Bay Area DIY Paver Installation for Driveways, Patios, Sidewalks & More
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How to DIY Concrete Pavers - It’s All About The Base
Concrete pavers are a durable, aesthetically beautiful material that, when properly installed, can last a lifetime. When it comes to pavers, the old saying is true. If you want something to last, start with a solid foundation!
Using the proper base materials for the Bay Area and your approach to installation is the key to a stable paver driveway, patio, or walkway. We’ve all seen installations that are uneven, with heaved stones or cracking. Typically, the fault for these imperfections lies with sloppy or improper base preparations.
Soil conditions, terrain, and even geological motion (especially here in the Bay area) can all be factors affecting the outcome of your project. However, the information in this post will provide all the information you need to create a beautiful paver installation that will last for decades, whether you’re working with a landscape professional or doing it yourself.
Standard Steps For Bay Area Concrete Pavers Base Installation
There are a couple of different processes for preparing the base when installing concrete pavers, depending on whether it is a new installation, or you’re overlaying concrete pavers over an existing concrete slab.
The first process we’re going to look at is preparing your project for a new installation. This process consists of four distinct steps.
Step 1: Excavating The Site
The first step is to excavate the topsoil off the area where your hardscape will be installed. You must dig down to the clay or subsoil. If your home is a new build and has recently been filled, you will want to compact the area using a large walk-behind compactor before moving on to the next step.
If your site isn’t new construction, you can begin adding the aggregate base layer. When calculating how deep to excavate, you will need to compensate for the actual thickness of the paver, one-inch of bedding sand, and the necessary gravel recommended for the type of project you are installing.
Step 2: Adding The Aggregate Base Layer
The typical material used for the aggregate layer is composed of crushed gravel varying in size from about 3/4″ down to dust. For patios or walkways, this layer should be around 4 – 6-inches. For driveways, you will need to add aggregate to a depth of 8 – 12-inches. If you have a heavy clay subsoil, before you add the aggregate, you will want to install a geo-textile underlayment. This is a woven fabric layer that will serve to prevent the aggregate from mixing with the soil below. This layer will also work to inhibit weed growth. Adding a geo-textile layer is especially crucial in driveway installations.
If you’re subject to winter freezing, you may want to add additional aggregate to compensate for the freeze/thaw cycle. Once you’ve placed the material into the excavated site, you will need to rake it off evenly. At this stage, you will want to pitch the aggregate away from the house to accommodate water runoff and prevent flooding. The typical pitch is between 1/8 and 1/4″ of drop per linear foot. For driveways, depending on location, you’ll want to increase the pitch slightly to say ½ to 3/4″ per linear foot.
Step 3: Compaction
This step requires you to rent a plate compactor with at least 5000 pounds of force. Most Bay area rental companies carry this walk-behind piece of equipment. Ideally, you’ll want to compact your base in “lifts” (layers) of no greater than 4 – 6-inches at a time. That means one or two passes for walkways and patios and two or three passes for large structures like driveways. If you try to compact deeper fill with a single pass, the result will be an improperly compacted base, which can lead to significant problems down the road.
Step 4: Bedding Layer
The final step in preparing the site for installation is adding the bedding layer. This is the layer that the concrete pavers will sit on, and it consists of adding and leveling 1-inch of bedding sand material to the paver base. Using two pieces of 1″ metal or plastic conduit, place them on the sand and using a 2X4″ board, screed the sand smooth and level. You’re now ready lay the pavers.
Installing Your Pavers Over Existing Concrete
If your Bay Area home has an existing concrete patio or driveway, you can upgrade your space by overlaying thin concrete pavers over it as long as it can support a minimum of 4000 psi and is 4-inches thick, onto sand or DriBond setting bed.
DriBond will adhere the pavers directly to the concrete slab, much like thin-set works when installing tile. DriBond goes on as a thin, dry powder. The pavers are laid onto the DriBond, and to activate the adhesive, and you simply soak them with water. If you are just using a sand base, you’ll need to install an edging restraint.
Before you overlay concrete pavers onto an existing slab, make sure to verify that the distance from the top of the slab to any doorsills or entryways will accommodate the additional paver and setting bed thickness.
Installing concrete pavers in your landscape can provide you with years of enjoyment with family and friends, and add value to your home. Concrete pavers are durable, affordable, and aesthetically beautiful. When properly installed on a solid foundation, concrete pavers offer a low-maintenance surface and can literally last a lifetime!
Using Pavers To Upgrade Your Existing Concrete Patio
If you are ready for an aesthetic upgrade to your outdoor living space or driveway but aren’t looking forward to the hassle and expense of tearing up your existing concrete slab, you’re in luck. With proper preparation, concrete pavers can be installed on top of concrete without mortar.
While this type of installation is possible, you need to take certain precautions to prevent problems like drainage issues, settling, and cracking. Here are some benefits of concrete pavers and timely tips for upgrading your existing concrete patio, driveway or walkway with beautiful concrete pavers.
Tips For Installing Diy Pavers Over Existing Concrete Slabs
With proper preparation and a little caution, you can upgrade your drab concrete slab into beautiful, durable, hardscaping. Here are a few tips to make your overlay easier.
