Install a Paver Patio and Solar Lights
Did the summer heat leave your lawn dry and brown? Installing a colorful new patio with concrete paving stones is a great way to hide those unsightly spots and provide extra outdoor entertaining space.
Pavers are available in a rainbow of hues and a wide variety of shapes and sizes to complement your home and surroundings. As a finishing touch you can install solar lights around your finished patio to illuminate its beauty after dark. Ready to get started? Visit your local True Value store for the materials you need and let our step-by-step instructions help pave the way to picture-perfect results.
Step 1. Measure & Plan
Measure and draw a diagram outlining the shape and pattern of your patio, noting any existing structures, like your home, fence or trees (don't forget tree roots). Use your imagination — paver stones lend themselves to nearly any shape or dimension you desire. Now is also the time to contact your local utility company to locate and mark any underground pipes and wires before you start digging.
Step 2. Stake Out the Area
Using string and stakes outline an area approximately 12'' larger than you wish the finished patio to be.
- Setting the pavers will be easier later on if your starting point has a 90º corner. To create one, use the 3-4-5 triangle method: starting at the corner stake, measure 3' across the base and 4' along the adjacent side. The diagonal between the points should measure 5' (if not, adjust the 4' side until it does).
- Don't forget slope. Slightly angling the patio in the direction of normal drainage will guide runoff away from your home and keep it dry. Follow the pitch of your roof and allow a 1/8'' drop for every linear foot of distance.
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Step 3. Remove Grass
Depending on the amount of grass that needs to be removed, you can either use a shovel or rent a sod cutter to do the job.
Step 4. Excavate & Compact
Using a shovel, remove dirt to a depth of about 7'' (to allow for a 4'' base, a layer of sand and the pavers). This process, called skimming, removes only the top layer of dirt, without disturbing the bottom. Use a rented plate compactor to tightly pack the bottom so that it can support the layers to come. If you skip this step, any loose dirt can make pavers shift, crack or settle unevenly.
If you've never used a plate compactor, here's how: begin by making two passes over the entire perimeter. Then move to the low side of the grade and compact towards the uphill slope. Switch sides and compact from the high side to the low side, then make a diagonal pass. Repeat the entire procedure again.
- Save your energy and let momentum move the compactor forward, instead of using force to push it.
- Don't shut off the compactor between passes — it will lose effectiveness.
- Plate compactors are noisy, so wear earplugs.
- Use the top of a sledgehammer to hand compact any areas you can't reach with the plate compactor.
Step 5. Install & Compact the Base
A layer of gravel base material provides support and ensures proper drainage. But don't deposit all the gravel at once. Instead, place half the total amount and compact with a plate compactor before adding the remainder. Use a level to make sure it's flat and retains the right grade. You may have to scrape, fill or compact again to correct uneven results.
- You'll need to use more gravel than you think; two 3'' layers will create an approximate 4'' base.
- Moisten the gravel lightly with water to make compacting easier.
- When you can walk on a compacted layer without causing an indentation, it's time to add the next layer.
- Make sure the gravel is flat and the grade is still correct (use a level to check). If not, add or remove gravel or compact again to achieve desired results.
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Step 6. Install Edge Restraints
To keep your finished patio tight and evenly spaced, edge the perimeter with pre-cast concrete, PVC, aluminum or pressure-treated wood. Join adjacent sections with connector pipe and insert 10-inch spikes to hold everything in place.
- Use the 3-4-5-triangle method to help L-shape corners retain their 90º angles.
Step 7. Install Bedding Sand
The next layer, coarse bedding sand, holds the pavers in place. To ensure an even layer, place at least two 1'' pipes on the compacted gravel, positioning them parallel to each other and several feet apart.
Spread sand between the pipes, smoothing it with a shovel or rake. Now use a straight piece of wood to screed the sand several times, until it's completely smooth and level with the pipes. Remove the pipes, fill the indentations with sand and level with a square trowel.
- To determine how high to build the sand layer, consider that the pavers should initially sit 1/4 '' above the finished elevation when they're placed on top.
- For easier spreadability, moisten the sand, but don't saturate.
- You can use a square trowel to smooth any areas you can't reach with the screed.
- Don't step on, compact or wet the sand after you use the screed.
Step 8. Set & Cut Pavers
Start in a 90º corner (start in the center if your design doesn't have any corners). Lay the pavers on the sand in the pattern you've chosen and work outwards, leaving a 1/8'' space in between. For larger areas, crisscross the area with string to help you align pavers correctly. If your pattern has curved edges, or the final row doesn't fit evenly, cut the pavers with a diamond blade wet saw, paver splitter or a hammer and chisel.
- When cutting pavers, always wear safety goggles and gloves for protection.
- Be sure to set the pavers gently onto the sand without sliding, twisting or pushing.
- As you work, you can stand on the pavers you've already placed, but make sure not to step on or disturb the sand bed.
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Step 9. Sand & Compact
Sweep away any debris then spread dry sand over the surface to lock the pavers firmly in place. Use a broom to sweep the sand over and between the pavers, then compact with the plate compactor (the sand on the surface will cushion the pavers and the vibration will even the surface and fill the crevices from underneath). Make two passes with the compactor, in opposite directions.
Step 10. Add More Sand
Add a final layer of sand and sweep it into the joints. Repeat this process several times over the next few days, adding more sand to compensate for settling, wind and rain.
Step 11. Seal
You can seal the pavers to protect them from stain and enhance their rich colors. Get a gallon of exterior Latex Masonry Primer/Sealer.
Step 12. Install Solar Lights
Congratulations! Now that you're the proud owner of a beautiful paver patio, it's time to invite friends and family to celebrate the completion of your project. But before you do, install energy-efficient, maintenance-free solar lights to enhance your handiwork when the sun goes down.
Outdoor solar lights couldn't be more appealing. They're wireless, easy to install and because they absorb energy from the sun, require no electricity. Most solar lights even have built-in darkness sensors so you don't have to turn them on or off. But don't stop with your patio — use solar lights to brighten and accent pathways, ponds, flowerbeds and other focal points around your backyard. Now sit back and enjoy.
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