How To Install Paver Patio

Life is busy. In general, I think we could all agree that we live in a more fast paced society. Our schedules are always full, we’re constantly on the run, and there seams to be minimal time to sit and relax! This paver patio has become a backyard oasis for my parents. Being able to dine outdoors and listen to the birds, and watch other wildlife allows them time to decompress each evening.

Earlier this week we talked about creating an outdoor living space on a budget. This post offers great tips on how to style a patio to create an inviting and relaxing atmosphere, perfect for evening dinners or large parties. Today we’d like to share how to install a paver patio with step by step tips that will give you professional results.

Where do you start when laying a paver patio?

Installing a paver patio can seem like a daunting task, there’s no doubt about that. So it’s a valid question to wonder where to even start when laying a paver patio?

How much does it cost?

How do you prepare ground for pavers?

Does it need a slope?

Can you lay pavers on just sand?

How many inches of sand do I need for pavers?

What is the best base for pavers?

Is paver base necessary?

And the list goes on. Continue reading to get all of your questions answered about installing a paver patio.

How much does a paver patio cost?

Multiple factors play into the cost of a paver patio, including type of pavers used, size of patio and labor.

The largest variable in your total budget will be labor. It will vary from location to location, depending on a contractors overhead, ability and experience. Generally speaking, labor costs are more expensive in areas with a higher cost of living.

For this post we’ll use figures for a 500 square foot patio since that’s the size we installed.

You can take your size and search out the average installation cost in your area with a quick internet search.

The average cost for installation for our size would roughly be $4,000-$13,000. Remember there are a variety of materials to use that would affect this price as well as labor.

Learning how to install a paver patio yourself can save you thousands of dollars! Yes it’s labor intensive but well worth it in our opinion to complete a job well done and save a ton of money!

Actual Costs For This Paver Patio

Just to give you a better idea, here’s a breakdown of the actual costs for this paver patio.

$1224 – Pavers

$200 – Road Base

$125 – Sand

$75 – Polymeric Sand

For a total of $1,624  on supplies for a 500 square foot patio. Savings from doing the labor yourself are significant!

Now we did rent a compactor and small tractor to aid in some of the work, but for supplies alone, it’s well below the average cost for installation.

How Do You Prepare Ground For Pavers?

Outdoor Living Space

When planning how to prepare the ground for pavers it’s best to consider a few key elements such as, slope, thickness of pavers, thickness of base and sand.

For this paver patio we excavated 6″ for the base material, 1″ for the sand and 2″ for the depth of the pavers. (More info on each of these will be discussed below.)

The original patio in my parents yard, if you can call it that, was a small slab of cement at the base of their stairs. More of a landing surface than a patio.

The first step to preparing the ground for their paver patio was to remove the existing concrete. A circular saw with a concrete blade was used to cut the cement right at the base of the stairs. The cement was then broken up and removed with the help of a small rental tractor.

Outdoor Living Space

The original plan was to use the help from the heavy equipment rental. Excess dirt was scooped and driven up the hill to create a flat surface for a fire pit and seating area.

Outdoor Living Space

A handful of trips up the hill were made before we had a little accident with the tractor rolling. Luckily no one was injured (not even the tractor, luckily!), just a little hurt pride!

After that little incident my parents decided all remaining excavating would be completed by hand.

Outdoor Living Space

So, to speed up the process, all reinforcements were called in. We had many family members come help early on a Saturday morning. The little kids even helped out!

We had multiple 5 gallon buckets being filled with dirt down below, which were then hoisted up with a pulley system between two trees, and buckets were emptied up the hill to level off another entertaining area for a fire pit.

What really seamed like an insurmountable job, with the help of a lot of willing hands (and a free lunch!), all of the remaining excavation work was completed in only 4 hours!

Does A Paver Patio Need To Be Sloped?

When designing a paver patio be sure to account for proper drainage across the entire surface. Building the patio with a 1-2″ slope away from the home will ensure all water drains away from the foundation. You don’t want to have any water pool up under the pavers and soak into the basement!

Making the patio flat is not the same as making it level. To prevent any areas where water may pool, the surface shouldn’t have any dips or bumps.

The area should drop 1/2″ for every 4′. An easy way to check the slope is to lay a 4-foot level on the ground and raise one end up 1/2″. Mark the bubble location of the level and use it as a guide on the patio surface. From there it’s easy to fill in or remove gravel from areas to adjust the slope.

Can You Lay Pavers On Just Sand?

Compacted sand can provide a sufficient base for a paver patio that’s just going to have you walking across it. But the base of the patio should be compacted as much as possible.

For long term use with professional results we recommend applying a base level first.

Is Paver Base Necessary?

Installing pavers directly over dirt for stepping stones will hold up fine. But it’s best to assess the condition of the base and make it as solid as possible before laying pavers to create a patio.

This is the 3rd paver patio my parents have installed between each of their homes. They’ve progressively learned what techniques and products work best (each patio has improved and is better than the previous one).

