How to Lay Pavers: An Expert Guide

Posted on 19 Jan 2024

The importance of laying pavers correctly

When pavers are laid carefully and correctly they can last a long time and can be effective at creating safe walkways, entertaining areas, and driveways.

Pavers that are incorrectly laid can shift, sink and even crack over time, so getting it right the first time around is very important.

Choosing a pattern of laying pavers

There are many options to choose from when deciding on how you want to lay your pavers.

The most common patterns are stretcher and herringbone.

Stretcher

The stretcher pattern is when pavers are laid in rows, where the next row of pavers starts half way down the first paver of the row before. This creates an alternating pattern, adding strength to the paved area.

Herringbone

One of the strongest paving patterns is called the herringbone. In this pattern, pavers are laid at either 45 or 90 degrees to one another, forming an L shape. When this pattern is repeated it interlocks the pavers, making them much sturdier.

Herringbone patterns are often used for driveways as this is where the pavers need the additional strength to cope with heavy vehicles.

Learn more about paver patterns

Calculating the number of pavers you’ll need

To make this process simpler, head to our paver product pages, select any paver, and use our paving calculator. This will show you how to measure your area correctly, and will do the calculation for you.

When calculating the number of pavers you’ll need, it’s important to add an extra 5% to the total. This will allow for any cuts, wastage or breakage when the pavers are laid.

Try our paving calculator

Safe movement and storage of your pavers

Pavers are packed in a specific way to make them safer for transportation. Each pack is segmented into smaller sections called leaves. Each standard pack of pavers can have up to four leaves.

When moving these packs, it’s highly recommended to use a pack barrow and strap in the packs.

What you’ll need to pave your area

  • A shovel
  • A rake
  • A large broom
  • A spirit level
  • A screeding board - also known as a screed
  • Guide boards or screeding straps
  • A brick saw
  • A plate compactor
  • Edge restraints
  • Stakes and string
  • Base layer material (road base or well-graded crushed limestone)
  • Bedding sand
  • Some stylish & durable Midland Brick pavers
  • Jointing sand (such as Pave-Lok)
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE). At the minimum, we recommend gloves, eye protection, ear protection (where applicable) and steel capped boots

Preparing to lay your pavers

Preparing the site

This is the foundation of your whole paving job, so it pays to take as much time as you need to get this step right.

Before you determine your finished paving level and start excavating, remember to take into account the following:

  1. The finished paving must be below the damp proof course level of any building.

    The damp proof course is a barrier built into the walls of a building to prevent damp rising through the walls. If your paving touches the walls above it, it could lead to rising damp that can cause significant structural damage.

  2. Your paving must slope away from buildings to facilitate water runoff.

  3. When calculating your finished paving level, you need to allow for the depth of the base layer (a minimum of 100mm or 10cm), the bedding later (approximately 30mm or 3cm) and the height of your pavers.

Once you’ve made the appropriate calculations, excavate the area and ensure the ground is completely level using your spirit level.

Laying the base layer

For areas that are going to be used by vehicles (such as driveways), we highly recommend adding a base layer such as road base or well-graded crushed limestone as this provides additional support and stability.

Spread your base layer out evenly to a minimum depth of 100mm or 10cm and rake to an even thickness before compacting. We’d advise using a plate compactor for this. Don't forget your PPE!

The bedding layer

Spread your bedding sand and screed it flat using a flat aluminium board to ensure that you’ve flattened and compacted the area as much as possible. Set up your guide boards or screeding straps to the height you want your bedding layer to finish at and then spread another layer of bedding sand over the top.

Pull the screeding board over the guides to achieve a uniform depth of 30mm or 3cm. When the whole area is levelled, remove the guides, fill in the tracks with more bedding sand and level everything off with your screeding board.

How to lay pavers

Once your site is properly prepared, it’s time to get on with the job of actually laying your pavers. Before you do, here are a few tips to help make sure that you get everything 100% right.

Lay out your grid

Use stakes and string to put in gridlines that are spaced at even intervals around the perimeter of the job. This helps to keep your pattern consistent.

Cutting your pavers to size

Not all areas are going to have an exact number of whole pavers needed to completely cover the ground you want paved. That’s where knowing how to cut pavers properly and safely is a good skill to have.

