Patio pavers are a great choice for that one-of-a-kind outdoor landscape experience that will be the talk of the neighborhood. If you’re a handy homeowner who likes to take on projects like this yourself, it’s important to know all the steps involved to do it right. Here’s a guide on how to properly install a paver patio, including how much time it takes, how much you’ll spend, and the detailed steps you should take.
Only DIY if you know what you're doing.
Only take it on if you have past experience.
What you'll need:
- Tape Measure
- Rubber mallet
- Plate compactor
- Sod cutter (optional)
- Marking paint
- Line level
- Four Garden stakes
- One 2 X 4 board
- Two 1-inch PVC conduit pipes
- A 4-inch layer of gravel
- A 1-inch layer of sand
- Landscape fabric
- Patio pavers
- Paver sand
- Paver edging or bricks
Set Your Budget
It’s important to know how much you’re willing to invest in the project to avoid going over budget. Paver patios cost anywhere from $8 to $25 per square foot, though you will end up spending $50 per square foot if you choose a high-end natural paving stone rather than cost-friendly concrete pavers.
You can save quite a bit if you do your paver patio yourself. Here’s a breakdown of potential costs for a DIY project:
Line level: $5
Rubber mallet: $5
Marking paint: $5
Sand: $5 per cubic foot
Garden stakes: $10
Paver edging or brick: $50
Plate compactor: $90 (rental)
Sod cutter (optional): $100 per day
Landscape fabric: $50 per 4 X 200 feet
Gravel: $15–$75 per cubic yard
Pavers: $2–$16 per square foot
If you happen to have any of these supplies already, or you have a friend who will let you borrow their tools, then you can easily shave off some of these expenses.
Acquire Permits (If Needed)
Check with your local county to make sure you don’t need a permit. While most municipalities do not require a permit to build a paver patio because they’re not a permanent structure, some do. This is especially true if you plan on adding a wood structure, like a pergola, or advanced features to your living area, such as lighting and a fan. It’s always best to obtain a permit during the early stages of your backyard upgrade project.
Choose a Patio LocationPhoto: schab / Adobe Stock
Your paver patio will likely be the focal point of your backyard. As such, you’ll want to make sure it can easily accommodate the furniture and other features you plan on including. You want guests and family members to have plenty of room to relax, be it by the fire or at an outdoor dining table. Make sure there will be enough room for enjoying the rest of the yard, too.
Conduct an Inspection
If you’re uncertain about where power or water lines are in your backyard, it’s also a good idea to have a local home inspector come by and locate buried utility lines. This is especially true for older homes that may have hidden pipes or even a greywater system beneath the ground. You don’t want to hit a pipe or line.
Call the national hotline 8-1-1, run by Call-Before-You-Dig, before you dig to avoid tapping into a natural gas supply pipe or other dangerous underground piping.
Design a Plan
Get your sketchbook out to draw a rough draft of what you envision the paver patio to look like in your yard. Once you have an idea, you can measure the actual patio. Use a tape measure to determine the patio’s square footage.
After you finish, get your calculator ready, because it’s time to crunch some numbers.
Calculating Your Pavers
Divide the size of your pavers of choice into the total square footage to determine how many pavers you will need. For instance, the average size patio is around 16 by 18 feet (288 square feet). The average brick paver is four by eight inches (32 square inches). This is roughly 4.5 bricks per square foot of space or 1,296 bricks. You can lower this number by choosing wider and longer pavers, designing a smaller patio space, or trying out some other paver patio design tips.
Calculating Your Foundation Levels
You’ll also need to calculate how much landscape fabric, gravel, and sand you’ll need. The landscape fabric will cover the bottom level of the patio’s base to keep weeds from popping up between the pavers.
Calculate the surface area of your patio to figure out how much material you’ll need. In the example above, you’ll need 16 by 18 feet of material (288 square feet), but you’ll want to plan for about eight extra inches to account for any potential overlap between the fabric pieces.
The gravel base should be four inches deep once compacted and level. Multiply the square footage of the base by 1/3 to determine how much gravel you’ll need. A 288-square-foot patio will need 96 cubic feet of gravel.
Once you’ve calculated the gravel, calculate the amount of sand. The sand is about 1/3 the amount of gravel, as it’s only a one-inch layer. Multiply 96 by 1/6 to get the sand measurement, which is 48 cubic feet of sand.
Calculating Your Paver Edge
You’ll also need to calculate the perimeter of the paver patio to determine how much edging you need. Measure the lengths of all sides of your patio design and add them together to get the perimeter. In our example, this will be 16+18+16+18=68 feet.
