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How to Install Concrete Pavers

Ask This Old House mason Mark McCullough helps an expecting couple install a concrete paver patio.

Steps for installing concrete pavers:

  1. Start by marking and digging out the area for the patio. A pickax can help loosen up the soil, which will make it easier to dig out. Dig until the patio is consistently 8-9” deep, though some spots of the patio may require digging deeper in order to keep the patio even.
  2. Run the compactor over the patio area to compact the soil and allow for a firm base.
  3. Pour a layer of stone pack material over the base of the patio. Rake it out until it’s roughly even.
  4. Run the compactor over the patio area to compact the pack material onto the base.
  5. Pour a layer of concrete sand over the patio area. The sand will help hold the pavers in place. Rake out the sand over the base until it’s roughly even.
  6. Run the compactor over the patio area to compact the sand onto the base.
  7. Screed over the entire base of the patio and fill in any low spots and shave down high spots until the base is even. During this step, place a level on the screed to check the pitch of the patio base. Mark suggests having a slight pitch down and away from the house, so that any rainwater that falls on the patio will not pool towards the house.
  8. Use some string and stakes to square off the patio base. In the example above, Mark used the foundation of the house as a reference point and measured two equal distances towards the patio for the location of his stakes. You can check that the stringed-off area is square by holding a framing square up to it.
  9. Start laying the concrete pavers within the stringed area. Start in a corner and work your way down and out. Use a mallet to secure each paver in place, and check each paver for level before moving on to the next paver. NOTE: In this case, Mark laid the pavers in an ashlar pattern. This pattern can be tricky to place, but the pavers come with a template book that you can follow along with to make things easier.
  10. Place plastic edging along the edges of the patio. The edging comes with stakes that can be hammered down to secure it into place.
  11. Pour the polymeric sand over all the joints between the pavers and sweep them in tight with a push broom.
  12. Lightly hose down the patio to activate the polymeric sand.
  13. Give the patio about an hour to cure before walking on it or otherwise using it.

Additional Tips

Plate compactor

When Mark needs a firm, void-free base for a patio, walkway, or stone wall, he puts a single-direction compactor to work. It applies 3,375 foot-pounds of centrifugal force at 5,880 vibrations per minute, which is just right for small jobs.

How to read pitch on a spirit level

Some levels, like the I-beam, have vials with extra lines on both sides that show pitches of 1 and 2 percent. When the bubble in the vial touches the 2 percent line, for instance, the level has a pitch of ¼ inch per foot.


Resources:

Mark installed Andover Collection Stone Cleft pavers in the Richfield Blend color, which are manufactured by Ideal Concrete Block.

Compactors can be rented at most home centers and landscape supply stores.

The other materials Mark used, including pack, concrete sand, and polymeric sand can be purchased at landscape supply stores.

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