Block paving is a popular and attractive way to complete patios, walkways and even driveways. One of the reasons that paving blocks are used so often by homeowners to enhance their outdoor décor is due to the versatility that block paving bricks and stones offer. Block paving comes in a wide variety of designs, materials, styles, and price ranges. An added benefit to using block paving is that many homeowners can complete the project on their own without having to hire professional landscapers or home improvement contractors. DIY block paving allows the block paving cost to remain lower than it would otherwise be if completed by a professional and offers more opportunities for homeowners to enjoy what might otherwise be an expensive option for their backyard, patio, driveway or other exterior area.
Types of Block Paving Materials:
Before detailing the steps of how to lay block paving, let’s first look at the different block paving designs and materials available. Block paving generally is separated into two basic types: concrete block pavers and brick pavers. Concrete paving blocks are constructed from molded concrete which can have color, textures and design patterns added to enhance the surface look. Brick pavers are made from kiln-fired clay and look like regular bricks. Both block and brick pavers are available in a variety of thicknesses, color choices and patterns. The type you choose will depend in part on the look you are trying to achieve and the location where you are laying block paving.
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Block pavers are available in a wide selection of shapes and sizes. Consumers can choose from rectangular block pavers, square block pavers, round block pavers, or paving block in a variety of other shapes, such as hexagons, triangles, semi circles and more. The most common shape of block pavers is rectangular, although using other shapes or a combination of shapes will add to the design element of the finished project.
Block paving stones also come in a variety of color options. The colors of concrete paving blocks come from the addition of concrete dye. The dyes and color processes of different block paving companies and manufacturers may differ and part of the difference in varying quality of pavers depends on the color process used. High quality pavers will maintain uniform color throughout the paver, while cheap block pavers may only have the color added near the surface of the paver. This can be a problem when pavers are cut or as they wear over time. Most pavers will experience some fading of the dye over the years, however, so if you need to match pavers at a later time to new ones, the colors may not match. Brick pavers are naturally colored based on the clay used to create the pavers.
Block Paving Installation:
Block paving project planning – Before you begin your DIY block paving project, it is best to measure and plan out your area, select the block paving pattern you will use, determine the amount of block paving materials you need, and make sure you have all of the appropriate tools to complete the project, as well as any additional landscaping supplies you may need. Determining how much you need in block paving supplies is based on measuring the area of the location to be covered (length times width) to determine the square footage. It is best to allow for at least 5 – 10% waste to ensure that you have enough materials. If you are dealing with intricate block paving patterns, uneven edges or a lot of cutting of block paving bricks, you should allow for additional waste. Block paving suppliers should be able to help you determine the amount of paving supplies needed based on measurements you provide.
Photo courtesty of Elvis Santana
Block paving pattern choices– When it comes to block paving designs, there are a number of patterns to choose from. You can lay the pavers in a straight rectangular pattern similar to the way subway tiles are laid, which is referred to as a stretcher bond pattern. Herringbone patterns are very popular methods of laying block pavers and in these designs interlocking paving blocks are laid in alternating horizontal and vertical arrays to create a puzzle-like pattern. A basket weave pattern is another popular option and is achieved by alternating two rows of rectangular pavers horizontally and then vertically in a continuous pattern for each row and then reversing the pattern for the next row. These are just a sample of the block paving pattern choices available.
Block paving installation methods – There are two basic types of block paving installation methods. One is called flexible paving installation and the other is referred to as rigid paving installation. Flexible paving involves setting up and leveling a bed of sand upon which the block paving stones are laid and then filling the joints between each paver with a fine sand. Rigid paving installation involves creates a mortar bed to hold the block pavers and filling the joints with mortar. This method is similar to building a brick wall, although it is done horizontally instead of vertically. Most DIY block paving installation projects involve the flexible paving method.
Laying block paving – The most important step in laying block paving stones is preparing the ground properly and beginning with a level surface. You need to begin by removing any loose soil, rocks, etc. and then compacting the existing surface. A layer of crushed stone should be added and compacted using a plate vibrator to provide a solid base surface. You may want to consider laying a weed block layer, but this is not always necessary.
