Interlocking concrete pavers make it possible for even beginning do-it-yourselfers to construct patios and walkways. Concrete is more malleable than brick or stone, so it's easier to cut and fit.
For most projects, you need a 25-foot tape measure, a four-foot level to check that the pavers in each row are even, safety glasses, a spade to prepare the surface, canvas gloves, and a push broom to help you spread sand between the pavers.
Need to know: The number of pavers you need is dictated by your design, as is the number of edging pavers for the perimeter. Go to a home center and figure out how many pavers fit in one square foot; the staff can help you. Multiply that number of pavers by the total square footage of the space you'll be covering, then add 5 percent as a margin for error. Example: Four octagonal pavers equal one square foot. For a 100-square-foot patio, you need 400 pavers, plus 20 extras. To figure out how many edgers are needed, add up the lengths of the sides being edged and divide by the length of an edger. Again, get extra.
Getting started: For patios and walkways, you need to remove material, such as grass, to a depth that accommodates the gravel, the sand bed, and the thickness of the pavers. Excavate six inches wider on each side, to accommodate the edgers.
For the base of a 100-square-foot patio, lay down four inches of gravel, called aggregate, for drainage, and one inch of concrete sand. Cover with a layer of roofing paper or landscaping felt, to prevent weed growth. Then top with two more inches of concrete sand for the paver bedding. Calculate the amount needed by multiplying the required depth of each of these materials by the square footage of the project, plus 5 percent of the total. Gravel and bedding sand are sold by the ton; for 100 square feet, figure two tons of gravel and 11/2 tons of bedding sand. Filler sand is tougher to estimate; be ready to make a few trips to the store.
Don't do this: Don't try to prepare the surface and install the pavers in the same weekend; surface prep is too critical to rush through. For proper water runoff, a drop of one-quarter of an inch for every foot is recommended.
Bad advice: "Put the edge pavers in first, then lay the inside pavers." Instead, find the center of your workspace first, then lay the pavers out to the perimeter. That way, you make cuts where they butt up against the edge pavers.
Good advice: To cut pavers, use a rubber mallet and a cold chisel -- not a woodworking chisel -- made from high-carbon steel. Draw a line on the paver with a pencil, then make a scratch, known as scoring, with the edge of the chisel to get the cut started. Place the blade on the scratch mark and strike the chisel with the rubber mallet.
What it will cost: Interlocking concrete pavers cost 70 cents to $1 each, so if four make a square foot and your project is 100 square feet, the cost will be $280 to $400, excluding the 5 percent extra pavers. Edge pavers cost 70 cents to $1.50 each, so 54 for this project would be $39 to $81 (plus the extras). Base materials and filler-sand costs vary widely, as do the costs of delivery.