The Trouble with Paver Patios

May 2011

Paver PatioIt seems simple enough. You lay down a few bricks or stones in your yard, set out some all-weather furniture, and you’ve got a brand-new patio ready for outdoor entertaining. It’s as easy as making mosaic art, right?

Not so much. While a paver patio can be a relatively easy and inexpensive addition to your house landscaping, installing one requires careful consideration and planning. If installed incorrectly, paver patios are prone to moving, sinking, weed growth and other problems. Every climate presents its own unique challenges for landscaping design – Beaverton, Oregon rainfall, for example, can cause soil movement and drainage problems, which can undermine the integrity of your patio.

Whether you’re doing it yourself or working with a landscaping contractor, the following are some tips for planning and installing a quality paver patio.

Create a Thorough Design

A quality paver patio starts with a careful design. Before you even begin drafting your plans, do some creative brainstorming and carefully examine all of the areas that will surround your patio. Keep in mind any future plans you may have for your house landscaping, such as a hot tub, grill, walkways, plant beds or lawn.

Size, of course, is the most important factor to nail down. Fudging on the size calculation can spoil your house landscaping design plans and cause big headaches later. Use precise measurements and take your time during the design phase. Choose your stones and borders wisely, and above all, be creative.

Lay the Foundation

A well-laid foundation is the key to a long-lasting paver patio. With improper base preparation, the patio will inevitably shift due to weather, erosion, settling, and ground movement. This may be the most difficult stage of the project, but it is the most important for proper installation.

Dimensions. Carefully mark out the dimensions of your patio. Then dig several inches beyond the outer edges to provide a more solid base and allow for adjustments in the layout later on.

Depth. The ideal depth of your foundation will depend on your area’s climate. For most parts of the United States, you’ll need at least four to six inches of compacted stone beneath your paver patio plus one inch of sand. Factor in the depth of your pavers to figure out how deep to dig. When in doubt, check with a landscaping contractor.

Slope. For proper drainage, your foundation should slope away from its center or the edge of the house at a decline of one inch for every four feet of patio.

Compaction. Proper compaction of the soil beneath your patio will help prevent any dramatic settling, which can destroy your project. Use a compactor to tamp down the subsoil before laying down any materials. Install a house landscaping fabric or geo-fabric layer, then lay down your crushed stone in layers of two to three inches at a time. Rake each layer until it’s uniformly flat, lightly spray it with water, and compact it before adding the next layer.

The Finishing Touch

Like the last layer of homemade lasagna, the finishing touch is the easiest and usually not as time consuming as the prior layers. When laying pavers, strive for even and flush placement – nothing looks tackier than loose pavers. Cut the pavers only when necessary, and use a quality paver saw to avoid future cracks and fissures. If you see a stone or border that would benefit from a slight alteration in relation to your now-laid base, then by all means make the change. However, it is important to stick to your original house landscaping design plan.

Prevent the pavers from shifting around by adding a solid edge to your patio. You can use a cement lip, plastic or metal edging. When you’re finished, spread fine sand over the patio and sweep it into the cracks to help hold the bricks in place.  You might consider using polymeric sand for increased longevity.

When it comes to landscaping design, Beaverton, Oregon homeowners are a sophisticated bunch, and a poorly installed paver patio can stick out like a sore thumb and there is nothing worse than spending several weekends straining your back only to end up with a patio that you are less than happy with. If you want to ensure a quality job, consult with a landscaping contractor before you begin.

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