Okay DIYers, time for me to share Phase 2 of my large backyard beautification project! Last week I shared how I built 3 retaining wall flower borders including a built-in fountain in the area behind my back deck. The area was significantly improved just by having the retaining wall borders, but the ground between the borders was still just rock and dirt and way messier than I prefer. So, it was time to implement Phase 2: a DIY Paver Walkway made with faux cobblestone paver mats. There will eventually be a phase 3 to this project as well, however I have to wait for the air to clear (literally, California is pretty much on fire right now and the air quality is so bad due to the smoke from the many fires burning throughout the state 🙁 Hopefully within the next few months the air quality index will improve as they get more control of the wildfires)
Here are some before pics of the area around the retaining wall flower borders, all dirt and rock that turns into a giant dust bowl on windy days and a lovely muddy mess on rainy days (not that we have many of those anymore…):
DIY Paver Walkway Materials & Supplies
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- Riccobene Cobble Mat Paver system (or pavers of your choice)
- Brock Paver Base Panels
- Paver Base Sand
- Paver Edging
- Utility Knife
- Steel Tamper
- Masonry Saw
- Polymeric Sand
- Push Broom
DIY Paver Pathway Tutorial
Step 1: Determine the specific area for your walkway/patio. Use paver edging if necessary to identify the inner edge of the walkway boundaries (this will ensure your pavers stay in place if they have nothing to butt up against). I used paver edging on one small section of my walkway that did not have the retaining wall block or a sidewalk as a boundary to hold the pavers in place. The paver edging is flexible and can be cut to size. Large metal stakes are driven though holes in the paver edging to hold it in place.
Step 2: Ensure the ground is low enough to accommodate the 1/2″ of paver base sand, the ~ 11/16″ thickness of the paver base panels, and the thickness of the pavers you selected (the pavers I used were 1″ thick). If the pavers will be right next to a patio or sidewalk, you want to make sure the top of the pavers will be even with the other walking surfaces surrounding the paver walkway. Using a shovel, I dug down ~2 and 1/2″ along the length of pathway I was building. The ground at one end is already higher than the ground at the opposite end, so I already had slope to allow for water runoff, but if your walkway or patio is next to the house or a structure, you’ll want to make sure you have some slope away from the building to allow water to drain away from the structure.
Step 3: Tamp down the dirt/rock in the area of your walkway. This helps to ensure the ground is solid and you don’t get any sinking of your pavers once the project is complete. Soft ground can shift and sink, which will cause your pavers to do the same. I used a tamper, stomping it on the ground all along the area for my walkway.
Step 4: Begin leveling the area in small sections using the paver base sand. I used one bag of sand at a time, pouring the entire contents onto the ground, starting at the end of my walkway on the highest side and working down to the lower end of the walkway. Once I poured one bag of sand out, I used a straight 2×4 board and a long level to spread out the sand so it was ~1/2″ thick and so it was level, with a very slight downward slope toward the lower end of the walkway. Once I had the sand evenly spread out, I would also use the 2×4 to look for any high or low spots, and would add or remove sand to ensure levelness. (This is probably the most time consuming and tedious portion of the whole project, but is super important to ensure a professional looking walkway.) Once I had a few bags of sand leveled out, I would then add the paver base panel so I could then walk across the area without ruining the sand I had just leveled.
Step 5: Once enough sand has been leveled, place a paver base panel over the leveled sand. If needed, use a utility knife to cut the panel to size or to cut a corner or rounded section. When placing two panels next to each other, ensure that the edges overlap, using the lower and higher edges on the sides of the panel to make sure the panels are completely level with each surrounding panel. Continue the sand and panel process until the entire walkway is leveled with sand and covered with a paver base panel.
Step 6: Begin laying the pavers on top of the paver base mat. Place them in the position you want them to be when the walkway is complete. Again, I started with the higher end of the pathway and worked my way down to the lower end. The pavers I purchased are actually more like a paver mat in that the mat is made of several pavers joined by wire.
The paver mats are staggered at each end so they line up perfectly with the next mat in the column. Place the paver mats one in front of the other as you work your way down to the end of the pathway. For laying the paver mats around corners or curves, you can cut the wire between the pavers in a mat. Using only one column of pavers (each mat is 3 columns of pavers) works best for rounding curves to ensure the pavers perfectly round the curve. Lay each separated column of pavers next to each other around the curves. You can also remove individual pavers or rows of pavers if any of the mats are too long or too wide. I did have to use my masonry saw to cut some of the pavers in half or in thirds if removing a whole paver would leave to much of a gap.
Step 7: Complete the stairs/steps. Since the ground where I have my DIY water hose holder is higher than the ground where the DIY paver walkway is, I decided to build in two steps to reach the hose and lantern holder. The retaining wall blocks for the first row of steps should already be in place, as you would have needed them there to butt the pavers up to (the retaining wall steps for the first step should be already leveled and in their final position). You should also have mapped out where the second step (or any additional steps should be for planning purposes).
