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How to Lay Patio Pavers on Dirt

Indeed this is a common question for first time do it yourself-ers.  And the answer is a resounding “No!  Don’t do it!”

Patio pavers need to be placed on a special base material that allows moisture to drain away.  There are several important reasons for this:

  • If you live in a northern climate, freeze thaw cycles during the winter will cause pavers laid directly on dirt to heave, resulting in a surface that is no longer level and potentially a tripping hazard.
  • Moisture that is held in dirt below your pavers can be wicked up causing unsightly discolorations on the surface of the pavers. In very wet climates, moss and mould could start to grow.
  • Failing to remove dirt from beneath pavers increases the likelihood that weeds will sprout from within paver joints.

A proper paver installation involves excavating 6-14 inches of soil below the paver surface.  The depth of excavation will vary depending on the soil type and project use.  Clay soils retain more moisture and therefore require more excavation; driveways require deeper excavation than walkways which carry lighter loads.

The excavated area should then be filled with a base gravel that is free draining.  This means that pieces of gravel are the right size and shape for water to flow around them.  This water then stays in the base, away from the paver surface, until it has time to be absorbed back into the earth.

The gravel base should be compacted in several layers using the proper equipment.  Then, a one-inch layer of sand or tiny stone chips is spread on top and smoothed to create a nice level surface on which to lay the pavers.

Yes, this is more difficult than laying pavers directly on dirt, but it’s worth the effort to ensure your project will still look good after its first winter, and beyond many winters to come.

For more information about paver installation, download the Unilock Advanced Tech guide.  Or if you think this sounds like too much effort, call us at 1-800-Unilock and we’d be happy to connect you with a Unilock Authorized Contractor in your area who can be trusted to do the job right.