What are the Best Tips for Installing Brick Pavers?

Anna B. Smith

When installing brick pavers, plan the location of the project carefully, edge it with a durable material, allow for adequate drainage, and compact the pavers thoroughly upon completion. Advanced planning will prevent accidentally damaging local utility lines and allow the project coordinator to prepare the site for drainage. Adequate edging and compacting will protect the area's shape, and make it durable for withstanding most types of weather conditions.

PVC pipes are often used as guides when installing brick pavers.
PVC pipes are often used as guides when installing brick pavers.

Check with the local utility company before installing brick pavers to discover where pipes may run underground. Paved areas typically require digging to a depth of eight to ten inches (approximately 20 to 25 cm) below the final grade of the surface, to allow for base rock, sand, and pavers. The utility company may be able to mark a map of the intended location, showing existing power, water, and sewer lines so that they may be avoided.

Mark the intended site and shape before excavating. Use a garden hose to outline the area and spray paint over the final design, or insert garden spikes into the edges of the area, connecting them with twine. Dig within the delineated location, including several extra inches outside of the markers for the installation of the retaining edge.

Use a retaining edge to finish the perimeter of the project. The edging may be installed first, to provide guiding lines while installing brick pavers, though one side should generally be finished after the pavers are installed to allow for adjustments. This retaining edge will rest slightly below the surface of the area, and may be covered with topsoil when finished. This type of edging material may be made of stone, wood, or a pliable plastic designed for use specifically while installing brick pavers. It can usually be cut where necessary, and bent slightly to fit any shape. This will ensure that bricks do not shift unevenly when weight is applied, or as natural weathering and erosion occur.

Prior to installation of the base rock, make sure that the subsoil area allows water to drain away from the home. This may be accomplished by tying a string from the high end to the low end of the site, and placing a level in the excavated area. The subsoil should drop one inch (2.5 centimeters) every eight feet (2.4 meters) to provide adequate drainage.

Guarantee an even, flat base of sand on which to lay the pavers by using one inch (2.5 centimeters) PVC piping as guides. Place the pipes an equal distance apart on top of the base rock. Pour sand into the patio area. Rest a two-by-four piece of wood on the two PVC pipes and drag, smoothing the sand evenly.

Constantly check that the area is level as work progresses while installing brick pavers. Uneven bricks can put stress on surrounding areas and cause cracks due to an uneven distribution of weight. If a brick does not sit flush with those around it, gently tap it into place using a rubber mallet. If it sits too low, add additional sand and replace the brick, again using the mallet to make it even with the surrounding stone.

Use a hand tamper or plate compactor — available for rent from large equipment rental companies — to settle the pavers into place. Compact the area before and after sweeping sand into the joints to secure the bricks. This will create an even surface and protect the patio from shifting and eroding over time.

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