How to Build a Paver Seating Area

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I know I’ve been tackling a lot of outdoor projects lately but the reason for that is it’s winter in Texas, which means most of the days are in the 50s or 60s and sometimes even the 70s, which is perfect for doing outdoor projects. So this week I decided to make a paved seating area I’ve been thinking about for years. Currently we have some cheesy concrete/pea gravel step stones as the walkway from the back porch to my shop and to the pool area. I wanted to keep these dedicated walk ways, however I wanted to upgrade them and also place a seating area in between them so I could have a dedicated spot for the new steel fire pit I just built a couple of weeks ago.

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Before jumping into the tutorial here is a video showing the build process:

Things I Used For Tis Project:

Locating Utilities

Before beginning this type of project, or any project that requires digging, it is critical that you locate all of the underground utilities near the area you plan to start digging. On average, you can expect to dig into the ground about 7 to 8 inches for this type of outdoor seating area or for a paved walkway. This depth is needed so that you will have plenty of room to lay down a solid base material and keep the pavers from moving around overtime.

I recently had all of my utilities located in this area for putting in an underground airline from my barn to my house. If you are interested I have put together a tutorial which can be found here.

If you happen to have underground utilities in the area which you plan to dig, just be very careful when digging by hand so that you do not cut any of your utilities.

Marking Off Area – Digging

The first thing I did was figure out where I wanted the seating area. I used an outdoor marking paint to simply paint the perimeter lines of my paved seating area. The paint lines provide a reference for me when digging up the dirt.

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Since the area I have marked off is so large, close to 400 sqft, I rented a small tiller from Home Depot to make this step go quicker. Tip: I’ve been told a rear driven tiller would have been much easier to handle so if you go to rent one be sure to check to see if they have one available. Of course you have the option of digging out the dirt by shovel as well if you don’t want to rent anything.

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Dirt Removal

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If I underestimated anything about this job it was how much dirt I would generate. I figured I would take it and spread it around my yard to fill in all the low spots. Wrong! All the low spots were done after four wheelbarrow loads…lol This area generated right at 8 cubic yards of dirt…which is a lot. So learn from my experience and before starting this project think about how you are going to get rid of your dirt and where you will put it.

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Thank goodness a friend of ours lent me his tandem axle dump trailer. Also, I went and rented a small front end loader from the rental department at Home Depot. This machine is known as a “mini skid steer” and it is designed to fit through a standard size gate.

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If you are working with a smaller area, such as a single walkway, this part will not be necessary for you and you can more than likely get the job done with a wheelbarrow and a truck. Or, if you have any low spots around your property, you can simply redistribute the dirt somewhere else.

Cleaning up the Area and Treating It

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After cleaning up the edges and raking the bottom of the pit nice and flat I applied a weed/grass killing agent with a regular yard spreader. Following the weed killer, I rolled out a weed/grass barrier and overlapped each section by at least 12 inches.

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Laying Down the Base Material

Tip: Before moving forward, my father-in-law made a great suggestion of installing an empty joint of conduit from one side to the other. This way if anybody ever needs to run any utility across the seating area in the future they will not have to dig up or damage the pavers. I think this is a great suggestion if you are putting in anything,…a sidewalk or driveway.

At this point I was finally ready to start bringing in the base material and spreading it out. I added 3 ½” of this crushed granite throughout the pit area. I am using a crushed granite product which is intended for paved or stone walkways and sitting areas. This material has a very jagged structure, compacts really well, and is ideal for use as a base material. If your walkway/seating area isn’t that large then you can certainly buy this material at Home Depot in bags. However, if you are doing a larger area like me then you’ll really save a lot of money by buying from a local supplier. If you are local to Fort Worth, I purchased my material from Big Tex Stone.

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Once the gravel was added and looked about level I compacted it. If you are working with a smaller area you may be able to get by with using a hand compactor only which can be purchased for about $40. I chose to rent a gas powered compactor to compact the material since the area is rather large.

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Laying Down the Sand

With the base material compacted, next I brought in the concrete sand. In my case, I am aiming for 2 inches of sand after compacting. Note: It’s really important when you are purchasing your sand to not buy beach sand or play sand, which has round grains but instead by a concrete sand that has jagged grains. This will allow the grains to interlock with one another and create stability.

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Before bringing in the sand, I laid down four joints of 1” diameter conduit on top of the compacted crushed granite. The pieces of conduit serve as debt gauges for the sand. Basically, Cody would haul in the sand with a wheelbarrow, and I would distribute it with a large rake. As I moved the material with my rake I would slowly expose the top of the conduit. Once I saw the top of the conduit peeking through the sand, I knew I was close to one inch of depth. After the first 1” of sand was laid down and evenly raked, I carefully pulled the conduit out of the sand and reset it for the next 1” of material.

This process was repeated until I had 2 inches of sand evenly distributed over the entire area. However, before removing the conduit, I used the conduit as rails for a screeting board as you can see below.

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This portion works best if you have two people to move the screeting board at a nice smooth pace. You can see here that the conduit serves as a reference for the screeting board to move along. As Cody and I pulled the board along the on top of the conduit, sand would begin to pile up on the board. We simply removed the sand and tossed it behind us as we worked to each end of the entire area.

Once you make it to all of the edges of the area the excess sand can be removed permanently. After all of the excess sand is removed, the conduit can then be permanently removed, and the voids left by the conduit can be filled in by hand with a bit of sand then the whole area gets compacted. Again, I opted for the gas powered compactor and made two laps around the area to contact the sand.

