Watch video of this step.
Once the patio layout is done, you're ready to excavate the area. Dig deep enough to allow for the base material under the pavers.
Pavers vary in thickness. The rule of thumb is to dig to the thickness of the paver, plus another six inches for a solid base.
Our pavers are 2-1/2" thick and we want them to be level with the ground. We need six inches of base material plus 2-1/2" for the paver height, so we are digging 8-½" deep.
It's a good idea to create a slight slope away from the house to encourage water runoff — a 3" slope over a 12' patio should be fine.
Now it's time to add the base material. First, fill the excavation with compactable gravel, to a depth of five inches, tamping it down as you go. Rake the top surface smooth and level with a steel rake (image 1). To check for high and low points and to make sure your area is level, place a long, straight 2x4 on edge across the area then place three-foot level on the 2x4, adjust the gravel as necessary (image 2).
Use a plate compactor to compact the gravel, which will create a firm and long-lasting base for the patio (image 3). You can rent a plate compactor for as little as $50 a day. For best results work the compactor in a circular motion and go over all areas at least twice.