How to Build a Paver Patio: Building a Base
With the critical first step of planning finished, the next step is to build a solid base for your patio. Start by measuring and staking out the area you plan to build your patio on. Take extra care to be sure the corners are square, so that you avoid additional cuts or uneven rows of pavers. Run strings between the stakes for a straight edge. You can also spray the perimeter on the ground with landscaper’s spray paint to make it easy to distinguish where the edges are.
Determine the desired level for the finished patio surface. This can be calculated by estimating the depth of your base materials and adding the thickness of your pavers. When determining the depth of your base materials, keep in mind that a thicker base layer drains better, so if you’re in a moist climate be sure to plan for a thick layer of gravel and sand.
Level the area, then compact the dirt to the desired depth with a plate compactor. This is an essential step – if the dirt is not compacted, your patio may settle. You can rent the plate compactor from your local equipment rental or hardware store.
Once the base layer of dirt is compacted, put down some commercial-grade landscape fabric. This helps to discourage weeds and grass from growing up through your patio. It is also beneficial to prevent uneven settling and keep the patio as level as possible. Leave about 6” on all sides, to be trimmed after the pavers are all laid down.
Next, cover with a two inch layer of gravel. Level this layer and compact it with the plate compactor. Repeat until you’ve reached approximately 6” of compacted gravel. If you’re planning for very moist conditions, you may want to make this layer even thicker. Put 1” of sand on top of the gravel. This layer should also be compacted to ensure a solid paver patio.
Finally, lay down an even 2″ layer of sand over the compacted sand and gravel and level it without compacting. This will provide an even surface to set your pavers on. The best way to accomplish this is to screed the sand with a straight 2×4 or other straight-edge. Be sure your patio base is flat, as your pavers will follow the contour of this layer.
Once your base layer is finished, it’s almost time for the pavers. Before you bring the pavers out, lay out your landscape edging around the perimeter of the patio to prevent shifting or sliding. Your local hardware store will have a variety of materials and styles of edging to fit all of your needs. Aluminum edging is long-lasting and durable, which makes it a safe bet for most applications.
Once you have a solid base and edging for your paver patio, you are ready to start on the patio itself. One last time, double-check to be sure it’s cleaned and level – after the pavers are down, it’s difficult to correct mistakes. Does everything look right? Good! Next, we’ll get started on laying the pavers and finishing the patio.