CALIBER SERVICES: PAVER PATIOS & DRIVEWAYS
PROPER PAVER INSTALLATION
FUN [PAVER] FACT:
Did you know that pavers are part of a complete, multi-layer system which includes compacted aggregate base (usually road base), a 'bedding' sand layer, then the paver, edge restraint (usually just called 'edging'), and paver joint sand to finish it all off. It's a lot, and each layer is crucial!
Omitting any of these layers OR using low quality landscaping materials OR not ensuring uniform quantities of good landscaping materials can result in pavers that fail with inclement weather, time, or seemingly for no reason at all...except that they were not properly installed. Go figure!
So...as a paver lay-person, what can you watch for in proper paver installation??
Follow the Paver System 'layers'
1. compacted aggregate base layer
This means: if you don't see existing soil being scraped down several inches and road base (not rocks or gravel!) being brought in, you should definitely ask questions. With very few exceptions, existing soil conditions can't support pavers because they are too wet, too dry, too full of clay, too full of sand, etc. Installing several inches of road base that is then compacted to a uniform grade (typically with compactor plates and laser levels) creates the foundation on which everything else sits, and is crucial to the success of the entire paver project. Like most things in life...problems buried where you can't see usually make their way topside and cause even bigger (and more dramatic) issues when they surface.
2. the 'bedding sand'
The bedding sand layer should be installed to a 1" thickness on top of the compacted aggregate base layer. How do the installers know it's really an inch? A typical method is to screed the sand over 1" diameter metal pipe that has been laid on the road base layer. Bedding sand is important because it allows for slight variation in the paver heights, slight variation in the road base layer and is the beginning of locking the individual pavers together.
3. the actual pavers
Not all pavers are created equal. Different paver materials have differing strengths and weaknesses. Pavers are made or cut to different sizes and thicknesses. The paver you choose needs to be strong enough and thick enough to support the weight that will be on the paver. Patio pavers for use in the back yard that will only be walked on by people may not be acceptable for installation on a driveway or busy sidewalk.
Several different types of paver edging are available. Some of these include concrete curbing, flexible steel or aluminum, plastic or composite edging spiked into the ground, or other block, wall or curb material. The right paver edging for your project, like the pavers themselves, depends largely on what the pavers will be used for and how much strength will be needed to keep the edges intact.
5. joint sand to finish it off
Joint sand is a little bit like magic. After all the cuts have been made, and the edging is installed, and the pavers are clean AND DRY, most (but not all) paver installation projects finish it off with polymeric sand, which becomes almost like super glue or grout when it gets wet. The installer will spread the sand over the project area and carefully broom it in to place, and then even more carefully, wet it down. This strengthens the paver system even more by locking the pavers tightly together and and creating a crisp finished look.
bonus: sealer to bring out the colors and really make it shine!
Not everyone wants a wet or shiny look to their pavers--maybe you do and maybe you don't. Sealer isn't necessarily included in a paver project, so if it's important to you, make sure to ask for it. Sealer is typically a water based material that your installer will roll on kind of like paint. It gets evenly spread across the pavers and can keep them looking polished and new, and highlight the different colors you might have in your choice of pavers.
Cool. Great education. Did CALIBER create this system?
Nope. This method is actually ancient--literally. You can find elements of the same paver system in Roman Empire pavers, which can be found all over Europe and are STILL in use today, 2000 years after the initial installation. Today, paver installation best practices and industry standards are set by the International Concrete Paver Institute. More info can be found on their site at ICPI.org
If you want to learn even more, paver manufacturer's websites typically have information about installation methods. Even if you never actually work on a project yourself, it's still great to understand the methods and systems behind what goes in your yard.
Here are sites of some manufacturers we use:
Happy PROPER paver installation!
P.S. We gathered a few of our favorite paver photos for you to check out. Some projects are big, some are small, some are old, some are new. ALL of them follow the layers of the paver system! Enjoy!
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