Building a paver path yourself

A paver path is a labour-intensive project that requires renting a heavy plate compactor for installation. But the result is a permanent, tight-fitting, smooth path that rivals solid concrete for durability. Here's what to consider.

Building a paver path yourself

Pavers have been around since the Romans cut stones and placed them on a gravel bed to make incredibly durable roads. They can withstand heavy use. Modern versions are made from concrete, clay or stone.

Design considerations

Best uses: All-around excellent material for paths, walks and even driveways, since paver construction can withstand heavy weight. They're highly decorative. You can choose from a variety of colours and patterns, creating anything from a formal English garden walk to an ancient-looking cobblestone path.

Versatility: Ideal for straight or curved paths. However, since pavers require a compact gravel base, changing the path later is a huge job. Use with caution around mature trees, so you don't damage the roots.

Longevity/maintenance: This type of path will last a lifetime. To avoid weeds, sweep off dirt so it doesn't accumulate in the joints. Every few years, sweep more sand into the joints to keep the pavers secure.

Drainage: Set the path to drain at 0.5 centimetres per 33 centimetres (0.25 inches per 13 inches) to the side. Set the pavers slightly above the surrounding grade.

Slopes: Pavers can be laid on steep inclines (if you can walk up the incline, pavers can be laid on it), but don't use them for steps. Use stone, concrete or wood for the steps instead.

Materials

Concrete pavers are the most common and diverse, available in different colours and shapes. You can arrange each shape in a number of patterns. They have bevelled edges for easier fitting and shoveling. Expect them to last 30 years or more. The colour will fade slightly as they weather.

Clay pavers were commonly used for streets in the 1900s. Many versions are available today, from soft-textured molded styles to crisp edge types. Colour retention and durability are excellent. Set them perfectly even; the edges on some types can chip. Be sure what you buy is a paver, not a house brick, which is softer and will deteriorate.

Stone pavers are often tumbled to make them look old. They're incredibly hard and difficult to cut, but they're attractive and will last a lifetime.You'll find the largest selection of all types of pavers at a landscape, brick or stone supplier. You can usually find concrete pavers at home centres as well.

Key construction details

Setting pavers involves a lot of repetitious work and isn't a job for a novice.

  • The first step is to dig a pathway about 25 centimetres (10 inches) deep and fill and compact the base material (gravel that packs well) with a special plate compactor.
  • Then you lay the edging, spread and level a bed of sand and drop in the pavers.
  • You usually have to cut some pavers to fit with a saw and diamond blade.
  • To finish, set the pavers with the plate compactor and then sweep sand into the joints.
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