Although you could technically lay pavers directly onto the ground, it’s always better to create a level foundation to lay them over. This will help to ensure that your pavers remain perfectly in place, and it will also help with drainage. It may seem like an added challenge but by taking time to gather the proper tools and prepare the ground, your pavers will last a lifetime.
The first step to leveling your yard is to mark out the area where you will be laying the pavers. Then, dig out the area to a depth of about eight inches. After excavating the area, use a shovel to level off the bottom and compact the ground using a tamper. Continue adding layers of gravel and sand while compacting each layer until you have reached your desired level.
All in all, the process of creating a level foundation should take about one day. It may be a bit labor intensive but by putting in the extra elbow grease, your patio, pathway, or driveway will look professionally made and last for many years to come.
Clear the Area Where You Plan to Lay the Pavers
Before you get started, take a moment to plan out where your pavers will go. Once you have a general idea, mark out the area with string or spray paint. This will help to ensure that you lay your pavers in an even and symmetrical design. You can then begin clearing away any grass, weeds, or other vegetation within the marked area.
Dig Out a Trench
After clearing the area, you will need to excavate a trench. As a general rule of thumb, you should dig down about 3x the thickness of your pavers. So, if you are using 2” thick pavers, you will need to dig down about 6-8”. This depth should be enough to accommodate a layer of gravel, a layer of sand, and the top pavers.
If you are working with a large area, you may want to consider renting a Bobcat or other small excavator. However, for smaller projects, a shovel will do the trick. As you dig out the trench, be sure to stack the excavated soil in a neat pile off to the side. You may need to use this soil later on to fill in any low spots.
Level Off the Bottom of the Trench
Once you have excavated the trench, use a shovel to level off the bottom. You want the bottom of the trench to be as level as possible so that your pavers will lay flat. If there are any high spots, use a shovel to remove the excess soil. For low spots, add some of the excavated soil back into the trench and compact it down.
Compact the Ground
After leveling off the bottom of the trench, you will need to compact the ground. This will help to ensure that your pavers stay in place and don’t shift over time. You can rent a plate compactor from your local hardware store or home center.
If you don’t have access to a plate compactor, you can use a hand tamper. This is a small, hand-held tool that is used to compact soil. It is not as effective as a plate compactor but it will get the job done. To use a hand tamper, simply place it on the ground and push down with all of your weight. Move the tamper around in a circular pattern until the entire area is compacted.
Add a Layer of Gravel
After compacting the ground, you want to also add a layer of gravel. The space between the gravel rocks will help with drainage and also provide a stable foundation for your pavers. The gravel should be about two inches deep. You can use a shovel to spread it out and then rake the layer to make it even. Once you’re happy with how it looks, you should then compact it using a tamper.
Add a Layer of Sand
With the gravel in place, you should then add another layer of sand. This will act as a bedding material for your pavers. The sand should be about one inch deep and you can use a shovel to spread it out evenly. As with the gravel and soil before, you should then compact the sand to create a firm and stable base. We recommend wetting the sand with a hose to make this easier.
Begin Laying Your Pavers
Now that you have a level and firm foundation, you can begin laying your pavers. Start by placing the pavers in the desired pattern and then use a rubber mallet to tap them into place. If you need to cut any pavers to fit, you can use a masonry saw or a power saw with a masonry blade. Alternatively, you can ask your local hardware store to cut the stones for you.
As you lay the pavers, be sure to check that they are level. You can use a level or a string line to check that they are even. If a paver is too high or low, simply tap it down with the rubber mallet until it’s level. If you’re laying the pavers at an incline, also be sure to check that there are no low spots where water can pool in.
Lock the Joints with Polymeric Sand
Once all of the pavers are in place, you should then sweep polymeric sand into the joints. This will help to lock the pavers in place and prevent weed growth. Simply sweep the sand into the joints and then use a brush to work it down into the cracks. Once the joints are filled, you can then use a hose to wet the sand and activate the polymers.
As you can see, leveling the ground for pavers is not as difficult as it may seem. Although you may need some specialized tools and a bit of elbow grease, the process is relatively straightforward. By taking the time to create a level foundation, you will help to ensure that your pavers stay in place and look great for many years to come.