How to lay a solid base with good compaction and drainage
Without a good foundation, your paver patio, walkway or driveway will look uneven and unsightly.
With the swings in temperature we get in Ontario through the year, there’s a good chance your stone will settle in the winter if your base isn’t even, compact and, well, good. Whenever this happens, the fault lies with an improperly installed base.
These steps can ensure your base is rock solid.
It’s smart to take time with your base. Be a stickler for the final product, because it’s a huge hassle to redo base work when you notice something uneven down the road.
Work through these steps carefully and take the time to get it right. You will save yourself money and headache in the long run, and your patio, path or driveway will look great.
Excavate your base area
Remove topsoil from your project area.
Don’t just clear a thin layer of soil – it’s important to get down to the clay or subsoil. When you find the end of the topsoil, you may have to dig deeper into the tougher base.
Calculate the depth required in your excavation by adding the thickness of the paver itself, 1” of bedding sand and the necessary gravel recommended for the type of project you are installing (between 4-12”, generally).
Fill your aggregate layer
There is only one base that is recommended and that is Granular A gravel.
- Walkways, patios and other foot-traffic areas call for about 4-6” of this material.
- Driveways need around 8-12”.
It’s usually a good idea to add a geotextile underlayment. It prevents aggregate from mixing with the soil below and facilitates better drainage over the long term. This is especially important in driveway applications.
When your base is down, grab a rake and make the surface flat and consistent. Your gravel should slope slightly away from the house, to draw surface water away when it rains or when show melts.
Pack it down
Compaction is important to avoid any movement down the road.
Chances are you don’t own a heavy plate tamper, but you can rent one from most tool rental outlets.
To get compaction right, you should run the tamper over your gravel in layers no greater than 4” at a time. The tamper can only compact to a shallow depth, and you don’t want layers of loose gravel between compact layers – again, that leads to uneven stones down the road.
The bedding layer
When your aggregate is compact, add the bedding sand in 1” of thickness across the surface.
Your bedding sand doesn’t require any compaction, as the pavers, when laid, embed in the sand. The sand fills in the gaps between pavers – locking them in place.
When your bedding is down, you can lay the pavers.
It’s a lot of labour, but doing it right means you will likely never experience uneven or settled pavers, and the look you want is the look you get.