Sidewalks can be a beautiful addition to any site and will enhance the appearance of your home. A good sidewalk provides a safe path for foot traffic but at the same time adds a decorative element to your property. Sidewalks need not always be to your front door but can connect gardens, patios, outbuildings or any other often used path of travel. Sidewalks can also be constructed of dozens of different types of materials ranging from stone, brick pavers, wood chips, concrete, stone screenings, wood, gravel or most any idea you can come up with that will provide a firm footing. Pavers come in many shapes,sizes and colors. Patterns are almost endless.
Using a paper pad, ruler and pencil, sketch out on paper what you would like your sidewalk to look like. It’s easy to change it on paper. Try several different layouts.
Move the lines around a little if your are curving the walk. Your first idea may not have been the best one. OK, now that you have an idea you like on paper, go get your garden hose. You don’t need water, just the hose. Using the hose, layout the sidewalk as closely as possible to what you have drawn. Place the hose on both sides of the proposed walk. NOW you can see what you actually drew on our layout sheet.
NOW is the time to move the hose around to obtain the best layout. Keep moving it until you are finally happy with the result. Using a can of upside down marker paint, carefully paint the line while lifting the hose so you don’t get paint all over the hose itself. Layout is done, put the hose away.
Have you decided what type of material you want to use for your sidewalk? Visit your local supply store to actually touch and feel the different products available. Look around your neighborhood to see if any other homes have a sidewalk you really like. Measure your layout area of the sidewalk to get the square footage of material you will need. Width times length gives you the square footage. Example:
3′ wide by 24 feet long = 72 square feet. You will find that pavers, brick, etc. are sold by each piece but the salesperson can tell you how many it takes to make a square foot. If it takes 4 brick pavers to make a square foot then multiply 4 times 72 square feet and you will need 288 pieces plus a small amount for waste. Most stores will allow you to return unused pieces but ask first. If you buy them on sale, you may not be able to return your leftovers. Your pavers will require a material such as stone dust or screenings as a sub-base. You need to measure the width, times the length times the depth of the excavated sidewalk (usually at least 4″ plus the thickness of the paver). With this number, divide it by 27 and that is the cubic yardage of material you will need. Using the same numbers you would have 3′ x 24′ x.3′ or 21.6 cubic feet divided by 27 =.8 cubic yards. You will have to buy at least 1 full yard and you will need it as compaction, settlement and spillage will require that amount of material. If your using a brick or stone paver, order them now. Make sure the supplier will deliver and off load for you unless you have a truck or station wagon and a strong back.
Pavers are quite heavy and require a good deal of effort to unload and restack. You don’t want to drop or toss them into a pile as they can break and chip. While you are at the store, you will also want to purchase sidewalk edging material. If your sidewalk is curved, there are plastic products available made just for that purpose. They are easy to shape to your layout and come with ground stakes to hold it in place. It will hold your pavers in place and keep your grass out of the walk as well. It is required on both sides of the walk and any “open” edge. If your sidewalk has all square edges and corners you may elect to use pressure treated or redwood 1 x 4 as an edging. In any case, the edging must be exactly 3′ apart when installed to assure uniformity to the eye and for installation of the pavers.
Hammer or small sledge, tape measure, sharp pointed shovel, flat shovel, rake, hand tamper (available at your local rental store for a day), broom, wheelbarrow, rubber mallet, 3′ piece of straight scrap wood., 4 ‘ piece of straight scrap wood and a 3′ carpenters level. If your sidewalk is much bigger than 3′ x 24′ you may want to rent a power tamper to speed up the work and save your arms a little. Gas demo saw with masonry blade or table saw for stone cutting, AND safety glasses. ALWAYS wear safety glasses when using any tool. A hammer is a tool!
Start excavating the area you marked out for the walkway. You must excavate wider than your lines to allow the placement of your edging. If the edging is 2″ wide than your excavation needs to be at least 3′-4″ wide. Excavate the area to the depth of the paver plus your sub-base material. Say it’s to be 6″. Using the 4′ piece of scrap wood, simply lay the wood across the excavation and measure down every few feet to assure you are at a 6″ depth as closely as possible. It is not necessary to get crazy to the 1/4″ but you want it as close as possible. Once the sub-base material is placed and leveled, compact it with your tamper. Lightly watering the material as you tamp helps it pack very well. LIGHTLY WATER! You don’t want mud. Now to install the edging. Starting at one end, install one side of the walk, keeping the edging flush with your lawn. Higher, the lawn mower will cut it, lower and the sidewalk will hold rain water. Be just little above the grass when your done. Even though you tamped it very well, it will settle over time.
Now, using the 3′ piece of scrap wood as a spreader, install the second side of your edging being careful to keep them 3′ apart.; Wavy edges will look rather bad later on.
Once all the edging is in, step back and look at it. Is it straight? Parallel? Level?
MAKE SURE THE TOP OF THE EDGING IS THE THICKNESS OF YOUR PAVER STONE ABOVE THE SUB BASE.
Put your 4′ piece of scrap across the edging pieces. Using the 4′ level, check to make sure one side isn’t up or down from the other. Again a slight difference isn’t the end of the world but try to make it as level as possible.
Pavers can be installed in many interesting patterns. Running bond, basket weave, stacked, pairs, etc but the choice is yours. If your sidewalk is square, you may have to cut very few pieces. If your sidewalk is curved you may have to cut many pieces. The effort is worth the work in the long run. This is when you say to yourself, “I’m saving a ton of money”. Begin by cutting a notch in each end of your 4′ piece of scrap wood leaving a 3′ piece in the center. The depth of the notch is the thickness of your paver. By placing the wood across the edging and laying it on top of the edging, the 3′ center section can be used when the wood is slid along the edging to provide a flat even surface for the new pavers that is exactly the paver thickness everywhere. This will prevent an up and down appearance to your pavers.. Just slide the scrap along, adding or removing any excess sub-base that the wood pushes in front of it. Begin by laying out the pavers on one end of the walk in the pattern you chose. Center the first paver in the center of the walk working your way out to the edges. Using your rubber mallet, tap on the paver to assure it has a full seat on the sub-base material and does not rock. Using your scrap wood as a guide, lay it across the edging and over the paver to assure the paver is level with the edging at all times. Tap every paver into place as you go.
Install all the full pavers first for a small area, say maybe 3′ x 3’. If your walk is square, you have filled in the area completely. If your walk is curved, you are going to need pieces to fill in on the ends of the full paver pieces. Halves, quarters, etc. will depend upon the degree of curve you have in your walk way. If the pieces balance out on both sides so you are putting a half on each side of the walk to fill in a row, that looks the best. Try to avoid a large a small piece in the same row if possible. Many people like to fill in all the full pavers first and then go back to do the cutting, some like to do a small section and the fill in the cut pieces before moving on. Either way Is fine.
BE CAREFUL WHEN USING THE SAW AND ALWAYS WEAR SAFETY GLASSES. THE SAW CAN REMOVE A DIGIT IN AN INSTANT. STAY FOCUSED. Ask your rental store to instruct you on it’s use. They will be glad to do so for your safety.
With all the pavers set in place, place a small amount of the stone dust or perhaps paver sand on top of the pavers, spreading it out as you go. Using the broom, sweep the dust or sand into all the cracks and crevices between the pavers. Make sure they are all full. This will lock the pavers into place between the edgings. Once you have placed the dust or sand and broomed it into place, run the tamper over the pavers lightly. This will settle both the pavers and the sand/dust in the joints. You may have to add a little more to make it come out even with the tops of the pavers but work you way along and it will soon be done. Step back and take a look. You just saved yourself a ton of money!