How to Design and Install a Paver Patio

Patios are a great addition to any house. Enjoying the fresh air and a beautifully landscaped yard with family, friends, or just by yourself with a book and a glass of wine is the best thing that can happen.

But for all this magic to happen, you need a good, hardscaped place. Chairs and tables don’t work well on dirt and grass. Rock and pea gravel is cheap and easy to use for landscaping, but they tend to get everywhere. Concrete slabs require a lot of work and cost a lot of money. But there is a middle ground: patio pavers installed with polymeric sand, a very useful product.

Working With Polymeric Sand

Pavers are the easiest way to pave a patio by yourself, and almost anyone can do it. But how do you deal with where the pavers meet? Weeds grow quickly in dirt and loose-fill gravel. Exterior stone mortar does a good job of filling in those gaps, but it can be hard for a beginner mason to do it right. The filler between the pavers is polymeric sand, which can be poured like sand but set up like mortar.

The idea behind polymeric sand is that you put the pavers on a base of sand and gravel, then sweep the polymeric sand over the top to force the sand into the seams. Before putting water on the pavers, all of the polymeric sand must be cleaned off the surface. When the water mixes with the polymeric sand, it makes a joint that is tight and sticks together like a mortar. It can be hard to work with polymeric sand. If you mess up one step (like getting the sand off the surface), you could damage the pavers. But if you do it right, polymeric sand is a joint filler that will last for many years and won’t need much care or worry.


  • Filler that doesn’t easily come out
  • Easier than adding traditional grout
  • Sweeps in; no troweling


  • Joints must be tight
  • Must be perfectly swept into all joints before wetting
  • Can mar paver surfaces if not done correctly

What You’ll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Two-by-four lumber, about 8 feet long to use as a screed
  • Several lengths of 1-inch diameter PVC pipe
  • Twine, string, or lightweight rope
  • Wood stakes
  • Spade or shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Hand tamper or plate compactor machine
  • Bubble level
  • Tape measure
  • Broom
  • Utility knife
  • Dust mask
  • Hammer or rubber mallet
  • Hose and sprayer nozzle connected to a water source
  • Hammer and masonry chisel (if cutting pavers) or a circular saw fitted with a diamond blade
  • Leaf blower
  • Landscaping edger tool (optional if installing the patio in the grass)


  • Pavers
  • Crushed stone or paver base
  • Paver sand
  • Polymeric sand, such as Sakrete PermaSand
  • Landscape fabric
  • Plastic edging and spikes


  1. Design Patio
    Patio pavers are only as good as the base they are put on. You will need a 5-inch layer of crushed gravel or paver base and a 1-inch layer of paver sand on top. The pavers are placed on the sand, and then polymeric sand is swept between the pavers to fill in the gaps. When you multiply the width and length of your planned patio by the depths of the materials, you’ll know how much gravel base and sand to order. How many pavers to buy depends in part on the length and width (area) of the site. Depending on the patterns you choose, that amount can go up or down. Patterns like grids and brickwork use the fewest pavers, while patterns like pinwheels and herringbone use more pavers. You might want to make your patio a certain size so that you can use full-sized patio pavers and not have to cut them. If you do this, make sure to leave a 1/4-inch space between each paver.
  2. Check on Permits and Utilities
    Call your local Call-Before-You-Dig hotline to set up a time for a technician to come to your home and mark the ground for possible electrical, gas, sewer, or other sensitive lines. Speak to your local building permit office to determine whether you need to have a permit for this project.
  1. Stake-Out Work Area
    Drive a stake into each corner of the area where you want to build the patio. Wrap the twine or string around the four stakes to make a square or rectangle. To see if your patio area is square, use your tape measure to measure two diagonals that meet. If the lengths of both diagonals are the same, the area is square (meaning, all four corners are at 90 degrees).
  2. Dig Patio Perimeter Area
    First, make a channel about 6 inches past the string that marks the edge of the patio. A landscaping edger is a flat, straight tool like a shovel that can cut straight lines in the grass. It is useful for cutting into the grass. But you can also use a spade. Make a ditch that’s about 7 inches deep. Now that you’ve set up the perimeter, take down your marking string but leave the stakes where they are.
  1. Dig Inner Patio Area
    Dig down 7 inches to get rid of the soil or grass inside the perimeter. Put the things you don’t want in the wheelbarrow and throw them away in a compost bin or somewhere else in your yard. Keep checking the depth, because you want to keep it as close as possible to the 7-inch mark.
  2. Add Landscape Fabric
    Cut off any tree roots that aren’t needed. Take out rocks that are big or sharp. Use a hand tamper or a plate compactor that you rent to pack down the soil on the patio. Then, roll out two layers of landscape fabric so that the top layer is 90 degrees from the bottom layer. Cover about 4 inches of the patio’s edge.
  1. Add Gravel Base
    Put on your dust mask. Pour about 2 inches of the gravel base material onto the patio. Lightly spray it, then press it down flat. Add another two layers, each of which is 2 inches thick.
  1. Add Sand Base Layer
    Your last bed is a layer of sand that acts as a soft place to set and adjust the pavers. First, roll out a layer of landscape fabric on top of the base gravel to keep the sand from falling through the gravel. Lay the two lengths of PVC pipe next to each other and about 6 feet apart. This will keep the sand at a perfect 1-inch depth. Fill the space between the pipes with sand.
  1. Screed Sand Base Layer
    Place the two-by-four scrap across the tops of the PVC pipes, and then gently rake it toward you. The sand will move over the top of the screed board and to the side. Keep moving the PVC pipes and spreading the screed until the whole area is done. Finish by tamping down the sand, working backward so that your footprints don’t show.
  1. Lay Patio Pavers
    Put the string for marking back on the stakes. Set each paver stone flat into the sand base, starting at the edge of the perimeter. Follow up with a light tap with the rubber mallet or hammer and a scrap of two-by-four to keep the paver from breaking. Keep putting the pavers down so that there is 1/4 inch between each one.
  2. Cut Patio Pavers
    You might have to cut some of the pavers to make them fit around the outside. If so, you can do this for the least amount of money with a masonry chisel and hammer.
    1. Put on your safety glasses and your earplugs.
    2. With a metal straight edge and the edge of the chisel, score a starting line on the paver face. Move the chisel across the paver like you would use a utility knife to cut the cardboard.
    3. Take off the straight edge and use the chisel and hammer to make the groove about 1/8 inch deeper.
    4. The chisel should be put in the groove.
    5. Tap the hammer lightly along the groove’s length until the paver breaks apart.
  1. Add Plastic Edging
    Put the plastic edging around the patio’s edges. Using the mallet or hammer, pound the spikes that come with the edging into the ground about 12 inches apart.
  2. Add Polymeric Sand
    Spread the polymeric sand on top of the patio pavers and sweep it across the pavers every so often. Keep adding sand and sweeping until there is nothing left between the pavers.
  1. Add Water to Polymeric Sand
    Before you add water, you must make sure that there is no polymeric sand on top of the pavers. If you don’t, the sand will stick to the pavers and join them together. The best way to get rid of sand without taking it out of the gaps is to use a leaf blower.

Spray your patio paver with a light mist from your sprayer. Don’t soak it with too much water, or you might loosen the sand from the cracks. Wait For Sand to Set
Allow about 24 hours for the patio pavers to be fully set. With the utility knife, cut away the overlying landscape cloth.

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