First you have to remove about 8" of topsoil, then make sure it's straight and level (Image 1). Next, add about 4" of gravel (Image 2) and on top of that put down about 2" of sand. (To figure out about how much material you’ll need for this job is a simple math problem; here’s how to figure out the cubic footage: First measure the length of the entire walkway, then the width and the depth. Then multiple them -- and that’s your cubic footage. As a safety precaution, I always like to add 5 percent.)
After removing the dirt and adding the stone, tamp it all into place, making sure it’s level. This is an important step, so take your time. The bricks will move over time if the gravel isn't firmly in position. If you don’t want to rent a tamper, you can make one by nailing a 2x4 to the center of a 1'-square piece of plywood.
Make sure you don’t use just play sand. For this project you need concrete sand, which is jagged and will lock into place to hold the pavers steady. If you use beach sand, the pieces are round and your bricks could shift. Tamp down the 2" of sand as well. Spread out about 2" of sand over the walk area, then place two 1" pipes on either side of the paving area. Put a level across the pipes and add sand under the pipes until they are level. Using the pipes as rails, drag a board the length of the area. This is called "screeding." You should have a smooth area. Remove the pipes, fill the indentations with sand and smooth with your hand.
The great thing about pavers is that they come in many shapes, colors and styles: traditional brick, cobblestone, square. But no matter what type you pick, they all have a similarity. The nubs, for instance, are very important. When you put them together, those nubs keep them far enough apart that the sand or stone dust will get in there, penetrate the crack and lock the whole walkway in place. To figure out how many pavers you need for your walkway poses another math problem: Take the length of the entire walkway and multiply that by the width to equal your square footage. This can be a little tricky because not all walkways are squares or rectangles. For example, suppose you have an L-shaped walkway that's kind of thin in some places and really fat in others. Obviously you don’t know where to measure. Well, here’s the trick: you just square everything off and figure the width times length of each part. You add up those two figures of square footage to get the total square feet. Go to the home center, pick out the brick you’d like to use, and they’ll tell you how many bricks you’ll need for the job.
Lay one series of the bricks the width of the walk, from a fixed edge of the house foundation to the edge of the walk. We used two different patterns for our walk: a soldier pattern on the edges and a runner pattern in the field area. After you've started the pattern, run a string along the outside edge from one end to the other. The string will keep the outside edge straight as you place the bricks. To help form the curves, use a long piece of lattice (you’ll find it at your local lumber store). Here’s very important tip: once the sand is level, don’t push the brick into it -- that will throw your whole walkway off. Instead, take the brick and gently place it on top. Do that all the way down. That way you’ll ensure that your walkway will stay nice and level. And don’t worry when you see the gaps: remember, you’ll be coming back with sand later to fill in those cracks.
Our walk had two areas with curves (Image 1), which means we had to cut quite a few bricks. You can save yourself some time and money if your walkway is made up of only straight lines. To cut the bricks, rent a hand-held saw. To make quick cuts, be sure it has a diamond-coated blade and not an ordinary masonry blade. Mark the brick with a pencil, and take your time cutting (Image 2). Along the house we kept the old concrete in place (this is a contractor's trick to save some time and hassle). Because this section of concrete was pretty level, we just added sand on top and followed the same process as the other sections. The only difference was that we used less sand -- about 1". The pavers look great and have a sturdy base.
After all the bricks are in position, sweep dry sand into all the joints to hold them in place (Image 1). We purchased a strip of plastic edging for the curve, tucking it under the brick, then nailing it in position (Image 2). We added fill dirt along the straight edges and tamped it down to hold the pavers in place. We recommend renting a plate compactor to further set the brick. Use it only once over the pavers (Image 3). You’ll need to sweep more sand into the joints after the compactor and once or twice again after the first couple of rainstorms.