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By Alan J. Heavens

RISMEDIA, May 9, 2008-(MCT)-Interlocking concrete pavers make it possible for even first-time do-it-yourselfers to install patios and walkways. Concrete is more malleable than brick or stone, so it’s easier to cut and fit. But even if you hire a contractor, having some knowledge of the basics beforehand will help ensure that you get your money’s worth. Here are some points to consider, assembled with help from the Interlocking Concrete Paver Institute.

Tool box: For most projects, you’ll need a 25-foot tape measure, a 4-foot level to check that the pavers in each row are even, safety glasses, a spade to prepare the surface, canvas gloves, and a push broom to spread filler sand between the pavers.

Need to know: The basic design of your patio or walkway will dictate both the number of pavers and the number of edging pavers you need to buy. Make a rudimentary sketch of what you have in mind and take it with you to the home center. Figure out how many pavers fit in 1 square foot (the staff will help you). Multiply that number by the total square footage of the space to be covered, then add 5% as a margin for error (you’ll want to buy extras).

Prime example: Say four octagonal pavers equal 1 square foot. For a 100-square-foot patio, you’ll need 400 pavers, plus 20 extras. To get the number of edgers, add the lengths of the sides being edged; divide by the length of one edger.

Base camp: You’ll also need to buy gravel (also called aggregate) and concrete sand, to lay a base for the pavers. For the base of that 100-square-foot patio, for instance, you would lay down 4 inches of gravel for drainage and 1 inch of concrete sand. Cover with a layer of roofing paper or landscaping felt, to prevent weed growth, then top with 2 more inches of concrete sand for paver bedding.

To calculate the amount needed, multiply the required depth of each material by the square footage of the project; add 5% of the total. Gravel and bedding sand are sold by the ton; for 100 square feet, figure 2 tons of gravel and 1½ tons of bedding sand. You’ll also use bedding sand as filler between the pavers, but that amount is tougher to estimate. You may end up back at the store.

Getting started: You’ll need to remove grass, dirt and so forth to a depth that will accommodate the gravel and the sand bed beneath the pavers, also allowing for the thickness of the pavers themselves. Excavate an extra 6 inches wider on each side, to accommodate the edgers.

Don’t do this: Surface preparation is critical, so don’t attempt to prep and install the pavers in the same weekend. For proper water runoff, a drop of ¼ inch for every foot of bedding surface is advised.

Bad advice: “Put the edge pavers in first, then lay the inside pavers.” Instead, find the center of your space first, then lay the pavers out to the perimeter, so any needed cuts are made up against the edge.

Good advice: To cut pavers, use a rubber mallet and a cold chisel (not a woodworking chisel) made from high-carbon steel. Draw a line on the paver with a pencil, then make a scratch (known as scoring) with the edge of the chisel to get the cut started. Place the blade on the scratch mark and strike the chisel. Don’t use a hammer; metal chips might fly.

What will it cost? Interlocking concrete pavers cost 70 cents to $1 each. So if four make a square foot and your project is 100 square feet, the cost will be $280 to $400 (not counting the extra material). Edge pavers cost $1 to $2 each, so 54 for this project would be $54 to $108 (plus the extra). Base materials and filler-sand costs vary widely, as do delivery costs.

© 2008, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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