Place retaining wall caps on the retaining wall blocks making up the first step. If the step is curved, as mine is, you will need to trim the back or front edges of each side of the cap on adjoining bricks to ensure there are no gaps between the caps. To do that, line the wall caps up on the top of the step, making sure the caps were lined up at the front or back, depending on if the wall curved inward or outward.
Next, measure the distance between the front (or back) corner of the end caps.
Once you have the distance, divide it by 2. (In the picture above, the total distance is 2 1/4″, divided by 2 is 1 1/8″. On each of the two end caps, mark a distance that is that half distance (1 1/8″ for example), from the back (or front) corner inward.
Once the top cap is marked at the correct distance, draw a line from that mark to the front (or back) corner. Use a masonry saw to cut along the diagonal line.
This should be done for the two side-by-side block caps. You’ll need to measure the distance between each of the adjoining wall caps and cut to the appropriate sizes. Attach the wall caps to the retaining wall block steps using construction adhesive. The back of the retaining wall cap should line up with the back of the retaining wall block. Continue this process until all endcaps are cut and attached to the retaining wall step
Now backfill the area that will make the top of the first step (behind the retaining wall blocks and end caps) with rock or dirt. Fill the area until there is ~2 and 1/2″ of depth remaining between the top of the dirt/rock and the top of the retaining wall cap. Tamp down the gound to ensure it is well packed in.
Pour paver base sand into the area making up the first step, and ensure the sand goes under the location where the retaining wall blocks will sit to create the 2nd step (this ensures they have a solid, level surface to sit on). Use a straight 2×4 and level to even out the sand to a thickness of ~ 1/2″. Once the sand is even and level, place the Brock paver base panels onto the sand to cover the area of the entire 1st step, and the area under where the 2nd step retaining wall blocks will be. You may have to use the utility knife to cut some of the paver base panels to size. Once all the panels are in place. build the second step on top of the paver base panels. (you many need to cut one or more of the retaining wall blocks to get a nice fit).
Once the second step retaining wall blocks are in place, place the pavers onto the paver base panels that are in place on the ground. Separate the paver mats into single columns to easily go around curves.
Once the pavers on the first step are in place, add the retaining wall caps to the retaining wall blocks that make up the second step, cut and adhere them with construction adhesive. Repeat the process of adding fill dirt/rock behind the blocks making up the second step until there is ~ 2 1/2″ depth remaining between the dirt and the top of the retaining wall block cap. Add and level the sand, add the paver base panels, followed by the pavers. Repeat the process with any additional steps you plan on adding.
Step 8: Add the polymeric sand. I purchased the sand I chose from Amazon, as out of all the polymeric sands I looked at online, it has the best reviews, although it is quite a bit pricier than the polymeric sand you can buy at Home Depot or Lowes. I haven’t used the sand from either box stores so I’m not sure if the online ratings hold true, but just in case, I went with the brand linked to above in the materials section, and it is holding up well and is fairly easy to apply.
First, use a push broom to clean the pavers off and any adjoining patios or sidewalks, as dirt from those can mix with the sand and cause discoloration, especially with a light sand color. Ensure all the pavers are in the proper location (they can sometime shift when walking on them or when cleaning them with the broom).
Pour the sand from the container onto the pavers, trying to get the sand into the gaps between the pavers as you pour. I worked in small sections at a time pouring the sand and then using the broom to brush the sand into the spaces or grooves until the sand was about 1/8″ from the top of the pavers. Here’s an in-progress pic, I had added polymeric sand to about 1/2 the walkway at this stage.
Continue adding the sand and brushing it in until all pavers have sand between them and the sand is at the proper level between all pavers. Once the walkway was completed, I repeated the process with the pavers on the steps.
Once you are finished adding sand and filling all grooves, use a push broom or a leaf blower to use any excess sand on top of the pavers. Then, use a hose with a sprayer set to “shower” or “garden” setting and begin wetting down the sand. Make sure not to spray to hard as it will cause divets in the sand or cause the sand to shift. Lightly spray the sand until it is fairly well wet, about 10 seconds. Once the water is absorbed, spray a second coat of water onto the sand for another 8 to 10 seconds.
Once the sand is dry and completely cured, you can freely walk across your new, beautiful walkway! Here are some final pics of my DIY Paver Walkway project:
The paver base panels made this DIY paver walkway SO much easier than if I had used paver base rock. Paver base rock requires a much thicker base, so you have to dig down much deeper, and then ALL THE SHOVELING… No thank you! Shoveling rock is back breaking work, and if I have an alternate, easier, non-back breaking way of laying pavers, I am in! But speaking of back-breaking rock shoveling…. That will come in phase 3 of this project so stay tuned!