Installing a Paver Patio – Part 1

This is a repeat performance of an entry over a year old. I wanted to get back to the nuts and bolts of this blog, featuring some sweat and manly men in action. I love all the dogwood pictures and have oodles more, all set up to feature my new home base in the currently outrageously gorgeous Louisville. For now – it’s the work that rules, however. Click any image to enlarge, by the way. I’ll put up the accompanying Part 2 tomorrow.

I’ve done bits of this before, just not of this particular place. This post will deal with the in’s and out’s of encountering different soils at the base of a project and how we coped with them in establishing a firm bottom for a durable and permanent patio. A look here at the onset of the project shows what we were up against. The client – a busy lady who was CEO of a big concern in Reno, wanted a place to entertain. She had a smallish lot with a fabulous view and as we worked on the design, her primary request was for space to seat 4 tables with hungry eaters. She also wanted a small water feature – a bubble rock – and a place to put a sculpture of a Heron, rendered from Pink Granite. Oh – and irrigation up by the house. It was actually a big project, complete with an absolutely homely point of departure.

Essentially, no one had laid in any base material whatsoever under the original patio which had been constructed using some exceedingly odd principles, including using wood for the patio itself – not raised but embedded in the ground. No doubt it was a rapid and temporary solution that was simply never addressed again, once completed. So, needless to say, it was a mess, rotten and falling apart and adding – daily – yet more soft, spongy material to an already-soft base.

(click all images to enlarge)

We removed the covering and arrived at the dirt floor we looked for. Once here, we could decide on what material and how deep we needed to go to provide the adequate foundation for permanence. Naturally, we had to remove the spongier material. What was next was a determination as to how deep we had to excavate in order to get to soils which would support a durable foundation. So we dug down until we reached a reasonable clay base, something that would actually take compaction.

Making life even harder for this project is the fact that it had a tiny gate through which – oh – approximately 12-14 tons of material would pass – in both directions! Obviously, we had to get rid of some stuff and, just as obviously, we had to bring in even heavier “stuff”, including bricks, base rock, sand and the always-lightweight irrigation materials – whose existence got provided for by yet more good old excavating!

Oh – and the Pine Tree – it had to go, too. For guys spoiled by machinery, this one was a nasty project 😉

Note also the small white arbor. The client wanted a sort of “private area” – away from the rush and quieter. This area was far shadier and oodles more private than any other possible spot. We would install an intimate seating area, suitable for romance, perhaps or for some fine reading and contemplation.

Irrigation was intended to go under the patio and to be accessible for the placement of pots and containers adjoining the house itself. This is a great idea and totally do-able. Planters such as these can thereby be nearly maintenance-free, inasmuch as water is a daily additive run off a clock, adjustable to run as often as is necessary. The wonders of drip irrigation once again surface, making life easier as well as requiring more exactitude as far as quantity.

Thus we see the trenches going under what will eventually become the base of the patio itself. We use “hard pipe” (Schedule 40, PVC) to run under, then attach the more flexible and fragile drip hoses to them at the destination.

As shown above, the trenches are nearly ready. We add the pipe, then cover, then we are finally at pretty much Stage 3, which is the heavy lifting – bringing in the base material, spreading it, then compacting. We try to get somewhat perfect at this stage. We shoot for adding an exact amount of sand for the next level – that just below the pavers themselves – for a variety of reasons, including having enough! But it also pays off in spreading the load out as far as what to expect for compacting later. An area with a thickness of more sand than another will be just a tad spongier and require extra work in the end. Kenny here is getting it pretty much as close to perfect as we can get it. Being pretty much perfect himself made it easier – by his own admission. 🙂

Note the compactor in the foreground to the right. These machines are modern miracles, in many ways. They can also adjust waves and high spots and they knock down what appears to be chunks and pieces of gravel down to a smoother surface. They also render the base flat and immovable underneath – our primary goal anyway.

Yes, there are pipes everywhere. The extruding gray pipe with the blue wire is the electrical line which will power up not only our little pump for the Bubble Rock we will install but is also intended to provided an assembly for plugging in other stuff – a gang box of outlets for radio, barbecues and Lord knows what else. The white pipe, meanwhile, is a water pipe, connected to the irrigation system itself and intended to act as an “automatic fill” for the water feature, to add water when necessary to the pond. It all seemed so simple, didn’t it?

So below is the aforementioned “private area” forming up. Naturally, we began here, inasmuch as it is the most remote spot to build ourselves out from. You can see our 1″ of sand, laid in over the compacted base material here in good relief. Yes, we literally just add pavers after reaching a desired surface. Typically, we use a “screed board”, notched to travel along premeasured width and height lines. A couple of passes with this board and we’re off.

It gives us something like this:

You will notice the “edge restraints” and aluminum – sometimes plastic – edging. Obviously, these act to hold evertything in place just marvelously. When you see the size of the “nails” we use to insure its stability, you can see why it stays intact. Those are each 8″-12″ long.

Yes, there is pipe under the pavers here, leading into the small bed at the center. We also ran lighting wire for eventual outdoor lighting.

Below is what it looks like when we are essentially done with an area. You will notice the drip pipe, connected elsewhere and supplying water to the center bed. While working elsewhere, we spread kiln-dried sand over the top – for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that we spread it all over the place anyway, for purposes of grouting and filling the tiny spaces between the bricks themselves. However, at this stage it also protectas the surface from accidents like spills or excessive traffic.

This area is now pretty much complete. Naturally, we will add plants, sweep in the sand and then – on this project – spray on a semi-gloss finishing sealer. But that is for the next post.

6 thoughts on “Installing a Paver Patio – Part 1

  1. All that hard work really paid off that really looks stunning. Its low maintenance and will just look stunning once the plants start growing. What a change to the yard gives it a whole new feeling.

  2. Kim, it is “low maintenance” in the extreme. Next post, I’ll put up the finished product. It’ll be coming tomorrow.

  3. hi steve!
    i am persian and i am student of landscape design of iran!
    thanks for your informations.please reply!
    thank you.bye

  4. I’m sure it must have been a pretty tough work you got there. But it surely paid off. You patio really looks great. I just simply love the stone paver. It’s a good thing it’s low maintenance. It’s what we need nowadays. All in all, good job. Have a nice day!

  5. Hi

    It is really a great work, i appreciate your this hard work the experience regading the paver installation pario you show in the photo gallery is really very awesome you done a great job thanks a lot for sharing your experience wel done keep it up i am also have my own business about the paver installation


    Brick paver driveways

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.