Content of the material
- DIY Concrete Pavers
- Step 1: Prep and Layout
- Step 2: Mixing Concrete
- Step 3: Making the Concrete Paver
- Step 4: Repeat
- Step 5: Cure
- Step 6: Coloring the Concrete
- Cost Comparison
- ‘Float’ the Surface
- Ready-Mix vs. You-Mix Concrete
- Large Concrete Pavers for Sale
- Paver Patio Costs The Breakdown
- Variables In Installing Pavers Site Conditions
- Frequently asked questions about DIY stepping stones
- 1. Will the marbles pop out?
- 2. What if I add too much water to the concrete?
DIY Concrete Pavers
- Mixing pan or wheelbarrow
- Concrete (get regular concrete, not quickcrete which will dry too fast for larger pavers)
- Wood for framing the pavers (plywood or 2 x 4s)
- Shovel for mixing (a flat-bottom shovel works best)
- Water (preferably from a hose)
- Concrete tools: a steel float or finishing trowel, and a diamond shaped mason trowel
- Drill and screws
Step 1: Prep and Layout
The best thing about making your own concrete pavers is that you can completely tailor them to your space. I have to admit I was pretty excited as we started figuring out the shape we wanted.
To first prep the surface, get everything fairly neat and clean. We had to remove all the pea gravel (only a little would go back along the edges of the pavers) and then dig out some of the dirt too. The base should be compact. It should also include a 2-inch layer of crushed concrete and a 1-inch layer of sand. If the base isn’t stable, the pavers may crack. We just put the pavers on the compacted dirt, which was an old driveway.
Measure out and plan the paver sizes and mark them. Mike and I talked about how much of a gap we wanted in between the pavers and along the sides and adjusted from there. Think of where your top of the paver will be and whether that makes a difference. We have a driveway on the other side of the gate which we wanted level with the pavers so the driveway dictated our surface level.
Construct your frames. We stretched out the long 2 x 4s along the length and then screwed in the side bars. We wanted the pavers around 2″ thick so we ripped a 2 x 4 along its length to 2 1/4″. A table saw is helpful but many lumber yards will do this for you as well. The best depth for concrete pavers is 2 3/8″ thick, which can distribute the weight of a couple of people at once.
You can get an idea of the vision for our pavers in the photos above. Remember we said we were going to try to get it level with the driveway outside the gate? Well we got fancy with the level line and used a string with a hanging level on it which you see stretched along the length of the frames. Be sure to also check for in the cross bars. And in order to keep the frame in place, we hammered in wood stakes along the sides. Here it is all finished, level and ready for concrete!
Step 2: Mixing Concrete
Mixing concrete is not fun. Neither is mixing 13 bags of concrete is not fun. You read that correctly—we had to get more bags of concrete. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The bags of concrete typically come in 60- and 90-pound bags. We used the 90-pound bags (really really heavy!). First of all, have your boyfriend place the bag in your mixing pan or wheelbarrow and start adding water. Then I add about a gallon of water to start and then begin cutting into the concrete with the shovel and mixing in the water. It is impossible to mix the whole thing at once. My boyfriend’s technique is to pile the concrete on one side of the wheelbarrow, and start taking small bits of the concrete to mix with the water. Then move this to the other side and get your next bit. It works well.
Thoroughly wet the concrete, but don’t get it too wet. It should be a sludgy consistency, not soupy. Can you see how the mixed concrete in the image above will hold the shovel marks? You’ll find it’s hard work mixing in all the concrete with the water—it gets heavy. I have to admit I needed to put on my big girl pants for this one. All in all each bag took me about 15 minutes to mix. (My back was sooo sore!)
We wanted to color the concrete but after reading the directions on the powdered dye, we realized that we would need to but a $7 bottle of dye for each bag of concrete. Not so cost-effective. Instead, we would figure out something else so we skipped the dye at this point and set it aside for return.
Step 3: Making the Concrete Paver
Begin by wetting the area to which you are adding the concrete—it just plays nicer that way.
We poured the concrete into the paver frame and started smoothing it out. Quickly we realized that each paver would require more than one bag of concrete (around 2 1/2 actually) and I got to work mixing more concrete. As I did this, Mike piled the concrete along one side of the paver with a trowel and roughly evened it out along the top.
As the rest of the concrete goes in, the paver takes shape. Once all the concrete is in place, the next step is to screed the top.
Start by taking a piece of wood that is wider than the frame of the pavers, grab each end of the wood and slide it from the back side of the frame toward you. This will create an even surface with the top of the frames. As you screed the paver, it will start to collect the extra concrete. You can shuffle it along by sliding it sideways back and forth as you pull it toward you. Concrete might spill over the sides, you can clean this up later. Just keep going until you get an even surface across the paver.
Next use a metal margin trowel to smooth out any inconsistencies. The smoother your surface, the more “polished” the paver will look.
Step 4: Repeat
Now repeat these steps with the next paver! Our little section took about 9 hours from start to finish, including prepping the ground, building the frame and pouring out the concrete. It’s roughly 3 feet wide and 12 feet long. Initially we only bought six bags of concrete—I think we envisioned smaller pavers. But once we started laying it out, we realized large concrete pavers would look and function so much better! So eventually I had to go to back to the hardware store to pick up 8 more bags of concrete.
