5 Mistakes to Avoid When Installing Pavers

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated April 14, 2022
A family walking in their house’s patio
Photo: Willie B. Thomas / Photodisc / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Pavers are a durable and affordable material option for walkways, pools, and patios.

  • When it comes to self-installation, digging a proper base is essential.

  • Paver sealant is an important but often overlooked step in the installation process.

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Generally made from stone, clay, or brick, pavers add color and texture to walkways, pool areas, and patios, among other outdoor living spaces around your home. Installing pavers by yourself may not be the easiest DIY project, but the potential cost savings will likely make it worth your while.

For example, the cost to install a brick pavers patio is generally $8 to $25 per square foot. In this guide, learn some common mistakes to avoid when installing pavers yourself to make sure yours looks clean and stays protected from the bottom up.

1. Backfilling Your Pavers With Dirt

Digging a secure base layer before installing pavers is crucial to the success of your project. Since dirt shrinks by approximately 30 percent, it's not suitable for the base because it’ll cause your pavers to shift or look lopsided over time. 

Instead, lay a base of gravel or washed concrete sand down before arranging your pavers. Both materials are superior options for this DIY project.

2. Improperly Compacting the Base

A compacted base layer is key to making your pavers installation last and look its very best. Whichever material you choose to install at the base should be firmly patted down before laying any concrete.

A steel tamper for small areas can work, but we advise you to rent a gas plate compactor for larger surfaces. Although the rental might cost $150 or more, it'll be worth it in the long run.

3. Not Laying a Deep Enough Base

A woman installing pavers
Photo: sturti / E+ / Getty Images

Expect to dig a four- to six-inch base for almost any pavers installation job, but in some cases, as many as nine inches might be necessary. The more weight you expect to cover the surfaces—think a driveway versus a walkway—the deeper the base needs to be. 

Remember to account for paver size and the inch of compacted sand or gravel at the base. Conduct your research before digging or consult a professional paver installer for additional help.

4. Forgetting to Apply Paver Sealer

You protected your new pavers at the base by compacting the bottom and digging a deep enough hole. But you should also be wary of protecting the surface, which you can ensure by using paver sealant. This tool helps secure your paver sand and prevent pavers from shifting or becoming unbalanced over time. You'll find acrylic paver sealant for as low as $30 at home improvement stores. 

5. Taking on a DIY Project Above Your Skill Level

If you start to install your paver walkway and then quickly realize you’re in over your head, that’s okay. If you have doubts about your ability to complete the project as intended, a  local hardscaper can help you. The lowest quote shouldn't be your top priority; instead, look for someone who aims to build structures that require low maintenance and get the job right the first time.

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