For flexible block paving installations, you must then lay a bed of sand and compact it using a plate vibrator. Use a level board that spans the length of your surface to determine whether the area is level and fill and compact any areas that require additional sand. You can use the boards to level the sand by dragging them across the surface. Leveling can also be done by using a string that spans the surface area.
Photo courtesty of Elvis Santana
Once the sand is level, you can begin laying your block paving stones or bricks. Lay out a few pavers to figure out the best way to begin your pattern. Begin laying full paving stones in the desired pattern and leave space for the blocks at the edges that must be cut to finish the area or to create a specific pattern. Cut block paving stones and brick using a saw and blade appropriate for the material and thickness of the paver (check with the supplier to find out what type of cutting tool is best). After all of the block paving stones are laid, you should then compact the entire area again using the plate vibrator to ensure that they are level and compacted into the sand bed.
Once the pavers are laid and compacted, joint sand can be added to fill in the joints. After adding the sand, the pavers should be compacted again to fill the sand into the joints. Additional sand should then be added. Any excess sand that does not fall into the joints can be swept away.
If you are using a rigid block paving installation method, you must lay a level of concrete mortar after the ground is initially compacted and leveled. Lay the brick pavers in the mortar and allow the mortar to set. Fill in joints with additional mortar once paving stones are set using a trowel. Most often, rigid block paving is handled by professional installers.
These installation instructions are intended only as a guide in order to give do-it-yourselfers an idea of the basic steps of the installation process. They are not complete instructions and additional information should be acquired before beginning the project. You can find detailed step by step block paving installation instructions either from block paving suppliers or by doing a bit of research online.
Photo courtesty of Elvis Santana
Block paving sealing – Once installation is completed, a block paving seal should be applied to protect the surface of the pavers. Adding a block paving sealer is an important step in maintaining the look and functionality of the pavers for the long term, since the seal will repel water, stains and dirt. It will also help to preserve the color of the block paving stones. Sealing block paving bricks and stones is an important step in the installation process.
Block paving maintenance – Following installation and sealing, block pavers require some basic ongoing maintenance to keep them looking their best. You should sweep any dirt or debris off of the pavers occasionally to prevent a build-up of dirt or to prevent moisture from being trapped and thus mold or algae from building up. For flexible paving installations, you should also spray a weed killer once or twice each year between the joints to prevent weeds and stray grass from growing between the pavers. If you notice a build-up of mold, mildew or algae on the pavers, you should remove it so that it does not become slippery. A block paving sealant should also be reapplied periodically to keep the pavers protected (check the label on the block paving sealant to see how often it should be applied). The use of a pressure washer to clean block paving should only be used sporadically and only if absolutely necessary, since the pressure from a power washer can dislodge some of the paving blocks and can remove the sand between joints in flexible paving installations. You may also need to periodically add more sand to the joints to keep them from moving and to keep your patio, walkway or driveway from looking it’s best, whether the area is powerwashed or not.
Block paving provides a rich and unique look to patios, walkways and driveways. While block paving prices may be higher than other material choices, they can be installed by homeowners, which brings block paving costs more in-line with other material options if a professional installer is not used. Even for those homeowners that cannot or do not want to take on a DIY block paving project, the additional cost of block paving as compared to other paving options is often worth the enhanced aesthetic look the block pavers provide to the finished space. Block pavers offer beauty and versatility that are unsurpassed and can be placed in intricate patterns for increased interest and design.
Block paving specialists can show you a variety of designs, products and styles so you can select a paver and design that fits your budget without sacrificing style. If you decide to hire professional block paving contractors to complete the job, it is best to get a number of estimates before determining which contractor to use, since block paving prices can vary rather widely among contractors. Be sure to find out the extent of work that needs to be done, as well as the type of products that will be used. Checking references is also a good idea before deciding which block paving company you will choose.