A sand base was laid for a previous paver patio. After time, some settling occurred and created a tripping hazard. After time, it needed repair. The pavers were removed, additional sand added and the the pavers reinstalled. 

This time they opted to use a road base. Depending on your location and building supplies, it may be called Class 5, crusher rock, road bed gravel or 3/4 minus gravel. Road base compacts better than a general gravel base. This will prevent any settling in the pavers and keep the paver patio free from pooling water.

A base depth of 4 to 6 inches is recommended to provide a sturdy and stable foundation for many types of paver installation.

Compacting Base For Paver Patio

Paver Patio

Now you should have a better understanding of the importance of a base level. Compacting the base level is key to creating a paver patio that will remain level and hold up through the years.

There’s no real rhyme or reason to compacting the base, other than you want to go over the entire surface area. As we  began compacting an area, we would sprinkle water over the area. This helps with the compaction. Compacting the base causes smaller particles in the soil to settle in the voids of the material underneath, forming a sturdy base.

You can buy or rent a hand tamper tool to compact the base. For this project we rented a powered compactor to speed up the process.

Adding Sand To Paver Patio Base

Paver Patio

After the paver base has been compacted we added 1″ of sand.

Don’t feel like you have to tackle the whole patio at once. Start with a workable area. You won’t want anyone to walk on the sand after you screed it before placing the pavers into place.

PRO TIP: Use 1″ PVC pipe to screed the sand easily. Place a couple pieces of pvc pipe on each end and one in the middle of your workable are. (Our workable area was the length of a 2×4.) Then fill area in with sand. Pull the 2 x 4 across the 1″ PVC pipe, this creates a perfect 1″ layer of sand.

Paver Patio

To the right of the sand you can see in the image that we have an orange string at the edge of the cement. This is held into place with stakes on each end of the workable area. The string has been tied 1″ above the road base level. This acts as a guide when screeding so we know that we are maintaining 1″ thickness of sand throughout the entire patio.

Paver Patio

Then use the 2×4 to screed the sand. This allows you to get a large workable area level at one time, as it pushes excess sand behind the board.

Paver Patio
Paver Patio

After the sand has been leveled to a workable area, 2 feet or so, gently pull one PVC pipe out at a time.

Paver Patio
Paver Patio

Take a handful of sand and fill in the void area where the pvc pipe was.

Paver Patio

Gently tap the sand into place with a hand trowel.

Begin Laying Paver Patio

Paver Patio

Begin placing your pavers in your desired pattern. We began in the corner and gradually worked our way out. Notice that the orange string is still visible to help us lay the pattern straight.

Paver Patio
Paver Patio

Continue laying the pavers to create your patio design.

PRO TIP: Save all of the cutting work for the end. By placing pavers down over the majority of the surface area, you’ll be able to keep progressing and have the main area installed with ease.

Paver Patio
Paver Patio

Here you can see that the majority of the paver patio has been installed. We continued to lay pavers to continue the pattern for all full pieces. You can see around the edge of the paver patio design and the sprinkler box where there are spots where we need to cut the pavers to size.

Paver patio | Cutting Border Tiles

Paver Patio

After the main surface area of the paver patio has been installed, the only remaining pavers to install are around the edges. These pavers pieces were measured and cut to size with a wet tile saw.

The pavers were then lined with edging secured into place with stakes.

Paver Patio

The edging is pliable which makes it easy to work around curves.

Add Polymeric Sand To Paver Patio

Paver Patio

This patio certainly didn’t take place all in a days work. After the entire patio paver had been installed including the curved edges, it had been a few days.

You can see in the image above that the crevices in between each of the pavers have collected debris. We had a big wind storm and tiny acorns fell of the trees and got into the joints of the pavers. 🙁

Paver Patio

The debris needs to be removed before applying the polymeric sand. To do this quickly, we used a shopvac to suck everything up.

Paver Patio

Using polymeric sand vs. a common sand mix is recommended. A common sand attracts ants, whereas a polymeric sand has fillers in it that act as a cement and help lock the pavers into place.

Simply use a push broom to fill all of the crevices of the paver patio with the polymeric sand. After any excess sand is removed use a hose to lightly mist the paver patio. This will set the pavers into place.

Completed Paver Patio

Paver Patio

Now, after all that work it’s time to sit back, relax and feel proud of a job well done, not to mention feeling elated by saving thousands of dollars installing it yourself!

Paver Patio

Now there is actually room to bring out the patio table and chairs.

Paver Patio

This truly is additional living space for your home! Can you imagine your family utilizing this extra space?

Paver Patio

Thanks for spending some time with us today. Do you feel more confident installing your own paver patio? Will this project get checked off your list this summer? We love hearing from you, comment below.

If you’re new here WELCOME! We’re always excited to have more friends! You can learn more about us here.

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And as always here at Sunny Side Design



To see how we styled this patio you can take a tour here.

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