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 Laying Down the Pavers

The pattern for this entire area was created rather organically. I simply went to the outdoor section of Home Depot, and threw together a handful of different stones that were on the shelf until I stumbled on a pattern that I liked. When I was satisfied with the pattern, I measured the total area of my pattern. I’ve then divided the total area of the sitting area by the total area of the pattern. This basically gave me a starting number for how much material I needed to buy.

Fortunately, most big box stores such as Home Depot will allow you to return unused material. Consequently, I was not terribly concerned with getting the exact amount of material needed for this job in the very first trip to the hardware store. Plus, the pavers are so heavy that multiple trips were required anyways so I wouldn’t overload the truck. Ultimately, I think I made about three trips to the hardware store throughout this entire project before I had all of the material that I needed.

After returning with all of the material I first started laying down the pavers that would make up the walkway from the shop to the house. I knew ahead of time that there would be small detail work where the walkway meets the barn as well as the house. Because of this, I started the pattern about 5 inches away from the foundation of my barn and ended the pattern in about 5 inches away from the foundation of my house.

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I repeated the same process for the second walkway that goes from the pool patio to the back porch of the house.

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A couple of notes on laying pavers: You will want to avoid sliding the pavers along the sand as much as possible. It is best to lay the paver directly on the sand in the exact spot that it is needed; if you need to move a paver, pick it up, reposition it, and then set it straight down.

Filling in the Middle

The middle pattern between the two walkways went just as easy as the walkway pavers. I begin the middle pattern by starting at the house and working toward the barn. Using the same approach, I started the pattern in the middle of the walkways by beginning my first row of pavers about 5 inches away from the foundation of the house.

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Fortunately for me, a lot of family stopped by and immediately got to work passing me the pavers. Now where the middle pattern meets the walkways is the tricky part. Every single paver here needs to be cut and for an area this large, that is a ton of cutting. I could have measured and cut each paver individually however instead I removed some of the walkway pattern temporarily so I could lay down full pavers to complete the middle section.

Cutting Pavers

Next I used a chalkline to snap a cutline across all of the outside pavers. Once a chalk line was down I used a circular saw with a diamond tipped blade to cut through all of the pavers in one pass. It is important to take your time during this step to ensure that you get a nice straight line and that the pavers don’t move around on you as you are cutting.

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After the line was cut, all of the scrap pieces got removed and the walkway pavers got replaced in their original pattern. You can see here this method made for a perfect seam between the middle section of the walkways. The same method was used for the opposite side of the middle section and the walkway that goes from the barn to the house.

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Cutting the pavers at the barn, the patio, and the house went a bit differently. As I mentioned before I began each pattern about 5” away from each foundation. In order to complete each pattern, all the remaining pavers at each foundation would need cutting. I decided I wanted about a half an inch gap between the ends of the cut pavers and the foundation at all three locations so that I can compact sand between the ends of each stone and the foundations. In order to do I placed a piece of half-inch material up to each foundation before measuring for my cutlines.

To establish the cutlines on each paver, I measured from the left and right side edge of an existing paver to the half inch material up against the foundation. I would then mark the same measurements on the end paver (using the factory edge as a reference). Then I would draw a line connecting the two points. This gave me the exact cutline for the paver that would mate up to the existing pattern and stop one half of an inch from the foundation on the cut side. I repeated this until all of the endpapers were cut.

After all of the pavers were cuts at each foundation, I came back with a little bit of sand and compacted it between the foundation and the cut pavers to keep the cut pavers locked in position. This process was repeated at the intersection of all three foundations.

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Adding the Edging

 Edging is applied to the outside of the pavers to keep them in place over time. If you do not apply edging then your pavers will slowly start to migrate out over time. I purchased two rolls from the garden section of Home Depot, it comes with the stakes you’ll need. Just butt the editing up next to the paver and drive in the stake.

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Adding a Top Layer of Sand

Ok almost done folks. The last thing to do was to throw on a layer of sand on top of the pavers then use the compactor once again to get it vibrated into place. I started off by loading up a wheelbarrow full of sand then just tossing out shovelfuls around the entire area. Then I came back with a stiff shop broom to sweep the sand into the cracks. Once all the cracks were filled I went over the entire area with the compactor. It’s really amazing how quickly the sand disappears when you turn on the compactor. So I added more sand, swept it into the cracks, and repeated. To speed up the process, I stayed put on moving around the compactor and Cody and our buddy Forest came behind me with brooms to sweep the sand around. I continued until the sand stopped sinking into the cracks.

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Alrighty, and that’s it. This was a huge project, I honestly didn’t think it was going to take as long as it did but I learned a lot and couldn’t be happier with the way it came out. I spent a total of 7 working days on this project and below is a cost breakdown but first, here are some before and after shots for ya. ; )

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Keep in mind that this is a 380 sqft area so if you plan to do the same project but for a smaller area your costs shouldn’t be as high since you won’t have to buy as much material or rent some of the larger equipment that I did. However, if your area is roughly the same size then it should give you an idea on what it will cost.

Materials:

  • Pavers: $282
  • Blades: $51
  • Edging/Landscaping Fabric/Weed Killer: $157
  • Gravel/Sand: $292

Tools:

  • Rental Equipment: $455
  • Shovels/WheelBarrow/Rake: $172

Total Cost: $1409

Renting the big equipment by far ate up most of the cost in this project however when I weigh out how much time and effort the equipment saved me, I think it was worth it. I could have also saved a good chunk if I didn’t need to buy some good shovels or wheelbarrow but such is life. Tip: I purchased a wheelbarrow with two wheels up front and couldn’t believe the world of difference it made. If you need to purchase one I highly recommend spending the extra cash and getting a tandem wheel.

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