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DIY Paver Project: Laying a Game Plan

Sketching, shopping, and gearing up for a new patio.

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Loading up the car with supplies for the project

The Bornszteins spent a little under $800 on supplies for their backyard walkway repair project. Image: Curbly.com

This is the second in a series of posts from Curbly.com editor Bruno Bornsztein, who’s paving a backyard walkway and patio with help from his wife Alicia, daughter Ayla, and HouseLogic’s sponsorship.

In my previous post, I had a little fun complaining about all the things wrong with our current backyard walkway. With that out of my system, I’m ready to share specifics on the planning and materials shopping phase of this family project — so you can pave your own backyard patio or walkway, too.

There I stood in front of the Great Wall of Paver Stones, my head tilted back in awe at the huge assortment. It was my first scouting trip to the landscaping section of the big-box home improvement store; I had expected to just waltz in, choose a few options, and head back home. Wishful thinking.

Back at home, I grabbed my trusty pocket notebook and jotted down some notes (even the real Great Wall started with a sketch in a notebook):

  • Keep things simple.
  • Keep costs within our $1,400 budget. (HouseLogic is funding our project.)
  • Make wife happy (sorry, honey, I meant to put that first).

Measuring

Next, I roughly measured the dimensions from fixed points (like the corners of the garage or house) and checked everything twice.

To keep it simple, I decided we’d follow the path of the existing walkway, rather than moving things around. This means less digging, and fewer areas to fill in afterward with sod or mulch. If your path goes through virgin lawn, you’ll have a lot more flexibility.

After a bit of grade-school math (did I mention Alicia’s a grade-school teacher? She does the math around here), we settled on 200 sq. ft. of new construction. By keeping our path relatively narrow (2 feet wide) we could work in a small patio and save some money.

A note on width: For light traffic between the garage and the house, 2 feet should be fine. For two people to walk side-by-side (or pass each other), aim for at least three feet wide.

At the store

With my notes and measurements in hand, the Wall of Pavers looked so much more manageable. We narrowed it down to 4-by-8-inch Holland-style pavers. They’re easy to cut, not super-heavy, and will fit in perfect multiples into our 24-inch walk.

Alicia and I both loved the tumbled Holland pavers, but the price would have put us over budget, so we nixed that idea.

That left one choice: color. We decided against trying to mix in several different colors (too much thinking involved when laying them down), and chose a quiet, dark charcoal gray.

At 4x8 inches each, we calculated we’d need about 860 pavers for the walkway and patio. If you’re having trouble with your calculations, bring your sketch with dimensions to a home improvement, hardware, or landscaping store; the staff can help you figure out how many you need.

Here’s a breakdown of what we spent on supplies:

  • 860 Holland pavers: $275
  • 16 plastic paver edging kits: $130
  • 31 cu. ft. of gravel (the paver base): $185
  • 15 cu. ft. of leveling sand (sand and gravel help maintain drainage, giving pavers a solid foundation): $92.38
  • Landscaping fabric (lies underneath gravel to keep weeds and grass from poking out between the pavers): $40
  • Wheelbarrow: $70

Note: The amount of base and sand you put down depends on your use-case and soil conditions. If your soil is already very compacted (as ours is), you might need fewer vertical inches of gravel. For instance, I’m going with 2 to 3 inches of gravel (and one inch of sand), though many books recommend 4 to 6 inches. If you expect vehicles to roll over the pavers, you’ll want even more gravel.

Delivery is totally worth it!

Don’t skimp and try to move these materials yourself. Our delivery includes the pavers, gravel, sand, and edging, and only cost us $50. A chiropractor would cost more.

Draw your plan

Once we got all of our materials ordered, I was ready to draw a more detailed plan. You can use graph paper and a ruler, but I used Google’s free SketchUp drafting program. I took more detailed measurements and then spent an afternoon drawing it all up. It lets you do a fun walkthrough:


Note: There’s no sound with this video.

You may be comfortable with a lot less planning — maybe just some spray paint marks on the lawn — but I like being able to picture everything ahead of time. SketchUp makes finding angles, distances, and areas really easy, so you know your design is right and true.

So, what’s next? I’ll show you how I went about demolishing all the old walkway concrete and turned my little computer-aided drawing into a real, muddy mess.

Related: Follow the DIY paver project from beginning to end.

Have you created a patio or walkway for your back yard? If so, what planning, shopping, and materials tips can you share?

brunobornsztein Bruno Bornsztein

is a home improvement addict fan who runs Curbly, LLC (including blogs “Curbly”, “ManMadeDIY”, and “WeeBabyStuff”). He has a background in journalism and web development, and hasn’t yet found a DIY project he isn’t willing to tackle.

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