This is one of the biggest challenges for laying pavers over a concrete slab. If not properly sloped, your concrete slab can prevent water from properly draining. Before you begin, make sure that water doesn’t puddle on your existing slab. Keep this drainage slope in mind when overlaying pavers and make sure that the edge that drains stays low and is constructed of permeable material. You can also drill small holes through the concrete every few inches to allow water to seep into the ground.
Fill Joints With Polymeric Sand
When you’ve finished laying your pavers, firm them up by adding polymeric sand to fill the joints. While sand joints are permeable, when properly set they can allow water to drain from the surface instead of puddling.
Edging Your Pavers
Like any paver surface, a concrete slab overlay will need edging to keep the stones in place and to prevent the sand and pavers from settling or sliding. Shifting pavers can be especially annoying here in the Bay Area. Make sure any edging you use allows water to drain. If it’s watertight your patio could turn into a puddle when it rains.
If you aren’t interested in edging, you can use mortar or concrete adhesive to hold the perimeter course of pavers in place. To do this, you’ll need to clean the perimeter around the sand bed. Make sure that to sand bed and mortar are the same thickness to keep your blocks level. This method does create a non-permeable edge that could cause water to puddle underneath the pavers.
Consider The Height
Overlaying pavers will increase the height of your patio by as much as three inches higher than the original slab. Make sure to plan for any transitions to other areas of your landscaping, especially if your patio is connected to your home. Check your local building codes. Many municipalities specify how far a masonry patio needs to be from a home’s siding. You may need to install flashing to satisfy your local building code.
The Condition Of Your Existing Concrete Slab
If your existing patio is broken, cracked, or in bad shape, or if adding pavers will block doorways or cause a tripping hazard, you may need to rethink overlaying pavers.
Overlaying Is Not Appropriate For Driveways
As a general rule, a paver overlay is not usable for driveways. The underlying slab doesn’t allow for any give and as a result, pavers are more likely to rock or crack.
Overlaying concrete pavers is an excellent way to up your home’s curb appeal and functionality. Pavers are durable, look great, and can add value to your home. Make sure to consider these tips before starting your project. Or speak with a hardscaping contractor to determine if an overlay is a possible solution.
Change Your Mind About DIY? How to Hire a Paver Installation Contractor
With any home improvement project, the most important step is choosing the right contractor. This is especially true when it comes to hardscaping. However, finding a paver installer that fits well with your personality, understands your vision, and will work with you to develop your ideas can be a challenge.
The key lies in researching and educating yourself about what to look for when choosing a paver installer, knowing the right questions to ask, and really listening to how they’re answered.
Where To Start When You Need A Paver Installer
Today, most research begins online. You can start by searching for local paving contractors in your area. You can also speak to your friends or neighbors to solicit recommendations for paver installers they may have worked with.
Ideally, you want to come up with a shortlist of two or three paver contractors that you’ll do further research on, as you begin to plan your project.
Here’s a quick tip… try to avoid adding general contractors to your list. As a rule, general contractors are great if you’re planning on accomplishing multiple projects simultaneously. However, for a specific project, like hardscaping, they can be more expensive and lack expertise. Try to find a paver installer who specifically designs and installs hardscaping.
Do Your Research. Reviews, Recommendations, Recognition, and Portfolios
The research stage is critically important. When you’ve narrowed your choices to two or three contenders, check with the California Contractor State Licensing Board to make sure their contractor’s license and insurance are up to date. At this stage, you’ll also want to check for any major complaints or issues with the BBB, and also check their online reviews on sites like Angie’s List, Google, and Bing.
Here are the next steps to take when researching paver installers:
Look for Industry Recommendations or Associations
A reliable contractor is often recognized as an expert installer by the manufacturers of the products they use and for maintaining the highest standards of workmanship. When researching potential paver installers, visit their website to see if they are certified by any manufacturers. Also, look for memberships or certifications from trade associations like the ICPI (the International Concrete Pavers Association).
Get Free Estimates, More Than One
Once you’ve narrowed down your list to two or three paver installers, call them and schedule a free estimate. Listen carefully. Did they sound organized? Did they provide the name of a contact person? Customer service is critical. If a company doesn’t provide excellent customer service from your first contact, they probably won’t provide you with excellent service if you run into problems!
The final step of your research before sitting down and vetting potential paver installers is to visit the contractor’s website and search their online catalog. Check to see if they have paver prices so you can browse and put together your budget. See what styles and materials they offer. Knowing what you want in terms of quality and style before you meet can save time and money.
When you are meeting with contractors, ask a lot of questions. You are about to make a significant investment, and you want to know that you can trust them with your home, and your money. Ask questions like:
- How long have they been in installing pavers?
- Has a manufacturer instructed them on the installation of the product, or are they ICPI certified?
- Ask for three references. Any professional contractor will be happy to give you references from prior clients. Call them!
- Ask to see their portfolio.
- Are they fully insured? Do they have a current liability insurance certificate? Ask to see a copy.
- Do they provide a written, itemized proposal outlining both the scope of work and their payment terms? This should include starting and ending dates, demolition, excavation paving, and base materials and taxes.
- Do they guarantee their work? For how long?
These questions can help you to understand their qualifications better and can help you to learn if they have the expertise and experience to complete your job on time and on budget.