Paver Base Installation Guide Essential Steps for DIY or Hiring a Paving Contractor

Transforming your outdoor space with beautiful and durable pavers is a dream for many homeowners. Whether you envision a charming patio, a welcoming walkway, or a poolside escape, pavers offer endless design possibilities and functionality. While hiring a professional paving contractor guarantees a flawless installation, tackling a DIY paver project can be a rewarding experience, saving you on costs and allowing you to personalize your space. This guide equips you with the essential steps for installing a solid paver base, the foundation for a long-lasting and visually appealing finished product.

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Planning and Preparation: Setting the Stage for Success

Before diving headfirst into base installation, meticulous planning is crucial. Here are some key steps to ensure a smooth and efficient process:

Project Scope and Design: Clearly define the area you intend to pave. Measure the space accurately and create a design layout incorporating the desired paver pattern and any necessary edging.

Material Selection: Consult with a knowledgeable staff member at your local home improvement store or a paving contractor to select the appropriate base materials, including crushed concrete, washed sand, and edging materials.

Excavation: Mark the perimeter of the paver area and excavate the designated area to the required depth. This depth will depend on the thickness of your chosen pavers, the base material depth (typically 4-5 inches), and the desired slope for drainage (usually slanted slightly towards drains or a low spot).

Subgrade Compaction: Once the excavation is complete, ensure the subgrade (the natural soil beneath the base material) is compacted with a plate compactor. This creates a stable foundation for the paver base.

String Lines: Your Guide to a Level Base

String lines are essential for establishing the correct elevation and maintaining a level paver surface. Here’s how to utilize them effectively:

Setting String Line Height: Determine the desired finished height of your paver surface. Consider factors like the height of adjoining walkways or patios and ensure proper drainage away from your house.

String Line Placement: Drive stakes into the ground at each corner of the excavated area, extending beyond the perimeter. Tie a string line between the stakes, ensuring it’s level and positioned at the desired final paver height. Repeat this process for additional string lines running parallel along the length and width of the area, creating a grid-like network.

Base Material Installation: The Foundation of Your Project

Now it’s time to focus on the base material. Here are the key steps for proper installation:

Base Material Selection: Crushed concrete is a popular choice for paver bases due to its excellent drainage properties and strength. Opt for recycled crushed concrete for an eco-friendly option.

Spreading the Base Material: Spread the crushed concrete evenly throughout the excavated area. Utilize a landscaping rake with a height that matches the desired base depth (typically around 3 inches below the string line) to maintain consistent depth.

Compacting the Base: Once the crushed concrete is spread, thoroughly compact it using a plate compactor. Move systematically across the area in multiple passes, overlapping slightly with each pass. Ensure the compacted base reaches the desired depth as indicated by your string lines.

Wash Sand: The Finishing Touch for the Base

A layer of washed sand provides a smooth and level surface for the pavers to rest on.

Spreading the Sand: Spread a one-inch layer of washed sand evenly over the compacted crushed concrete base.

Screeding the Sand: Utilize a screeding board with a level surface to smooth and level the sand. Drag the board back and forth across the area, following the string lines as your guide.

Fine-Tuning the Sand: After screeding, use a long straightedge or a level to check for any high or low spots in the sand. Add or remove sand as needed to achieve a perfectly level surface.

Square Footage and Soldier Course (Optional):

Square Footage: Establish a perfect square for laying the pavers for a professional-looking finish. This can be achieved by carefully measuring from the house foundation and adjusting the base material as needed.

Soldier Course: A soldier course, consisting of pavers laid vertically along the perimeter, can be incorporated into your design. This eliminates the need for cuts on one side of these pavers. Planning the soldier course placement will help guide the base preparation process.

Compacting the Sand (Optional): While optional, some paver installations benefit from lightly compacting the sand using a plate compactor set on the vibration-only mode. This minimizes sand movement during the paver installation process.

Hiring a Paving Contractor: Benefits and Considerations.Hiring a Paving Contractor: Benefits and Considerations

While DIY paving installation can be a rewarding experience, hiring a professional paving contractor offers several advantages:

Expertise and Experience: Paving contractors possess the knowledge and experience to handle complex projects efficiently and ensure a flawless final product. They are familiar with local building codes and understand the specific drainage requirements for your area.

Equipment and Tools: Contractors can access specialized equipment like plate compactors, laser levels, and concrete saws, ensuring precise cuts and a level base.

Time Savings: Professional installation can significantly reduce the project timeline, especially for larger or intricate designs.

Warranty and Peace of Mind: Many reputable paving contractors offer warranties on their work, providing you with peace of mind and recourse should any issues arise in the future.

Choosing the Right Paving Contractor:

If you decide to hire a paving contractor, here are some key steps to ensure a successful project:

Get Multiple Estimates: Obtain quotes from qualified paving contractors. Be sure to inquire about their experience with similar projects, their licensing and insurance status, and the materials they recommend.

Check References: Ask potential contractors for references from previous clients. Contact these references to inquire about their experience with the contractor’s workmanship, communication, and overall project management.

Read Reviews: Online reviews can offer valuable insights into a contractor’s reputation and customer satisfaction.

Contract Review: Before signing a contract, ensure it clearly outlines the scope of work, materials to be used, project timeline, payment schedule, and warranty details.


Whether you tackle a DIY paver base installation or entrust the project to a professional contractor, a solid base is essential for a long-lasting and visually stunning finished product. This guide has equipped you with the knowledge and steps to create a solid foundation for your paver project. Remember, meticulous planning, careful material selection, and precise execution are key to achieving the beautiful and functional paver patio or walkway of your dreams.


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