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How to Install a Long-Lasting Paver Patio Or Driveway Like a Professional

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

Transforming your outdoor space into a resilient and visually captivating interlock/paver patio or driveway requires not just an eye for design but also a profound understanding of the challenges posed by extreme climates. At HMC, operating in London, Ontario, Canada, where temperatures can plummet to -30°C, our commitment to professionalism is directly tied to the expertise needed to overcome the distinct obstacles presented by our local weather conditions.

The Foundation of Excellence: Base Installation

In this region, the base is the pillar of every successful patio installation. Our approach is tailored to combat the harsh environment unique to London, Ontario. Join us as we navigate through the process of each project, ensuring every aspect is designed to endure the unforgiving climate.

Embark on this journey with HMC as we guide you through the steps required to create a patio or driveway that not only withstands the test of time but also embraces our harsh Canadian winters.

Paver Patio Installed In London Ontario
Paver Patio Installed In London Ontario

Step #1 - Excavation

The cornerstone of every successful interlock patio installation lies in properly executing the excavation process. In climates like ours in London, Ontario, where temperatures can plummet to extremes, awareness of the potential impact of frost heave is important. To reinforce your project against such challenges we must first understand the layers of our structure:

First Layer - Paver: The initial layer, the pavers themselves, typically ranges from 2 to 2.5 inches in thickness, with variations based on the product. Most reputable manufacturers provide detailed specifications on their websites.

Second Layer - Screeding: Screeding material plays a pivotal role in maintaining the grade and smoothness of your installation. Restricting this layer to a precise 1 inch is crucial, a concept we delve into further in this article. Third Layer - Granular Base: Arguably the most crucial for longevity, the granular base forms the bedrock of a durable product. Commonly employed in applications is Granular A or 3/4" Minus, a blend of screened gravel with aggregates ranging from 3/4" down to sand fines. Calculating the thickness involves thoughtful consideration of the load-bearing requirements—driveways must withstand vehicular loads, whereas patios only endure pedestrian traffic.

At HMC, we adhere to a foundational rule: a 10 to 12-inch granular layer beneath driveways and a 6 to 8-inch layer beneath patios. Adjustments may be necessary based on the sub-base conditions encountered during excavation, particularly if softer materials are present.

Prior to excavation, a crucial step involves setting up locates to prevent damage to existing utilities. This proactive measure ensures a seamless installation process while safeguarding the integrity of essential infrastructure.


It is recommended to use survey paint or stringline to mark the layout of your projects. This practice can help ensure accuracy and precision in your work. We advocate for a strategic over-excavation of at least 6 inches of the perimeter of your project ensuring each paver has a firm base to lay on.

Step #2 - Base Installation

There are multiple types of base installation methods, The two most common base methods are the traditional A gravel (Also known as 3/4" Minus) and the becoming more popular Open Graded Base (permeable option). In this article, we will stick to the traditional base. However, to learn more about the Open Graded Base system visit our post Open Graded Base vs. Traditional Base: Choosing the Right Foundation for Your Landscape Project.

There are three main parts of a successful base installation:

Compaction Thickness - The equipment you use to compact your granular base usually has a maximum achievable compaction thickness at optimum conditions in the specifications. In essence, the heavier your compaction equipment or the stronger the compaction force, the thicker the base can be when compacting. To ensure a strong foundation, we recommend limiting each compaction lift to a maximum of 6 inches, ensuring a thorough and effective compaction process.

Moisture Content - Managing moisture content is key to a successful base installation. Striking the right balance is an art, where moisture becomes your ally in achieving proper compaction. The Optimum Moisture Content is the sweet spot—enough to reduce friction between granular particles for optimal compaction, yet avoiding excessive moisture that could transform your base into an undesirable state resembling muck. A practical tip: if you notice dust during compaction, your granular material is too dry; if you encounter sinking or notice excess moisture appearing on the surface when compacting, drying up your product is necessary.

Grade - The importance of accurate grading cannot be overstated. If your base is too high, you'll struggle with gravel when installing the screed layer. Conversely, if it's too low, you risk insufficient base depth, resulting in more than the recommended 1" of screed. Achieving a perfect grade is not just a goal; it's a fundamental.

For setting your grade accurately, we recommend using a stringline at a known elevation point, such as the top of a garage pad or sidewalk. Extend the stringline at the pitch required for your project, ensuring that it is tight enough to avoid sagging. Once set, measure down from the stringline to the measurement of your remaining structure, which includes the brick thickness and a 1-inch screed layer. This will help you to set your grade with precision.

Step #3 - Screeding Layer

In interlock patio installations, achieving smooth and even surfaces is key to a quality product. The pursuit of a long-lasting perfect screed involves the selection of the right material, the use of proper tools, and adherence to the correct grade.

Material - Traditionally, bedding sand was the preferred screeding material, but a more modern alternative gaining popularity among contractors is High-Performance Bedding (HPB or APB). Comprising 1/4" crushed clear stones without fines, HPB provides superior benefits. The crushed aggregates effectively "lock into place," mitigating washout, facilitating water drainage, and reducing the risk of pest infestation. At HMC, we exclusively install HPB, recommending its exceptional qualities to anyone contemplating a paver installation. HPB Can be found at your local landscape store or aggregate pits.

