Whether you want to add a walkway, driveway or patio, cement pavers will provide a durable and attractive surface at a relatively low cost. First introduced in the early 1970s, Interlocking concrete pavers have rapidly grown in popularity as the product of choice for attractive and cost effective paving.
Cement pavers can be found in everything from standard brick sized units roughly 3.5 inches by 8 inches, all the way up to 24 inch by 24 inch squares. The interlocking paver has gained in popularity due primarily to its appearance, durability and relative ease of installation. Modular Interlocking pavers fit together in a variety of geometric patterns that are often on display at your local masonry supply store.
Most pavers measure 2-3/8 to 2-1/2 inches thick. In order to resist moisture and damage from winter frost, masonry pavers are made much stronger and denser than ordinary concrete bricks and blocks. Available in numerous shapes such as diamond, hexagonal, and cobblestone, the design possibilities are almost endless.
Larger grass pavers are installed with open joints so that grass or other ground covers can be planted in-between them to achieve a stepping stone design. These larger pavers make for a very durable and natural-looking walkway, while the turf itself holds them firmly in place.
Depending on the shape of the paver selected, you may end up with voids along the edges of the area. Some patterns offer special pieces to create a straight edge while others will require you to cut the pavers to fit the voids. This is done with a circular saw equipped with 7-1/4 inch diamond blade which can be purchased where you buy your pavers.
There are several companies that manufacture cement pavers, so take your time and shop around for the product that best meets your needs and price range. Before purchasing your pavers, lay out the project and take your measurements with you so the dealer will help you estimate the correct amount of pavers required. Always be sure to purchase an additional 5% of pavers to allow for incorrect cuts, breakage,and future repairs.
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In soil conditions with inadequate drainage due to large amounts of loam or clay, frost heave, settling, or erosion will often occur. To avoid these conditions, smaller cement pavers must be laid on a firm, well-drained base, free of organic materials which will eventually promote the growth of unwanted weeds and grass inside the joints.
This type of sub-surface is referred to as a “flexible base.” The term flexible base implies that it can expand and contract in extreme temperature changes without being damaged. In areas with extremely deep clay or loam, it is common practice to remove just the top nine inches and install pavers on a flexible base consisting of four inches of compacted gravel or crushed stone that is then covered with filter fabric paper to hinder the growth of weeds. The area is then topped with two inches of compacted builder’s sand that the pavers are set on.
Although there are many different opinions on exactly how to build a paver base, my 25 years of experience have shown me that in areas where natural gravel is close to the surface, it is quite acceptable to install pavers on a single bed of stone dust at least three inches deep. Stone dust is the finest particles created from crushing granite and can be purchased at, and delivered by the masonry supply company where you buy your pavers.
Like gravel, sand and crushed stone, stone dust is void of most essential nutrients weeds need to thrive. Stone dust also allows water to drain through it and compacts extremely well. This combination of drainage, compaction and resistance to plant life make stone dust the perfect one step base. Once you’ve removed the top soil, determine an average depth of your stone dust base so your supplier can estimate how many cubic yards you will need.
The first step to installing cement pavers is to lay out the desired pattern. This is done by first marking the area with wooden stakes or metal pins strung with builder’s line to precisely define both the area and the finish elevation before removing existing top soil/loam. Use a line level to set grades that will allow rain water to flow off the paved area.
If the pavers are being installed in an existing lawn with proper pitch for drainage, make sure to cut the edge of the lawn as neatly as possible. Done in this manner, the existing lawn can serve as your finished border. The area can also be edged with pavers, grass and wood or plastic edging materials. Consult your supplier for the option that best meets your needs.
The next step is to back-fill the area with the stone dust that is graded and compacted to the desired sub-grade elevation. Keep in mind that your sub-grade must be low enough to allow for the thickness of the paver. Sub-grade, plus paver equals final grade/elevation.
A simple and easy way to achieve maximum compaction of stone dust without the use of a power compacter is to thoroughly wet it down after rough grading. Completely wet down the stone dust all the way through as if you were watering a lawn, taking care not to flood the area. This process is referred to as hydraulic compaction and it works very well.
After the stone dust has dried to a slightly damp consistency, it can be finish graded with a metal rake or wooden screed and tamped with a hand tamp to compact the touched up surface area.
Note: Stone dust should be compacted in three- to four-inch layers to make sure it reaches proper density.
The next step is to install your preplanned pattern, making sure to tap each paver with a rubber mallet to firmly set it in place. Take care not to disturb the base while installing the pavers and touch it up as needed. If your pattern requires you to cut pavers to fill in along the edges, be certain to take proper precautions while cutting. This will include wearing eye and ear protection along with a dust mask. Also be sure to place the pavers on a safe and secure wooden surface while cutting.
When all the pavers are installed, carefully inspect them to make sure they’re all set firmly in place with all edges neat and level. To assure that the pavers will not rock or shift, sprinkle a small amount of stone dust over the entire surface and broom it into the joints between them. Finish with a light misting of water to remove the excess stone dust. Repeat this process in two to three weeks.
By working closely with a reputable masonry supply company that will assist you with the particulars of your project, and putting in a healthy dose elbow grease, interlocking cement pavers will bring lasting beauty and value to your home.