How to Lay a Paver Patio

One of the major factors in remodeling our patio (other than looks!) was because the pre-existing concrete slabs had shifted over time and were slanted towards our house, causing water issues in our basement. After every heavy rain, we’d have significant amounts of water in the corners of our basement- and once, our entire basement flooded about 2 inches.

Sima Spaces patio renovation: before
We replaced our siding and back door and painted the foundation as well during this project.

Our issue was bigger than just the slope of the patio itself, so we ended up installing a drain tile system. However, removing the concrete on the back patio and re-sloping it has helped immensely as well. It is so satisfying to watch the water flow towards the yard now when it rains, rather than directly into our house!

You might ask why we didn’t have it mud-jacked back into the correct position. If you’re not familiar with mud-jacking, it is a process where a concrete slab can be lifted back into the desired angle. We got a quote for it that came in around $600. However, the concrete was cracked in some spots and didn’t actually cover our entire backyard area where we wanted the patio to extend. There were some bushes on one side with about 5′ of rocks underneath and we knew we wanted to remove them to make the best use of the space. We also knew we wanted to replace the old concrete steps.

Sima Spaces patio renovation: before
The concrete steps led to the sidewalk rather than the patio, which wasn’t the most functional use of space.

With that in mind, we got quotes for pouring all new concrete and installing pavers. Both quotes came in between $4,000-$6,000. We knew that was way more than we were comfortable paying, so we decided to just do it ourselves, as we’ve done with basically all of the rest of our home!

The Process

Step 1: Demo

We started by ripping out the bushes and jackhammering out all of the old concrete. This was a time-intensive process, involving many wheelbarrow trips to and from the dumpster we had rented. After the concrete was gone, we were left with a large empty patch of dirt. Unfortunately, we didn’t start this process until the fall and the ground had started freezing by the time we were done, so we had to stick with the dirt patch and no back steps for about 9 months until we could resume in the summer (I wouldn’t recommend this method….ha!)

Sima Spaces Patio renovation

We had been a bit over-zealous with our goals of thinking we’d finish laying the pavers by the end of fall, so we had already ordered our pavers. We ordered a standard rectangular 8×16″ concrete paver from Menards. The total came to about $550 for all of them, and we ended up having quite a few extras.

Laura Sima of Sima Spaces doing demo on patio during renovation
I jackhammered for about 15 minutes… Josh did the other 8 hours!

Step 2: Preparation

Fast forward to spring… we started tackling our dirt patch by smoothing it out with rakes. We sloped it slightly by digging it down on the side farthest from the house and tossing it closer to the house. 6″ is the recommended depth to dig in order to account for the paver base, sand, and pavers themselves. Since we had a solid dirt surface to start, we only dug about 4″ deep. We didn’t worry about sloping it precisely, as we knew we’d take care of this with our next step.

Sima Spaces Patio Remodel: smoothing the dirt patch

After the dirt was smoothed, we SHOULD have laid the weed barrier. We got so excited that we actually forgot this step and ended up laying it after the class 5 gravel, which I would not recommend! I’m including it here because you should definitely lay it prior to the gravel install. We cut it to size and used landscaping stakes to nail it in place.

Sima Spaces patio remodel: weed barrier
This is the weed barrier

Step 3: Class 5 Gravel & Sloping

We used class 5 gravel as our patio base over the dirt and weed barrier. It is easily compactable and provides a very solid surface for the paver base. We sloped this by spreading out wheelbarrow loads and raking them into place. For example, we did two wheelbarrow loads in one spot closest to the house and one load in one spot closer to the grass so the gravel would be different depths.

Sima Spaces patio renovation: class 5 gravel
Note the 2×4 with the level on top: this was our way of ensuring the surface was sloped perfectly!

The slope we aimed for was about 1/2-1 degree across the width of the patio. To check our sloping, we set a 3′ level on top of a 10′ 2×4. This way, we were also able to see any dips or raises in the gravel and adjust the surface accordingly.

Sima Spaces patio remodel: checking the slope

Once we were satisfied with the slope and surface of the gravel, we rented a gas-powered tamper from Home Depot. We ran it multiple times over the gravel in large back-and-forth motions. Once it was tamped down, we brought back our 2×4 and level to ensure it was still sloped as we desired. We needed to fill in dips and rake it out a few different times and ended up running the tamper over the whole patio about 4 times to make sure it was as close to perfect as possible.