The most important part of cutting pavers is to ensure the paver has been fully soaked in water before it’s cut. This reduces the chance of the paver being discoloured by slurry while it’s being cut.

Once cut, wash any slurry from the pavers before laying. Also, be careful that slurry doesn’t fall onto pavers that you have already laid.

Edge restraints

Putting edge restraints in place will prevent your pavers from moving horizontally, and will help to contain the bedding sand and base layer.

To prevent chipping your pavers during laying, place them gently on the sand bed, leaving a 2-3mm gap between them (most Midland Brick pavers now have spacer nibs to make this process a lot easier and quicker).

Blending pavers

If you’re combining different styles or batches of pavers together in the one space, using the blending technique will help you to get an even mix of pavers.

To do this, place all the packs of pavers as close as possible to your working area. This allows you to see every paver, and it gives you easy access to all styles.

While laying, work simultaneously from different packs of pavers. This creates a subtle blend if there are any differences in packs.

Control joints

A control joint is a 10-15mm gap between sections of the paved area that is filled with a compressible material. These help to account for the pavers expanding and contracting when the temperature changes.

Where unrestrained edging is used and pavers are laid with the correct gaps between them, control joints are generally not required. However, in large areas restrained by walls, curbing, or long driveways, it might be necessary to include them.

The spacing of your control joints will vary depending on your pattern design and should be positioned at points of stress like re-entrant corners (and at points not exceeding 6 metres apart).

It’s also important to remember that dark colours tend to move more and that your paving will always give way at the weakest point - usually the edge restraint - so take this into consideration when laying your pavers and spacing your control joints.

Joint filling

Next, you need to fill the gaps between your pavers so they stay in place. Sweep some dry, fine white washed sand (such as jointing sand) over all of your paving until all of the joints are completely full.

Compacting

First things first. Get your PPE! At the minimum, we recommend gloves, steel capped boots, and protection for your eyes and ears.

Use a mechanical plate compactor with a piece of clean carpet underneath to compact your pavers. This will prevent scratching and damage while helping to make sure that everything stays in place over the long term.

After your first compacting run, sweep in more jointing sand and compact again. Once that’s done, sweep off the excess sand.

Do you need to seal pavers?

Not all pavers need sealing. However, we highly recommend sealing pavers as soon as they’re laid and are completely dry as this will help to slow down the absorption of any spills that could potentially stain and ruin their appearance. Even if you do spill something on sealed pavers, it’s important to wipe as much off as possible.

As for the application of the particular sealer that you’ve chosen, we recommend consulting the instructions on the packaging or talking to the manufacturer or a contractor for more advice on the correct method.

Explore our range of sealers

Maintaining your pavers long term

There are a few things you can do to help improve the lifespan and durability of your freshly laid pavers.

Cleaning your pavers

Frequent sweeping and occasional washing with a domestic, low-pressure cleaner reduces the effect of dirt and grime on your pavers.

However, washing your pavers is not recommended until they’ve settled and the jointing sand has set between the paving joints.

During this settling in period it’s best only to sweep your pavers with a stiff outdoor broom or use a garden blower to keep them clean.

Removing stains

Stain removal can be a tricky process, and if done incorrectly, can result in permanent damage to your pavers. Make sure you follow these steps to stay safe and ensure you don’t do any damage:

1. Try washing and scrubbing the area with soapy water or detergent before moving on to other cleaning chemicals (don’t forget to wear PPE while handling any chemicals).

2. Try to identify the substance that needs to be removed and follow the correct cleaning procedure.

3. Always test cleaning chemicals on a small, inconspicuous patch of paving first.

Learn more about how you can maintain your pavers properly.

Frequently asked questions about laying pavers

Can you lay pavers straight on dirt?

The more preparation you do to the area you're paving, the better the results are going to be. We don’t recommend paving straight on top of dirt as the base needs to be compacted and levelled, with a layer of base sand.

Where to start laying pavers?

The more preparation you do to the area you're paving, the better the results are going to be. We don’t recommend paving straight on top of dirt as the base needs to be compacted and levelled, with a layer of base sand.

If you’d like to learn more about our range of pavers, you can browse them here online. If you need some advice on the right pavers for you, feel free to get in touch or visit one of our display centres today.

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