How To Prepare A Base For A Stone Or Paver Walkway Or Patio

How To Prepare A Base For A Stone Or Paver Walkway Or Patio

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Do’s and Don’ts of Paver Installation: Step 1 of 3 – Pre-installation and Planning People don’t realize the amount of work involved with the installation of our paving stones, I am not saying that to scare anyone off of their project but a little planning will go a long way. Unilock provides an excellent technical guide for the proper installation of pavers, so please refer to it for details. To avoid common mistakes, follow these steps: Read More Do’s and Don’ts of Paver Installation: Step 3 of 3 – Installing the Pavers As of now, your project area is beginning to take shape with a solid prepared base. The next step is laying the pavers where you can finally begin to see your plan take action! The following guidelines will help ensure your project is exactly what you have imagined. Read More

Install the Pavers

Lay the pavers closely together according to the chosen pattern and design. Start from one corner and work your way around the area. Use a diamond saw, a masonry chisel, or mechanical splitter and safety glasses to cut pavers to the sizes required. While installing, tap the paver with a rubber mallet to ensure solid contact with the underlying compacted bedding. Lay the first pavers parallel to the foundation, and then lay the remaining pavers in a running bond or other patterns.


4. Excavate dirt and debris

Excavate the dirt and debris to 7–13” below the finished grade, depending on the type of traffic the pavers will receive. If the pavers are only for pedestrian traffic, dig 7” below finished grade. If the project will be receiving vehicular traffic, excavate 9–13”.  

We recommend excavating this deep because vehicular traffic requires a super sturdy base. The deeper the base is excavated, the more gravel you can add and compact.

Pro Tip: If you remove large debris and are left with large divots do not backfill with dirt. Instead, backfill those depressions with gravel and hand tamp them before laying geotextile.


Once your trench is filled with sand and gravel and compacted, you should place base restraints to prevent your base and pavers from shifting due to age or weather conditions. Restraints are normally made from back polymer or plastic and can be purchased from any gardening center.

Place the restraints along the edges of your pavers. They should be dug in every 16 inches and dig them into the base at different angles to secure them.

Overlays Installing Pavers over Existing Concrete

Thin concrete pavers or Belgard Porcelain Pavers may be placed over an existing concrete slab or a new concrete slab (4,000 psi  and 4” thickness minimum) on a sand or DriBond setting bed.

DriBond will actually adhere the pavers directly to the concrete slab, similar to how thinset adhesive works for tile. It goes on as a thin dry powder (3/8” thick max). Once the pavers are installed, simply soak the pavers with water to activate it. If just using sand, you will want to install an edging restraint as shown in the above diagram.

Prior to installation, verify that the distance from the top of slab to the doorsill will accommodate the proposed paver and setting bed thickness. If the concrete won’t allow for the thickness of the new overlay material, many rental companies will rent small grinding equipment. As long as you are left with a minimum of 4”, you can remove some of the top layer of the existing concrete. The other option would be to cut and remove the concrete near the transition and re-pour it at a lower height.

If the site is located in a freeze-thaw zone, consider any heave movement in your height calculation. Thickness of the concrete slab should be 4”-6” with consideration given to heavier loading (RV, travel trailers, trucks, etc.) to determine the correct depth of concrete base and any internal reinforcement.

For additional or site-specific design, consult your local Belgard representative or a civil/geotechnical engineer experienced with rigid segmental pavement design.

6. Spread gravel

After you’ve set your grade, you’ll need to lay 4” of gravel base for pedestrian applications, 6–10” for vehicular. Be sure to use 3/4-0 or ODOT road base gravel so that you get a good mix of fine and coarse aggregate for the best compaction.

If you’re installing a residential driveway, you can get away with only 6” on a light, well-draining soil. In colder climates with continually wet or weak soils, add an extra 2–4” to your gravel base. For parking lots or residential streets, you’ll want to lay at least 8” if not 10” of gravel.

Many new hardscape DIYers make the mistake of using dirt as their base aggregate layer. Don’t do that! Your pavers are only as sturdy as your base. That means, if you use dirt, pavers quickly sink, rotate, and separate. 

Before moving on, your gravel base needs to be flat, without any bellies or rises of more than 1/8″. Any imperfections of more than this are noticeable in the final product. 

To accomplish this, you’ll need to compact your gravel with a steel tamper (for small projects) or a plate compactor (for large projects). Compact your gravel in 2″ lifts, which means, compact your gravel 2″ at a time until the desired thickness is achieved. For example, if you’re laying a circle patio for your backyard, you’ll need to spread a total of 4” of gravel, 2” at a time.

Drag a flat board across the compacted gravel to ensure there are no remaining dips or rises in the gravel. Compact the gravel one final time. Once your gravel is flat, your base is ready to start laying pavers.

How To Excavate For A Patio?

Before excavating, you can use spray paint to mark the areas that need to be dug. Make sure you make plans for water efficient landscaping and proper draining so that the pavers don’t hold water under them. Also take note of whether there are any underground cables or plumbing so that they can avoided while digging.


Pavers are normally installed with a lifetime warranty. To maintain their appearance, sweeping and cleaning the pavers regularly is recommended. Regular sealing may also be necessary to maintain color, appearance, and ease of cleaning. It also helps protect the pavers against stains, moss, algae, and loss of joint sand.


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