Sima Spaces patio remodel: tamping the gravel
The tamper gets filled with water and wets the gravel as it moves, so it’s not as dusty as you’d think!

Step 4: Paver Sand

After our gravel was laid, it was time to lay the paver sand. The paver sand is what allows for the pavers to settle into so there is less movement. We had the paver sand delivered from a local landscaping company, which was much easier than making multiple trips with bags of sand from a home improvement store!

Sima Spaces patio remodel: paver sand install

Again, we made multiple wheelbarrow trips and dumped the sand from the house and edges of the patio and raked it towards the center and the lawn. To smooth it, we used two 1/2″ galvanized pipes and ran a 2×4 over the top, as seen in the video below. We threw handfuls of sand to fill in any dips. We again checked the slope using a 2×4 and the level. I shared some videos of this on my Instagram account but don’t have any photos throughout the process because we were too busy working!

Sima Spaces patio remodel: sand install
The lines in the sand are from the 1/2″ pipes we used to smooth it out with the 2×4

Step 5: Lay the pavers!

Once the sand was smooth and sloped accurately, we started laying the pavers. Because we were using plain rectangular pavers, I wanted to add interest with the pattern, so we went with a basketweave pattern. A quick Google search will give you lots of options for paver patterns, some more difficult than others! The basketweave pattern ended up being very easy and quick to lay- it only took about 3-4 hours total to lay our entire patio.

Sima Spaces patio remodel: paver install
The staining is from having sat out all winter in the snow- it went away after a few rains!

We started in one corner and worked our way towards the house and then down the length of the patio. Very few cuts were required, which helped save time! When laying the pavers, we made sure the surface was smooth beneath it, that it nestled in tight to the paver next to it, and laid flat. We used a rubber mallet on any paver that din’t lay completely flat or sit tight with it’s neighbor.

Step 6: Interlocking Sand (Polymeric Sand)

This step is very important as it’s what ultimately locks your pavers into place. You can purchase bags of polymeric sand at any home improvement store. We used about 10 bags of sand for this project (16×23′ patio). First, ensure that all pavers are spaced how you want them and are laying flat. Take a rubber mallet to any pavers that are out of place or not level. You can then start pouring the sand over the patio on one side. It is a very fine dust, so it’s recommended to wear a dust mask during this phase. Start with a few bags- you can always add more.

It doesn’t matter where you start with the sand, but know that you will be sweeping it out, so the sand will spread- this is why you shouldn’t just cover the entire patio with sand.

When you have a few bags dumped on one side, begin sweeping the sand with a push broom, ensuring that the sand fills every crack in between every paver. Do your best to clear the top of the paver of all sand, as it will stain.

I don’t have photos of the polymeric sand install on our back patio, but here is one from the front patio install.

Sima Spaces patio renovation: polymeric sand install

Continue the process until every crack is filled. Make sure there’s no extra sand lying around! When this is done, you’ll grab a hose with a “shower” nozzle and gently spray the entire patio. Water helps turn the sand to a sort of “concrete”, which locks your pavers in place. Spray your patio about 3 times, waiting 15 minutes in between each pass.

Sima Spaces patio remodel: polymeric sand
Again, here’s a photo from our front patio install after the polymeric sand installation!

Once this is complete, you should avoid walking on your patio for about 12 hours. If you have large pets, try and keep them off of it as well!

Step 7: Enjoy!

The next day, you are free to start enjoying your new space- move some furniture in, add some decor, pour yourself an ice cold drink and cheers to your new outdoor oasis!

We had quite a few more steps before we were totally done, such as building the stairs, pergola, and fence, but here is the finished space!

Sima Spaces patio renovation

We absolutely love our new patio and we’re so happy that we were able to save thousands of dollars by doing it ourselves. In total, after demo, the paver installation took only two days and roughly 10 hours to complete. Our backyard is completely transformed and we couldn’t love it more!

How to Lay a Paver Patio: Sima Spaces

Author: Laura Sima

Hey there, I'm Laura- creator of Sima Spaces. I'm a home renovator, designer, and blogger based in St. Paul, MN. When I'm not designing or renovating homes, you can find me working as a pediatric ICU RN, snuggling my dog or cat, skiing in CO, or enjoying a glass of wine on our patio.

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