Screed Rails - Acquiring the right tools is crucial for a flawless screed. Local hardware stores typically offer 3/4" steel pipes of varying lengths. We advocate acquiring 3 to 4 steel pipes at 10-foot lengths to ensure a straight and precise product.

Establishing the Proper Starting Point - Setting steel pipes side by side in the screeding layer at the desired elevation is the foundation for a successful screed. When working against concrete structures like a sidewalk or garage pad, use a paver to check elevations to ensure accuracy. Maintaining a 1/8" higher elevation than the grade allows for optimal compaction of this layer during subsequent steps.

Ensuring The Proper Grade - Utilizing a level to guarantee a 2% pitch on your patio ensures efficient water drainage. For driveways, we recommend running a string line from the top of the garage pad to the curb. Set this line on top of the pipes, periodically checking the grade with a paver across the work area.

Executing the Screed - The use of a straight edge to screed across two pipes simultaneously ensures perfection in each section. While an average 2x4 can suffice if straight enough, we recommend investing in a sturdy 8-foot level for optimal results. Wider sections contribute to a smoother application overall. It's important to not compress or compact the HPB or sand.

Final Touches - Upon removing the screed pole, don't forget the crucial step of filling in the resulting holes. This meticulous detail ensures a seamless and polished final appearance.

Step #4 - Paver Install

Installing a flawless paver project requires precision from the beginning. The smallest deviation, in the beginning, can cascade into challenges that are inconvenient to rectify later on, leading to potential frustration. Here are some invaluable tips to proactively prevent these issues and ensure a seamless outcome:

Employ a String Line for Guidance - Maintain a straight line alongside your paver to navigate unexpected curves that can pose challenges during installation. This simple yet effective measure serves as a guide, ensuring accuracy throughout the project.

Don't Over Placing - Resist the temptation to over-place pavers. Instead, intentionally keep one side of your installation longer until the final stages, forming a triangular shape. This approach minimizes the risk of "squeezing" pavers when two sides are longer than the middle. Squeezing can lead to undesirable and uncontrollable shifting of your pavers. Avoid Four Corners: When possible, avoid installing pavers that create four corners to prevent unnoticeable gaps.

Consider Your Pattern - Consider the recommended placing pattern provided by reputable manufacturers, typically available on their websites. While some variation is acceptable, adhering to the suggested pattern maintains an ordered ratio and enhances the effectiveness of the interlocking mechanism.

Overbuild For Cuts - When cuts are necessary, overbuilding is an important approach. Place your new border on top of the designated area, mark it, and then proceed with cutting along the marked lines. Avoid smaller pieces, as they are prone to cracking during the compaction process. For detailed guidance on proper and effective cutting techniques, stay tuned for our upcoming post dedicated to this essential skill.

Executing these tips not only ensures a precise and aesthetically pleasing paver installation but also minimizes the likelihood of complications down the road.

Step #5 - Polymeric Sand

Polymeric sand, a finely textured compound enriched with water-activated binding agents, revolutionizes the landscape of patio installations. The outcome of polymeric installation is a seamless fusion, establishing an impenetrable joint between patio pavers, preventing shifting and unwanted weeds.

Choose The Right Color And Size - Selecting the appropriate color for your polymeric sand is a matter of personal preference. However, it's crucial to match the product to the gap range of your chosen pavers. Refer to the manufacturer's website for accurate information on gap sizes.

Work Area Preparation - Before commencing the installation, ensure your work area is clear of dirt and completely dry. Even minimal surface water can result in polymeric sand staining during the brooming process if the area is not entirely dry.

Brooming Sand - Employ a stiff bristle broom to sweep the sand into the paver joints, leaving a thin layer on the surface. Brooming at an angle aids in retaining the sand within the joints. The compaction stage consolidates the sand and levels the pavers. After satisfaction, broom the remaining sand into the joints once again, ensuring a clear surface.

Compaction - Conduct a single pass with a light plate tamper with a protective pad or a paver roller. This consolidates the polymeric sand and levels the pavers to create a cohesive installation. Exercise caution to avoid over-compacting, as it may lead to paver damage or cracking.

Activation - Before activating the polymeric sand with water, use a leaf blower to remove any remaining fines on the surface. Residual fines may cause haziness on the product. Once satisfied, thoroughly mist the patio with a mist head, ensuring the water penetrates the full depth of the polymeric. Avoid using a strong stream of water, as this may result in premature washout before the polymeric hardens.

Step #6 - Edge Restraints

In climates susceptible to ground upheaval due to frost or products with heavy surface loads, the significance of securing edges cannot be overstated. Edge restraint systems are not merely boundaries; they stand as formidable barriers against external forces, offering stability that is crucial in preventing the shifting of interlocking pavers.

Edge restraints are available in a variety of materials, options include metal, plastic, and concrete, providing flexibility to cater to specific needs and preferences. The choice of material plays an important role in determining the durability and longevity of the edge restraint system.

By incorporating these resilient edge restraint systems, not only do you fortify your interlock patio against the impact of external forces, but you also enhance the overall integrity of your installation.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, our commitment to professionalism extends beyond design aesthetics; it encompasses a thorough understanding of the challenges posed by freezing climates. From the initial excavation to the final placement of edge restraints, each step is a testament to our dedication to creating interlock patios that endure the unforgiving Canadian winters while maintaining their visual appeal and functionality.

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