Interlocking concrete pavers are versatile sections of compacted concrete that are used to pave paths, patios, driveways and steps. They are available in numerous colors and shapes and simulate bricks, tiles, cobblestones and granite blocks. Pavers are available from garden centers and nurseries, lumber yards, hardware stores and discount stores. Because of their uniformity, pavers fit together easily and their installation is a common do-it-yourself project.
When choosing paver colors, select shades that harmonize with the area. Pavers a couple of shades lighter than the color of the house or building do not compete for attention. Gray pavers used with brick houses eliminate the urge many of us have to try to match everything. Use brick pavers with wood or stone houses to add warmth. Avoid monotony by combining two colors of paver or use pavers with a blended color. Changing the texture of the paver can also add interest. Smooth, rounded surfaces should be used where people are walking, playing or bicycling. Jagged, rough-textured surfaces can be used in areas of less traffic to create an accent or border.
Concrete pavers enable almost anyone to demonstrate their artistic side. However, if you are not as gifted as you would like to be, here are a few suggestions. For buildings with simple, straight lines and little ornamentation, use pavers with interesting shapes and then install them in a simple geometric pattern. For ornate Victorian style houses, repeat the curves of the arched windows and doors by designing curved edges. For rectangular, colonial styles repeat the shape by using brick- shaped pavers. For brick homes, select pavers larger than the brick used in the home or use cobblestone.
The patterns chosen will create the illusions necessary for the look you are trying to achieve. Make narrow spaces like paths and alleys appear wider by laying the pavers on a diagonal or in rows running across the area. Wide spaces can look narrower by running rectangular pavers the length of the area. Large expanses need interest. Let your imagination take over and create circles, curves and fan shaped patterns within the area. Avoid long straight rows. Not only are they difficult to keep straight during installation, they tire the eye of the viewer. When straight areas are necessary, lay the pavers parallel to the edge of the path and use a diagonal herringbone or a crisscrossed basket weave pattern.
The area to be paved should be planned first on paper. This will allow the flexibility of working with various pavers, patterns, edges, and accent areas without the labor of lifting. A minimum size for a patio is about 6 ft. by 6 ft. This space will allow enough room for table, chairs and movement between. Complicated patterns will require 5 to 10% more pavers than do simple patterns. For small areas, keep the pattern simple. Some people base the area to be paved on the desired paver dimensions eliminating the need for cutting altogether. Pavers require some type of edge restraint to help hold them in place and prevent shifting. Plastic, concrete or metal edging materials are available. Concrete curbing, wood landscape timbers or a single row of heavy, cut-stone blocks can also be used. One person can usually install about 300 sq. ft. of surface in about 8 hours. More time will be necessary for complicated patterns. This time element was put in for those do-it-yourselfers who like to complete a project in a single weekend. At times it helps to know how much of a piece to bite off. Of course this theory doesn't work at my house where do-it yourself projects are known to take years to complete.
When selecting pavers, consider the thickness of the paver and potential use. If your paver project must withstand regular, repeat vehicle traffic the paver must be at least 3.125 inches thick. For pedestrian traffic and residential driveways, 2.375 inch-thick pavers are acceptable. The thickness of the paver affects its ability to carry and spread loads to neighboring units when set. The greater the paver thickness, the greater the interlock with neighboring pavers and the greater the load carrying capacity. By following these thickness guidelines, pavers should not bend or crack with regular use.
Next week, paver installation instruction and care of the project.
This article originally appeared in the June 23, 1995 issue, p. 94.