Talk to designers, architects or builders and they’ll tell you they’re putting as much thought and work on the outside of a home as on the inside. Decks, patios, porches, water gardens are all high growth areas in the new American home.
That trend has hit the do-it-yourself arena as well. You don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a room addition, you can create an outdoor space for much less. One aspect of this trend is “Hardscaping.” According to SmartMoney magazine you can increase the value of your home by up to 15 percent with a new patio, deck, or garden wall. Professional landscape contractors have seen a huge increase in their business. Joe Pollina, President of Tommy Pollina Landscaping in Park Ridge, Illinois says, “We have seen a 25 percent increase in our brick paving installations.” He further states that his customers are looking for beauty, durability, and low maintenance.
While Joe believes that installing brick pavers is better left to the professional, he concedes that many “weekend warriors” are completing this type of work. He cautions that “before a homeowner tries this one, they better eat their Wheaties for a couple of weeks.”
So if you think you are “tough enough” as the Fabulous Thunderbirds use to sing, here are some considerations:
Segmental paving is a real value adding proposition when it comes to your home. It’s one of those items that ends up on a listing sheet when it comes time to sell. Remember that some day you’ll be a seller and adding value to your home will not only have you enjoying a nicer home but will pay you back in spades down the line. The other important point is maintenance. Brick pavers are tough and will last for years. There are still roads in Italy that were built by the Romans that take modern day traffic everyday. And if your car springs an oil leak or a few bricks were to crack or shift, you can just pop out the old ones and then tap in some new ones. Try doing that with concrete, or asphalt?
Choosing the bricks is the next step. While most of us are aware of concrete pavers, which is a great choice, there is also a premium type of brick made from clay. The advantage is that the color is all the way through and fading is limited. There is a slight sheen to the brick which is not slippery but adds a little pizzaz to the installation. Many styles of bricks have improved shapes for ease in installation. Edges are eased or irregular to compensate for chipping and movement. The following are the seven steps to installing brick pavers at your home:
1. Preparing your site:
For a stone and sand based installation (meaning no mortar in the joints) you want to locate where your new pavers will go and line it with marking paint. Then excavate enough soil to allow for six inches of compacted gravel base, about 1 1/2” of sand and the thickness of your chosen brick. Typically these bricks are about 1 1/2” thick. Also you want to extend your excavation about six inches beyond the area of installation to allow for edging, drainage and proper matching with surrounding landscaping. For larger installations you may want to rent a Skidsteer tractor, (about $170.00 for the day).
2. Compacting the soil:
Possibly the most important step. This underlying soil needs to be rock hard. You’ll need to rent a “Vibrating plate compactor” (about $60-$75.00 a day) It looks like a lawnmower with a sled base on the bottom. It will tamp the soil with a force of up to 3,000 psi.
3. Gravel and pitch:
Now it’s time to add the gravel. #6 crushed stone works well. Shovel and rake about three inches of stone in the excavated area. Use the compactor to compress the gravel. Add the additional gravel needed to give you about six inches of compacted stone. This step will keep your walkway firm and in place for years to come. Make sure that if the installation is near your home that the gravel pitches away from your home no less or more than 1/4” per foot.
This is the surrounding curb if you will, that holds the pavers in place. It’s like a belt that wraps around the pavers in the middle field. This can be done with bricks in a soldier course, concrete, wood, or flexible plastic or metal edging designed for this type of installation.
5. Setting the sand base:
Using two 1 1/2” round PVC pipes, place these on top of the gravel about six inches in from the end of the gravel base. If you are installing a large patio you may need additional pipes. Distribute the sand over the pipes and cover them slightly. Using a 2x4 wood board in the correct length for your installation, pull it across (called screeding) the pipes to achieve a consistent thickness of sand. Once you reach the end of the pipes remove the pipes carefully and fill the voids with sand and trowel smooth.
6. Laying your brick pavers:
With all of the prep work done, now comes the easy part. (OK maybe not easy.) You want to lay your bricks loosely over the sand in your desired pattern. A rubber mallet will help keep everything together. Do not try and hammer the bricks in place only use it to keep the installation of the bricks uniform. Work in 4’-6’ sections to make sure the bricks are going down flat and level with the surrounding grade of your landscaping. If you need to cut the bricks, (chances are you will) you can rent a brick saw (about $60 a day) that will give you clean cuts and help make the installation look professional.
7. The last step (prior to a nap):
Sweep off your new pavers and run the vibrating plate compactor over the bricks. This action will set the brick into the sand and give you a flat surface. Spread more sand over the entire surface to work into the voids between the brick. Then sweep and hose off.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. But with a good breakfast, lots of sleep and a multi-vitamin, you can do it.
If you’d like more information or are looking for brick distributors in your area check out these Web sites:
-Pine Hall Brick: www.pinehallbrick.com
-America’s Premier Paver: www.americaspremierpaver.com
“Today” contributor, “Mr. Fix-It” Lou Manfredini is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show on WGN-AM. He has a bimonthly column in USA WEEKEND, he runs his own construction company and he is the author of, “Mr. Fix-It Introduces You to Your Home.” For more information you can visit his Web site at: www.Hammerandnail.com.