Paving is a straightforward D.I.Y. job. A project such as a small pathway can be completed in a weekend.
A paving job typically features three layers – 30-50mm of road-base compacted down, then a 20-30mm layer of bedding or paving sand, followed by your pavers. But for this project (like most established backyards) we had very stable and compacted soil and it was a low-traffic area so we could skip the road-base.
Before you start, decide on the pattern you plan to lay your pavers in, we used basket weave with a stretcher border. You’ll find most paving companies have images showing the various styles. Do bear in mind that some may involve a lot of cutting.
Determine your path width and length and mark out accordingly. Make sure you take into account any surrounding elements. In this case we needed to align with the existing paved area and the clothesline.
The easiest way to remove any existing lawn is to take a little time to slice the area into sections. First cut a line with your spade all the way around the edge about 15-20cm out from your marked line. Then make spade-width line cuts across the area. Once you’ve done this over the whole area start from one edge and slide your spade under the grass. You’ll find it comes up in neat spade-width strips. This is a lot easier than using a mattock to dig it out. If handled carefully you can also reuse the grass elsewhere.
Use a mattock or hoe remove any excess soil and bring to approximate height. Use a landscape rake to remove any chunks of material and use the smooth-edged back of the rake to roughly level.
Check excavated depths at a set point. In our case we were able to take our mark from the existing paving and follow that. If just laying to a sand bed your excavation will need to be the thickness of your brick or paver and a sand bed of 20-30mm. We needed 100mm clear from the top level of our existing paving. If we had been using road-base we would have needed 130-150mm clear. Set a string-line around the perimeter to determine heights all-round. If sides are to be level, you can do this by fitting the line-level to the string-line and adjusting accordingly. Remember when paving always slope it slightly away from structures.
Bring in paving sand and spread evenly over area and bring to rough level with a rake. Then use a screed bar (we used an old spirit level) to smooth and level the surface. If laying road-base it is laid prior to the paving sand, brought to rough level in the same way and then compacted with a vibrating-plate compactor. Initial sand level can be around 5-10mm high to allow for compaction during laying.
Stack your bricks or pavers at an easy-to-reach distance well spaced around the area to be paved. This allows you to lay your pavers without interruption and avoids having any excessively high stacks.
When trying to count how many pavers you need, first calculate how many of your pavers you need for 1 square metre. For example, a regular brick is 230mm (.23) x 110mm (.11) = .0253. 1m divided by .0253 = 39.5. So you need approximately 40 bricks per square metre. Now work out your area and multiply this by your paver number.
Start from one edge and begin laying your pavers aligning with your stringline. We laid our pavers in a basket-weave pattern with a stretcher-bond border to match the existing paving. Use the rubber mallet to tamp down each paver as you go.
You’ll find you need to cut some pavers for various end points or to work around objects. If you only have a few to do then the easiest way to cut bricks is using a brick bolster and a lump hammer. Place the brick on a firm, even surface, position the bolster blade at the point you wish to cut and strike firmly with the lump hammer. With practice you’ll be able to cleanly and accurately cut solid bricks with a single strike. For larger pavers or hollow-core bricks you will need to use cutting tools such as a wet-saw or a grinder fitted with a suitable blade. With any power tools, please remember to use appropriate safety gear and if dry-cutting you must also wear breathing protection.
Techniques at this stage will vary with the type of paver. If using brick pavers then lift the border edge, remove the bedding sand. Mix sand and cement to a stiff consistency. In sections around 1m long at a time, fill the area of removed sand with a generous amount of this sand and cement mix. Reposition border pavers and tamp back down until surface is aligned with paving. Follow Step 10 before completing the next 1m section.
If using larger format pavers, lift but only remove sand to around 40mm in from edge, then fill and re-lay.
Once pavers are tamped back down, any excess sand and cement will have squeezed out the side. Use your trowel to haunch this excess up the sides of the pavers to at least half their height making sure it’s packed it firmly. This will lock your paver edge in place.
Avoid stepping on edges that have been cemented-in. Spread the washed sand over entire area and allow it to dry. Once dry, broom back and forth and side to side to sweep into and cracks and joints of pavers. This locks them in place, preventing rocking. You may need to do this again about a week or so later. Once satisfied with this joint filling, sweep off the excess sand and your paving project is complete.
You may occasionally encounter fiddly spots which are too difficult to pave and these fall into the “finishing touches” category. In our case the concrete supporting the clothesline stood too high to allow pavers to be laid. The solution was to leave a square section unpaved and then fill this with washed, decorative pebbles.
New or recycled bricks
Road-base (if required)
River or paving sand (for bedding)
Sydney or washed beach sand (for brooming in)
Bagged cement or pre-mixed sand and cement
Mattock or heavy hoe
Straight edge or screed bar
Builder’s stringline and pegs
Spirit level (1.2m minimum) and line-level (optional)