Step 5: Grade the path

adding sand layer
Photo: Kolin Smith
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To grade the path for drainage, cut a small scrap of wood to a thickness equaling 1/8 inch for every foot of the path’s width. Tape the scrap to the end of a 4-foot level. Rest the level across the two rails, with the scrap wood positioned on top of the rail on the lower side of the path. Using a mallet, tap the rail into the ground until the bubble reads level.

Pour about 2 inches of masonry sand or stone dust into the space between the rails. Tamp the sand. Position the screed between the rails and pull it across the sand to even out the surface and fill in the low spots (as shown). If necessary, add more sand, tamp, then screed again.
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    Tools List

    • square spade
      Spade
    • hand saw
      Handsaw
    • four-foot level
      4-foot level
    • tamper
      Hand tamper
    • drill
      Drill/driver
    • mallet
      Deadblow mallet
    • push broom
      Push broom

    Shopping List

    1. BRICKS
    Choose bricks rated for severe weather (SW), also called "clay pavers" at the stone yard. Modular bricks measure 8 inches long, 4 inches wide, and 1½ inches thick, but actual dimensions can vary by as much as half an inch. Measure the bricks you like and figure out how many you'll need for your pattern. Depending on the pattern's waste, figure about five bricks per square foot

    2. GRADED BASE
    (a combination of crushed stone and stone dust), for creating a sturdy, porous base

    3. MASONRY SAND
    or stone dust, for creating a smooth, porous base between the graded base and the bricks

    4. 1x4 COMPOSITE LUMBER
    to use as temporary guides along the edges of the path as you set the bricks. Composite lumber is easier to bend for curves than standard lumber, though the latter will also work

    5. WOODEN STAKES
    at least 1½ feet long, to secure the guide rails in place

    6. 1 1/4-inch DECK SCREWS
    to temporarily attach the stakes to the guide rails

    7. 2x4 LUMBER
    to make a screed for shaping the sand

    8. GARDEN EDGING
    (optional) to hold together certain patterns of brick. Must go at least 6 inches into the ground