How to Install Interlocking Pavers

So you’ve decided to lay some landscape pavers yourself. This short article will give you a quick guide to how that can be done, professionally and give some suggestions to get landscaping supplies around Victoria.

Supplies and Equipment Needed

You will need the following items at a minimum for this project.

  1. Wheelbarrow
  2. Shovel
  3. Landscape Rake (NOT a leaf rake)
  4. Compactor or Tamper
  5. ¾” Road Base
  6. Concrete Sand
  7. Paver Joint Sand
  8. Wide Sweeper Broom
  9. Paver edge restraint
  10. 9-10” steel spikes
  11. Hammer
  12. Rubber Mallet
  13. Interlocking Pavers
  14. 3’ Level (or longer)
  15. String and string level
  16. Tape measure
  17. Mason saw or angle grinder
  18. Pencil and hard edge
  19. Long straight piece of lumber such as a 2 by 4
  20. Two 1” diameter pipes at least 6’ long each (prefer copper over plastic)

Ground Prep

First, you will need to determine what the final utility of the structure is. Is it going to be for patio furniture? A fireplace? Vehicles? Hot tub? Generally speaking, the heavier the load, the deeper one needs to dig. For pedestrian traffic, you will need to dig 7 inches down from the final grade. Once this is done, you will need 4” of road base. Be sure to have the proper depth and grade before compacting as the material is much harder to adjust once it’s been compacted. To do this, use a string level where the string is at the final grade and bubble such that the final slope is the desired one, that is, where runoff will move away from structures. It is pertinent to ensure that the string is very tight as a drooping string line will introduce errors into your measurements. Once properly set up, the distance from the string should be 3 – 3.5” between the string and the top of the road base. Once this is verified for all sections of your working area, proceed to compacting.

When compacting, one should use a plate compactor or if using a hand tamper, do so every 2” rather than 4”. Road base can be obtained from all gravel yards such as Macnutt, Peninsula Landscape Supplies, and Victoria Landscape Mart. All of these places also offer delivery at a premium.

For heavier loads such as for a driveway, you will need to dig down around 1 foot with 8-9” of road base. Make sure to compact the road base every 4” with a plate compactor, 2” if using a hand tamper.

Sand

Next you will lay down 1” diameter pipes on top of the hard compacted surface. These will guide your 2 by 4 as screed rails. The more pipes the better as adjusting them mid screed introduces errors. Use concrete sand and screed to 1” thickness for the entire surface. Do not compact as that will just shift the sand around. The purpose of this sand layer is to smooth out imperfections in the road base surface, to give an overall more smooth surface. At this point, the top of the sand layer should be about 2.5-3” below final grade. Pipes need to be removed and the resulting grooves filled with sand either by hand or with a trowel.

Laying Pavers

For this part, it’s best to lay in a way that avoids standing on the screeded sand. Use a rubber mallet to gently set the pieces in. Once all pavers are laid, there will still be minor bumps and the surface will look somewhat disjointed. This is normal. We will next add joint sand, which are fine dry sand that will fill the joints between the pavers. To do this you will use a sweep broom. Ensure the surface is completely dry or the joint sand will stick rather than fall into the joints. After this is done, the entire surface will seem more smooth but we are not done.

Next you will need to hammer in the edge restraints. Steel spikes should be used every foot or so for a straight edge and every 6” for a curve. They should be set so that the entire apparatus can be later buried and hidden under sod or dirt or gravel. The top of the edge restraint should be flush or under the top of the pavers.

Once this is done, it’s time to compact the surface. Be careful not to chip the tops of the pavers. A special rubber pad is used or in lieu of that, old carpets. This final compaction will set the entire surface into a solid mass giving it not only a smooth look but a sound solid feel. Any mistakes discovered after this will be much more difficult to remedy as everything is very much set. Often the compaction process will create some gaps as sand settles further down in the joints. It is advisable to sweep a second time with less sand to refill some of those joints. After compacting again, sweep or blow away excess sand, with care taken not to take out the sand in the joints especially when using a leafblower. At this point you may also choose to hide the edge restraints with sod, soil, or gravel.

Cutting Pavers

Rarely does a pattern fit together perfectly within your desired area. That means you will need to make some cuts. We wrote a previous article on cutting pavers here.

Where to Source Supplies and Equipment

Many items can be sourced from your local Home Depot, Canadian Tire, Home Hardware, or Lowe’s. For more specialized items such as pavers and edge restraints, I recommend Slegg’s. If you’ve never been to Slegg’s, you go to the till, tell them what you want, ask them where in the yard it is, drive to it, and you can ask them to help you load. They also do delivery.

Rentals for light and heavy machinery can be found at Westerra, located in Langford. They are the most reasonable in terms of pricing.

How Long to Expect

For an experienced landscaper, they can do everything from start to finish for a 100 sq ft area in 10-20 hours, faster with heavy machinery. It would be safe to double to triple that for the average homeowner as the biggest unnecessary time sinks are fixing mistakes and sourcing equipment. For example, someone unfamiliar with what different locations sell can spend half a day to an entire day getting all the materials, while someone who is familiar with this information can plan an efficient trip that takes 2 hours.

Final Word

The barrier to entry for this kind of work is not high. Anyone can do it. However, often the difference between doing something and doing something well (not to mention efficiently) is experience. Experience teaches lessons that are difficult to put into a guide or a course.  If you would like to have it done quickly, efficiently, and professionally, I would suggest contacting a landscaper. However, if you have the time and desire to take on the task yourself, I hope this guide will be of help to you.