Pavers, brick, and stone can be dry-laid over a bed of sand by a homeowner without difficulty. The installation process is fairly simple and is forgiving. In areas where no frost heave occurs, you can lay large stones directly over compact soil if need be. Then sweep sand between the stone to help keep them from shifting.
Here we offer a basic step-by-step way to install stones, pavers, and bricks to make a walkway, patio, or garden path. I will refer to all concrete pavers, bricks or stone as simply- stone, to save space.
The simplest form of stone paving is laying flat stones directly on the ground. Loosen the dirt so each stone sits firmly and is supported evenly underneath. Grass or ground cover grows between the stones and you mow right over them. This method is appropriate for rustic, natural settings. To help drainage, spread a half-inch layer of sand over the compacted dirt before laying the stone.
For a formal look or design and to get better drainage, lay stone in compacted sand over crushed stone. This requires more work, but you’ll get a flatter, more even paving with joints of sand between the stones instead of vegetation. The sand compensates for irregularities in the ground. Once the bed is in place, laying the stones is a lot like doing a puzzle. Try different stone combinations until you get the smallest gap between joints. If using pavers or bricks, the pattern will have been pre-determined.
TOOLS AND MATERIALS YOU MAY REQUIRE – Stones, pavers, or bricks, tamper, gloves, landscape fabric, safety goggles, tape measure, rubber mallet, string, plywood, wood stakes, 48-inch level, small sledgehammer, pencil, framing square, brick hammer, garden hose, pitching chisel, spade, broom, sand, gravel, and kneepads.
BASIC INSTRUCTIONS: The most difficult step in laying stone is preparing the bed. Normally a two-inch bed of sand is enough if your stones are the same thickness. If the thickness varies, you may need a deeper sand bed. To keep weeds down, use landscape fabric. If your soil does not drain well, consider a four-inch bed of gravel under the sand. Use landscape fabric between gravel and sand when using this method. If your soil drains poorly and you are in a cold climate, consider an even thicker gravel base.
When ordering materials, have your measurements with you so the dealer can help figure your needs. If you are NOT making your own stone, brick or pavers with concrete molds, purchase 5-10 percent over what you need to allow for breakage, cutting mistakes, and future repairs.
LAYING STONE IN PACKED SAND:
1. Lay out Your Area- Set stakes to mark the proposed edge of the patio or walk. Mark the outside corners a bit beyond the proposed edge. Use a framing square to confirm that the corners form right angles. For free-form shapes, lay out the curves using garden hose. Now go around the outline, sinking a spade into the earth to score the perimeter. Once you’ve scored the ground, remove the stakes, string, or hose.
2. Excavate Soil- Set your stones about 1 inch above the ground. To do this, excavate to a depth that equals: the thickness of your stone minus 1 inch. Then figure 2 inches for the sand bed, plus 4 inches for a gravel base if one is needed. Remove all grass, roots and large rocks from the area to be finished. Now place the gravel if using any. Tamp it down with a hand or mechanical tamper.
3. Install a Weed Barrier- Install a layer of landscape fabric on the excavation or on top of the gravel if used. Overlap by 4 to 6 inches. Landscape fabric is designed to prevent weeds while still allowing water to drain through.
4. Spread and Screed the Sand- Top the landscape fabric with about 2 inches of regular construction sand. Tamp it down, and use a straight length of 2×4 to screed the sand level.
5. Install the Stones- Starting in one corner, place the stones on the sand and tamp them into place using a rubber mallet. Make sure that they are solidly bedded, level, and do not wobble. If necessary, dig out sand to make the bedding more stable. Arrange the straight edges toward the outside perimeter and fit any irregular edges together. Leave a half-inch space between the stones. If using pavers or bricks, butt them against each other, with a quarter to a half-inch space between them. If you made your own pavers or bricks with concrete molds to save money, the angle of the sides needed to enable demolding will automatically give you the spacing when butted tightly against each other.
TIP: If you have to kneel on the sand to lay stone, use a piece of plywood to keep from creating depressions. After you have laid a few stones, kneel on the stone instead. Use a 4-foot-long level to maintain the paving level.
6. Cut and Shape the Stones- Some stones may need to be trimmed for a better fit. First, hold the stone to be cut over those in place and mark the cutting line with a pencil or crayon. For small cuts, trim using a brick hammer. For large cuts, score the marked line with a pitching chisel and hammer. Gently tap off the unwanted piece using the hammer. With pavers or brick you may not need to trim anything if you’ve pre-planned the dimensions of your project.
7. Fill the Joints with Sand- When all stones are in place, sweep the joints full of sand. Wet the surface with a fine mist from your hose to compact the sand, then sweep more sand into the joints until they are full. Fill the joints again in a few days when the sand settles.