Paver Patio and Path

I’ve been working on a huge project. This is, in many ways, the final phase of my backyard rehabilitation. Of course, the backyard will never be “done.” A garden is, hopefully, alive, and ever changing. Gophers, weeds, and wind will no doubt ensure I always have more work to do back there. And, plants need tending. But, in terms of the shape of the space and making it useful, this patio and path are the final piece, and largest, which is why it was last, probably.

Or maybe I put it off because I was took a long time deciding what to do and how to do it.

The north walkway from our covered patio. Blocks are laid but unsanded.
Paver stone patio area for a fire pit or other recreation. Unfinished, but the stones are laid down at least.

I originally wanted to have a decomposed granite walkway. It was inexpensive, comparatively, and looked natural. I new I could manage the construction. Concrete seemed better for permanency and neatness, but it was expensive and I wasn’t sure I could do it right. Concrete seems simple, to me, but at the same time, you have to know what you’re doing because you have a time frame to get it right. There’s no do-overs in concrete. So, pavers seemed like a good idea. After a while, anyway. They are not cheap. Each block costs about $1.20 and there are, well, hundreds of them. And, they are heavy so they needed to be shipped to me. And you have to cut them to make a curve.

So, honestly, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to work with pavers. I went back and forth for a long time over it. Finally, though, I realized that the pavers would, in theory, be more permanent. And, they would be easier to clean than decomposed granite. We get pretty bad winds sometimes and my mulch often gets blown around. Being able to sweep, or even use a leaf blower, to clean the patio and path seemed good. I also always thought the patio area with the fire pit was best as a hardscape.

That finally convinced me to use pavers. I chose some that looked similar to my existing retaining wall. It’s not the same color, but my wife pointed out that the blocks are gray and brown at times and that they kind of make a middle between the gray concrete of our covered patio and the sandstone color of the retaining wall.

Installing a paver patio and walkway is not easy work. You’ve got to prep the area. Honestly, most places I looked said to dig down about six to eight inches. I did not do that. Why? First, most places say to do that because you need a mixture of sand and gravel as a base. They said to use what is called “stone dust.” Or crushed gravel. That sort of thing. Well, my soil is, no kidding, at least 25% rock, probably more. It cannot be overstated how much rock is in my soil. I don’t dig holes as much as I remove rock. Think I’m exaggerating?

See all those rocks? I didn’t buy any of them. They are all from the yard. And there’s more where they came from.

If you look at the pictures of my garden, any of them, you are bound to see rocks as part of the landscape. I made a stream bed out of the rocks. There is probably 30 square feet of my yard that has rock as a ground cover. I didn’t buy any of it. All the rocks you see were removed from the ground.

So, the idea of digging six to eight inches down, removing all of that rock, just to add rock I bought, sounded ridiculous. Additionally, the way I understand it, this is largely to deal with the issue of the ground freezing. In Southern California, the ground doesn’t freeze. So, again, not necessary. I skipped it. I also skipped landscape fabric. I realize I may eventually regret these decisions, but we shall see. I’m planning on using polymeric sand to fill in between the pavers. This sand is chemically treated to solidly after it gets wet, kinda like cement. I don’t think weeds will grow through it. But, if it does, dealing with some weeds is less work and money than landscape fabric.

I leveled my areas and then I used a heavy tamper to compact the ground. I did this over several days, got blisters, and was very sore after. But, I did it. I watered when it was dry, and compacted. So, the base is my natural ground leveled and compacted. Now, when I say I leveled it, don’t get too serious. The yard isn’t level. But, I made the patio mostly level and the transitions between elevations gradual. I then put in edging and sand. And then pavers.

Edging and base for pathway in progress
One last piece of edging needed…
Sand and edging ready. Just need to level and place pavers.

When I originally designed my backyard garden, I chose curves for the areas because I liked the flowing look and our concrete patio has curves. I wanted an informal look. So, curves made sense. But, that was before pavers. Now, I have a lot of cutting to do. Curves mean cuts.

Curves mean cuts.

As you can see, I use a “soldier row” on each side of the square blocks. Then, the pattern is in the middle. Ha ha! Pattern! Get it?

There’s no pattern. But, I tried.

But, wherever the “pattern” overlaps the soldier row, I had to cut the paver. This, I’m told, helps the pavers be more firm or strong or something. Anyway, that’s why I’m doing it. Tomorrow, I will show how I turned the corner in that last picture. I actually got that done today but I didn’t get pictures before it got dark.

This is hard work. I’m tired.

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