*Note: Always buy a little extra of the hardscape materials in case you spill or are off by a small quantity.
Mark the Layout
With all of those calculations aside, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Mark your layout using marking paint and then—starting from the closest markers to your home—drive one stake into each corner approximately six inches beyond the perimeter. Use the string to securely fasten the layout to the desired height.
You want your paver patio to slope away from your home by one inch for every eight feet of paving material to prevent water from streaming towards your home and into your basement or foundation.
For example, if your patio will be 16 feet long, you’re going to want the two stakes furthest from your home to be two inches lower. Use a line level to make sure the stakes are properly sloped away from the house.
After you’ve completed the measurements, check the distance between the corners of your stakes by measuring diagonally. The measurements should be the same.
Check the Slope
It’s crucial that you check the slope—otherwise, you may install a great-looking patio but wind up with a basement full of water. It's perfectly fine to attach a patio to your home or even install it adjacent to the house—just be sure to pitch the slope away from the basement or foundation. Read on to learn more about the slope.
Excavate the Patio Area
Clear the site of grass, weeds, plants, and soil. You can do this faster if you use a sod cutter. Make sure you excavate a minimum of six inches into the ground, working from your house outwards. As you go, make the slope 1/4 an inch for every foot you move away from the home.
Tamp the basePhoto: Jo Ann Snover / Adobe Stock
Packing the base down ensures stability. If you’re not DIYing it, make sure the local patio builders installing the patio pavers take the necessary time to tamp the earth so there’s little chance the pavers will loosen or crack.
Either use a manual hand tamper or rent an automatic plate compactor from your local hardware store to do the job faster. Always use safety gear like gloves, respiratory protection, glasses, and hearing protection if you choose to use machinery.
Lay a Landscape Fabric
Weeds have a way of growing in between the cracks of patio pavers, but they don’t have to. A landscape barrier between the soil and the paving stones should stop any weeds. Roll out landscape fabric across the base to prevent weeds from popping up.
Add the Paver BasePhoto: bellakadife / Adobe Stock
Now it’s time to pour! Use the rake to spread the gravel across the area, making sure that the entire paver base stays at a consistent four-inch thickness. Any inconsistencies will result in pools of water when it rains.
Complete the base installation by lightly spraying it with a watering hose to make the gravel more solid. Construction that rests on a solid foundation will stand the test of time and avoid liquefaction—and patio pavers are no exception.
Spread the Paver Sand
This next step will feel a little like you’re a kid playing with sand. With the conduit pipes laying about four feet apart and parallel on the stable foundation, pour in the paver sand. You might want a buddy to assist you as you drag the 2-by-4-foot board over the top of the pipes.
Remove the conduit pipes and fill the empty spots with sand before moving to the next section. You might have to repeat this process a few times to get the entire surface evenly layered with sand. This simple trick helps keep the sand even, but check all areas with a level once it’s complete.
Add the PaversPhoto: Ozgur Coskun / Adobe Stock
Now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for: installing the pavers! Depending on your design, you’ll want to lay the pavers one by one. Choose a corner and line them up closely and flat on top of the sand. Do not drag the pavers over the sand, as this can create an uneven surface.
As you go, continue to check for uneven surface levels. You might need to add a little sand underneath pavers that look low or firmly tap one down that’s too high using a rubber mallet.
Edging stones or paver edgings keep your patio’s edges from shifting in place while also looking stylish. You apply either one of these options around the entire perimeter of your newly paved patio for extra reinforcement. Edging stones are secured using concrete, while paver edging is installed using stakes.
Add Sand to the JointsPhoto: bildlove / Adobe Stock
Lastly, sprinkle jointing sand over the entire patio to fill in any loose spaces between the pavers. The surface and joints should be dry before you do this or else the sand won’t properly fall into the cracks.
Using a broom, sweep sand across the entire service and then finish off by pressing the pavers with a hand tamper or plate compactor to entice the sand to go into all crevices. You might need to repeat this step a few times to ensure the sand fully enters the joints.
Personalizing Your New Patio
Your patio is complete, so now it’s time to add those final touches that give your new outdoor space a look that is fully yours! Unique ideas for styling your patio include adding:
When to Hire a Pro
Installing a patio paver isn’t an easy project. If geometry and getting down on your hands and knees to apply hundreds of paving stones doesn’t sound like fun, then you might be better off hiring a patio builder near you to install a new patio.
Hiring a paver contractor to transform your outdoor space ensures the project goes smoothly without common mistakes that often befall the ambitious DIYer.