Right before we completed our last paver we let our guard down for an instant and our dog Nicco had to make his own contribution to the project (see below). We debated keeping them, but a few prints were really deep. Mike was able to go back and smooth them out. Nice try Nicco.
Step 5: Cure
It takes a minimum of 28 days to fully cure concrete (wow!). After a few days we could lightly walk on ours, and removed the frame around that same time.
This photo below is taken about two and a half weeks after pouring the cement. It shows how much the cured concrete lightens up.
Step 6: Coloring the Concrete
That’s it! We are beyond stoked with our new DIY concrete pavers. Once and for all our home (and bathroom) is safe from gravel hitchhikers. And our gorgeous pavers give the side yard a polished and professional look.
Let’s make a quick calculation.
Let’s say you have a 200 sqft patio to work with. At best, your mold will cover around 4 sqft, which will require a 60 lb bag of concrete, which costs around US$6. In order to cover the entire patio, you will need 50 bags of concrete, making you have to disburse US$300.
Pavers cost, on average, US$3 per sqft. So, in order to cover the entire 200sqft patio, you will spend around US$600. That is not counting the price of delivery.
Of course, these calculations are very basic, but they summarize the overall correct idea that making your own pavers is usually 50% cheaper than buying.
‘Float’ the Surface
- After the bleed water has disappeared, float each section with a magnesium float. Floating embeds coarse aggregate particles and smooths the surface without sealing it.
- Pro tip: Before our concrete set up too much, we measured for the post anchors and installed them for the pergola.
Ready-Mix vs. You-Mix Concrete
We built forms, ordered ready-mix concrete and poured the entire patio at once. If that’s too daunting, you can build one or two small form sections and pour them individually at a more leisurely pace. If you choose that route, consider buying a portable mixer and selling it when you’re done.
You won’t save money mixing it yourself, though. Using 80-lb. bags of mix, it’ll cost you about $200 per cubic yard. We hired a pump truck for $180 and included fiber reinforcement in the mix, and our total price came to $116 per cubic yard. This project took just over four yards, so ordering ready-mix concrete was a great deal cheaper than mixing it ourselves.
Large Concrete Pavers for Sale
Purchasing large concrete pavers is a popular option because creating them with standard DIY techniques takes time and experience to avoid cracks and unevenness.
Large-scale pavers can be big, bold and beautiful. Typically, large pavers are built up to 60 inches in size with the same handcrafted elegance found in smaller pavers. Large-scale pavers are available in many shapes and sizes so you can get creative with your outdoor walkways.
Paver Patio Costs The Breakdown
When I sat down and added up the math for this particular concrete paver project, it just didn’t make sense economically to make my own.
Especially when you add in the extra labor of making them. I needed 40 paving stones, that’s a lot of pavers to make.
Now let’s break down the costs of how much it would have been to make these pavers, vs the cost of buying them.
To make 40 pieces, I would have needed to purchase 29 bags of mix. It would have been much more productive to use a rapid setting product, which would have cost $400-500 in mix.
If you had all the time in the world, you could go with a less expensive, non-rapid setting mix, but you’d still be looking at almost $200. And then you still need to add in the cost of the materials for the forms.
I paid $200 for all of my concrete pavers. The rest of the materials needed for this project would have been the same, regardless if I made my pavers, or bought them.
So you can see, to go through the labor and time involved in making –in this scenario, I say just buy, rather than DIY.
When researching costs for purchasing patio paver stones and having them installed, estimates ran between $10-$22 per square foot. asdf
Had I chosen that option, I likely would have been looking at over $1,000. My space isn’t a small space, so laying my own pavers was clearly the best way to go.
Variables In Installing Pavers Site Conditions
Installing patio pavers will be a little different depending on each situation. Our patio was a little unique because it is surrounded on three sides by timbers and the fourth side is the foundation of the house.
Our area was boxed in on all four sides, and also raised, with the pavers needing to be slightly recessed within the space.
Because of this, we were locked in to very specific spacing, unless we wanted to go through the hassle of cutting the pavers.
Probably the toughest part of installing a concrete paver patio is figuring out the slope you need and then working this out “on-site”.
And because of our “boxed-in” site conditions, I wasn’t able to place my stakes and leveling strings outside of the space, as you should be able to.
The reason I mention this is because you’ll see my photos show the stakes inside my space, where I’m recommending you place yours outside.
It’s much more likely your scenario will be one where you can place the stakes outside your space, making this much easier and so that’s how I’m describing the steps in the tutorial.
Also, the amount of prep you’ll need to do will vary depending on what site conditions you have to work with.
In my case, I was actually re-doing an existing patio with pavers that were literally caving in.
Frequently asked questions about DIY stepping stones
1. Will the marbles pop out?
Maybe! If you don’t set the marbles in the concrete far enough they will pop out. If this happens, just use a little super glue to stick the marble back in its spot after everything is dry.
2. What if I add too much water to the concrete?
If you notice the water pooling around the edge of your stepping stone, pick up the stepping stone and pour as much access water off of the top as possible. You can also gently apply a paper towel to the top of the stone to let it soak up excess water.