good to Know

If you choose to use a gravel base rather than the panels, see How to Design and Build a Paver Patio for instructions.

Preparing the Area

Step 1

Lay out the area for your walkway. The best way to mark a straight walkway is with stakes and string.

Step 2

Illustration of Squared Layout.

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

Step 3

Line Level on Layout String.

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

Step 4

Using a 2 by 4 to Create a Curve in the Layout.

For curves, mark with a hose, using a 2 x 4 to keep the width the same. Then cut the sod with a spade. The cuts will indicate where you should dig after you remove the hose.

Step 5

A 2-Foot Level with a 1/2-inch Block to Check Slope.

The walkway should slope away from the house. Plan for about a 1/4-inch drop per foot. A 2-foot level with a 1/2-inch block of wood attached to the end is helpful to check the slope as you're digging. If possible, use the natural slope of the yard.

Step 6

Digging Out the Walkway Layout.

After you've marked your layout, remove the sod and dirt. The total depth will depend on the paver height along with the base. The pavers should sit at or a little above ground level. You'll need to match the height of an existing patio if you have one. Dig the trench a little wider than the walkway, allowing room for the paver panels as well as edge restraints to hold the pavers in place. Use the level with the attached block to keep the slope uniform. For large excavations, consider renting a sod cutter.

Good to Know

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

Step 7

Burying a Landscape Lighting Cable.

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

Step 8

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 9

Laying Down Landscape Fabric to Form a Weed Barrier.

When the ground is solid, add a weed barrier trimmed to extend slightly beyond the area.

Installing the Walkway Foundation

Step 1

Pouring Sand Over PVC Pipes.

The paver panels need a thin layer of leveling sand as a base. To make the sand uniform, lay pieces of 1/2-inch outside-diameter PVC pipe on the ground and pour a layer of sand over the area.

Good to Know

You may need to cut the PVC pipes to fit curves in your layout.

Step 2

Leveling the Sand Across the Pipes.

Pull a straight 2 x 4 along the pipes to screed or level the sand and create a flat surface. Make sure the sand base maintains the necessary slope.

Step 3

Filling Sand into the Gaps Left by the Pipes.

Remove the pipes and fill in with more sand. Repeat the process as necessary to create a bed of sand across the entire layout.

Step 4

Placing the First Paver Base Panels.

Set the first paver panel against a straight edge — such as a patio — if possible. The next panel should overlap the grooves of the adjacent panels.

Step 5

Staggering the Joints of the Paver Panels.

If your work area is more than one panel wide, stagger the joints so the panels create a more stable base for the pavers. Continue installing the panels to cover the walkway area.

Step 6

Using a 2 by 4 Mark the Paver Panels for Trimming.

Mark the excess, noting that the panels should extend a few inches beyond the final width of the walkway. Cut a 2 x 4 wider than the walkway to use as a guide.

Step 7

Trimming the Paver Panels.

Cut away the excess with a utility knife.

Installing the Pavers

Step 1

Laying the First Paver Stones.

Start laying the pavers. As with the panels, start against a hard, straight edge if possible. Lay the outer borders first and fill in between the borders.

Step 2

Using a Straightedge to Line Up the Blocks.

Leave a small gap — 1/4 inch for this walkway — between the blocks. You can use a straightedge to keep the blocks in line.

Step 3

Using a 2 by 4 to Maintain the Walkway Width.

Use a 2 x 4 cut to length to maintain the width of the walkway as you work.

Step 4

Installing Paver Restraint Edging.

Install edging along the perimeter as you go with spikes every 12 inches

Step 5

Laying the Pavers for the Walkway.

Continue installing the rest of the walkway. Periodically check to make sure the walkway surface is uniform. To adjust, add sand underneath pavers or tap them down with a rubber mallet. Maintain the proper slope.

Step 6

Cutting a Paving Stone with a Circular Saw and Concrete Blade.

To cut the blocks, mark them — a speed square helps you mark for angled cuts — and clamp 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.

Caution

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.

Step 7

Illustration of Cutting for a Curved Walkway.

If you're laying the blocks tightly against each other in one direction to create a curve, mark the curve with a hose and then cut the blocks in place with a circular saw.

Adding Jointing Sand

Step 1

Pouring Polymeric Sand Over the Pavers.

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

Tamping the Blocks to Settle the Walkway.

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

Step 3

Blowing Off Excess Polymeric 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 walkway with a hose and allow the sand to cure for 24 hours.

Step 5

Cutting Away Excess Landscape Fabric.

Cut away the excess weed barrier.

Finishing Touches

Finish up with features to make your walkway the perfect path to a beautiful backyard:

 

 

  • Install lighting along the walkway to enhance the look of your landscape and light the path at night.
    Install Landscape Lighting

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 patio paver.

See how she did it.