There is a lot of good information out there on installation of paving stones. Most landscape books and the manufacturers will give out excellent free information. There are a few tricks, however, and some points which, if you leave them out, will lead to deterioration of you're finished product over time.

Some key points

  • For patios, always compact at least 4" of crushed rock (available in quarry). That means rock that is from the hills, not a river bed.
  • For driveways we usually compact 8" of crushed rock but definitely no less than 6" to handle the weight of a vehicle depending on the size, car, truck...
  • Excavate to original, undisturbed sub grade. This is most important for driveways if there is a large rock that is in the way and creates a hole. Fill the hole with rock (not dirt) and compact.
  • Always compact your rock at least 6" wider than the outside finished edge of the patio or driveway, creating a strong, solid edge line for snap edge or concrete, depending on what is used for securing the edge of the pavers.
  • Cut pavers with a saw that is meant for the job. Most rental yards have them available and you will pay for the machine and for the usage of the Diamond tip blade. They will charge by the amount of usage of the blade measured when the saw or blade is returned. We also will use a small 4" or 6" hand grinder to make very small cuts that can't be made with a larger saw. A small grinder with a solid stone is also handy for touching up and finishing off detailed cut edges.
  • After layout and before securing of edges, compact entire surface with plate compactor. Be sure to completely clean and cover the surface with a woven fabric to ensure that the finished surface of the stones are not damaged.
  • When topping gravel with sand, set stones in no more than 1" of sand. If more sand is used settling will occur at some time later on. Never use more than 1". If desired slope is needed, raise the base rock keeping the 1" of sand at all times.
  • Slope is very important. Pavers are rigid and, if set level, water will set on them. Therefore it is vital that there is slope one way to a drainage point for patios and driveways, or sidewalks are crowned in the middle. A rule of thumb is 2% grade over a patio or driveway. You can get by with less depending on how much time and detail you put into the sub-base remembering that a slight settling could result in puddling.

Chronological installation

  • Draw, diagram, paint on the ground and layout using string or rope to define the area to be excavated at least 6" to 12" wider than the finished patio area.
  • Remove the dirt, or sod, separate good dirt from bad and separate sod. Dirt can be used in other flower beds or hauled off.
  • Typical stones are about 2 1/2" thick so for patio you will excavate 4" plus 2 1/2" plus 1" for sand to set stones into.
  • Install crushed rock over entire area and compact. Some people use a woven fabric under the rock between the dirt and the rock but this is usually not necessary and overkill. Only if there are soft, non-draining sub soils in the patio area would this be used and then again, I most likely wouldn't install a patio in an area with soft sub soil, or install drainage to eliminate this problem.
  • After base rock is completely installed, compacted and checked for proper slope and compaction, top the entire area with sand. I always instruct my crew to completely cover the entire area with the 1" of sand and check it with the transit before laying out the first stone. This will save time later if for some reason the base is not exactly right. It is a mess to fix later. I have made my guys pull stones off of a patio and re-do it more than once just because they broke my rule and started setting stones in one corner before checking the entire patio with the gravel base and sand installed.
  • At this point you are ready to lay stones. For large patios we use ¾" galvanized pipes about 8' or 10' long, placing them down in the sand about 4' to 6' apart. This allows the installer to screed the sand and get a perfectly level surface between the pipes. String can be used across the entire area to check the pipes set in the sand before the area is final screed, remembering to always check the project multiple times with a transit.
  • There are many patterns for layout, see your manufacturer's diagrams for a certain pattern. It really doesn't matter where you start. If adjacent to a structure, a line can be created and may help with a particular pattern. Layout the entire patio over hanging the edges. When completely laid out, use a crayon for marking the edges for cutting.
  • Some folks will install the edging before cutting but we find it easier to layout the area and then mark and cut. We only use the plastic edging in grass areas and in flower bed areas we always use a small bead of high strength concrete for securing the edge.
  • After all of the cutting is finished and before the concrete edging is placed, machine compact the entire area and place woven fabric over the area to be compacted, protecting the surface of the pavers.
  • Topping sand is used to fill in the gaps and cracks between the pavers (regular mason sand can be used). I recommend using the new polymer topping sand. It comes in different colors and, when finished, seals the cracks like concrete. The patio must be completely dry. Start on one end and dump out a bag of sand using a broom to push the sand around filling the cracks. When enough sand is laid down and the cracks are somewhat full, repeat the compaction process and sweep and sand again until there is no more sand settling taking place. Finally, after this process and making sure that the patio is swept clean of loose sand, water the patio with a fine mist from a hose nozzle and allow the water to settle down through the sand. After drying, the patio will be sealed.
  • At this point we will spread a small bead of concrete around the entire patio securing the edges together. If done right and with the proper underlying base, the concrete will not be seen and will properly secure patio.

Tools and products for this project


Digging tools, shovels, pick.

Transit, string, and string level.

Heavy rubber or sand filled hammer.

Small scrapping or leveling tool (anything will work for this - putty knife, small piece of wood)

Brick cutting saw, small 4" hand grinder for cutting and grinding (can be rented)

Plate compactor, not jumping jack compactor.

Paving stones from local manufacturer.

Topping sand, can be purchased from manufacturer.

Concrete in bags. Smaller bags are easier to handle.

Gravel- ¾ minus, fine mason sand without dirt or large pieces.


Sealing the patio


Sealing can be done, after the patio is done and dry. There are pros and cons to this process. If you can get used to your patio with just the natural look it will save time and money. Once the patio is sealed it will need to be re-sealed depending on how the sealer wears over time. I have found that most products will wear in the foot traffic and sun areas. Shaded areas under tables or structure overhangs will not wear the same, so if you can do without the sealer it is less work down the road.


The advantage is that the sealing will greatly enhance and bring out the colors in the stones, much like when the patio is wet, after drying tends to keep the wet look.


There are multiple types of sealer. I have found that the only ones that really work well are the oil based sealers. There are organic, environmentally safe types of sealers but I have not found one that works very well. Check with your manufacturer.


Some local manufacturers and wholesalers/retailers


Western Interlock- local to Salem and Willamette Valley.

Mutual Materials- available locally and regionally.

Willamette Graystone-

Lowe's and Home Depot can have some good deals and carry concrete and sand.

Willamette Graystone and Mutual Materials have stores located throughout the NW. Western Interlock has a few locations outside of the Rickreal plant.

Pumilite is a local Salem distributor for Willamette Graystone products.


I will give you my opinion of the best Paving Stone company for this local Salem, Willamette Valley area. I like Western Interlock. They seem to have a real handle on their quality control. Check out each manufacturer for types of stones that will fit your needs as each has a little different style but all of them have a quality product.


OK, as you can see this is kind of a long article, and, yes, installing a patio can be done if you are up to the task. Of course you could just hire it done and save yourself, including your back, a lot of pain and trouble....


As always....Good luck!!!


Tags:DIY

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