Pavers are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and materials. Most types include lugs or grooves that make it easy to create even, uniform seams or joints between the pavers.

Selecting the right building material is important. You want durability and a product that looks good. For this project, we are using 2-1/2-inch thick tumbled concrete pavers that look like stone.

Step 1

Prep the Area

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When considering where to build a patio, choose a flat, level area. Then have your local utility company come out and make sure the area is free of underground utilities.

Next measure the area, so you can order the right amount of materials. Our area is 11' x 11' square.

Once you have the materials, do a dry layout of your design (image 1). Do this in any level part of the yard. Play with the pattern and design, see what works and make sure you have enough materials.

At your patio location, measure the area and pound four stakes into each corner. We did ours 12' square – 11' square plus 6" on each side for edging (image 2).

Tie mason string to mark off the square (image 3). Measure diagonally across the stakes from opposite corners to make sure the patio area is square.

Step 2

Lay the Base

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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.

Step 3

Finish the Base

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With the gravel base compacted, install galvanized steel edging around the perimeter of the base (images 1 and 2). This edging marks the outside of the 11-foot square to be filled by the pavers. Edging is also available in plastic or aluminum.

The final base material is a one-inch layer of sand.

Spread the sand over the gravel base to a depth of one inch. Screed the sand with a 2x4 using a pair of 1-inch PVC pipe and a depth guide (image 3). You can create similar guides by sawing wood into long, 1-inch thick strips. Then remove the guides and fill in the remaining sand.

Step 4

Lay the Pavers

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With a firm, flat base prepared, you're ready for the pavers. Start in the corner, setting each paver into the sand by tapping it lightly with a rubber mallet (image 1).

Using the set pavers as stepping stones. Fill in a small area then check with a level to make sure they are even. Remember, you want a slight slope for drainage. Make adjustments with the rubber mallet (image 2).

If a paver is too low, remove it, add sand and reset. Following the pattern you dry laid earlier, it won't take much time to finish setting the pavers.

Step 5

Fill the Joints

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Now that the pavers are set in the base, use a push broom to fill in the joints with a fine layer of sand (image 1). Sweep off the excess sand from the patio surface.

To pack the sand into the joints, spray the patio with water from a garden hose (image 2).

When the patio has dried completely you may need to fill in certain joints with more sand.