Build a Patio or Walkway from Pavers
Add the crushed gravel to a minimum depth of 4 inches, 8 inches for heavy traffic areas. Smooth and level the gravel and compact it as well.
Building the Base
Once you’re satisfied with the excavation, add 4 inches of crushed gravel and smooth it down evenly with a hard rake. A rented concrete “puller” can also be used for this chore. The best choice in gravel is often called “road base.” It not only has the crushed stone, but fine dust from the crusher as well, and it compacts better than the cleaner gravel commonly used for concrete projects. The gravel should also be well compacted using a plate compactor.
Put the edging in place, permanently anchoring one or two sides, and temporarily anchoring the other sides.
Place the edging of your choice, temporarily bracing or anchoring with stakes. Then experiment with the pattern you’ve chosen, again temporarily laying bricks around the perimeter of the area. As you will find out, complex patterns such as herringbone will require you to cut a fairly large number of bricks. Once you’ve determined the desired pattern will fit the area, remove the bricks and anchor a portion of the edging in place. For a square patio this means two sides, leaving the other two sides to be temporarily edged but not anchored until completion of the bricklaying. This allows for any variance in the layout, which will occur. For walks and smaller areas, anchor one side but leave the opposite side temporarily anchored.
To create a leveling guide for the sand bed, first stake down the edging securely and then add screed guide rails against the edging. these can be 3/4″ x 1″ wooden strips or 1″ metal or plastic pipe. For wide areas, position the guides about 2-1/2′ apart.
For narrow areas such as a sidewalk, lay a piece of 1-inch pipe (plastic or metal plumbing) or 3/4-by-1-inch wood strips on either side next to the edging. This will be used to gauge the sand depth. For wider areas, place the sand gauge pieces 2-1/2 feet apart. Then pour or shovel the sand. Keep the sand moistened with a fine mist to help pack it down properly and prevent voids. Roughly rake the sand even with the tops of the gauge strips or pipes to an even depth of 1-to 1-1/2-inches. Then use the screed board, resting it on the screeding rails and using a sideways and pulling motion to level the sand to a 1-inch depth, even with the screeding rails. Remove the rails and fill the voids with sand, using a trowel to pack down the sand. Note that on sidewalks you may desire to create a slight crown, because the sand will shift down in the middle. After striking off the sand, lightly mist the sand bed again, then do not walk or disturb it.
Moisten the sand and keep it wet, applying it between the guide rails. Then use a wooden screed to drag the sand smooth and even with the tops of the rails. Remove the rails and fill in the voids with sand.
Laying the Brick
Now comes the fun part, laying the brick. Depending on the size of the project, this may take only a few hours or a few days. Unless you have a rainstorm, you can easily stop at any time during the project construction. In any case, make sure the sand base is well moistened and solid. Start at one corner where you have permanently anchored the edging; or, if joining to a house foundation, curb or other permanent edge, start at that point. Lay one square or run of brick adjacent to the two borders to set your pattern. Don’t tap or hammer the bricks in place, merely place them on the sand base. The bricks should fit fairly snugly with about 1/16- to 1/8-inch space between them. Recycled bricks are often more uneven than recently manufactured bricks. You may have to dig out or add a bit of sand to set them properly. Then continue repeating your pattern. Work from the brick side onto the sand. Don’t walk or disturb the sand base. If the sand base becomes disturbed, relevel with a broom or trowel. Use a carpenter’s level to make sure the surface is level as you work.
A string line across your working edge can help maintain a straight line. If your pattern wanders a bit, use a trowel or wide-blade putty knife to shift the bricks to make small adjustments. Small gaps between the bricks will be filled with sand.
Starting at one permanently anchored edge corner, lay the bricks in the pattern chosen.
Once you have all the full bricks laid, anchor the final edges and then cut the bricks needed to fill in around the edges. Make sure the cut bricks are no smaller than 2 inches in width. Bricks can be cut fairly easily with a brick hammer and chisel. Place the brick on a smooth, flat and solid surface. Wearing safety glasses and leather gloves, position the brick chisel on one face and tap to score the face. Turn the brick over, position the chisel in place and rap it sharply. The brick should break on the scored line, but this does take some practice.
Check that all bricks are level and positioned correctly, then sweep dry sand over the surface and into the cracks. Start at one corner and do a quarter section at a time, sweeping in all directions to completely fill the joints. Lightly hose the surface to further settle the sand and wash away excess. You may wish to use the compactor to further settle the bricks, but first add a layer of sand over the bricks to prevent damage to their surface from the compactor. The sand in the cracks will eventually settle and require additional sand.
Sweep dry sand into the cracks, and then moisten it to further settle it. After it settles, add more sand as needed.
The joints can be filled with mortar, but these joints will eventually crack as the sand and bricks settle. If you wish for a mortar-filled bed, apply a dry mix of one part cement to four parts sand. Apply this as a dry mix, packing it into the joints with a trowel. Then moisten the mortar with a fine mist spray from a garden hose. Do not use a high-pressure washer. Continue to dampen the surface over the course of several days, and to flush away excess mortar. The process will probably need to be repeated in a year or two.
You can restore an old concrete patio by laying bricks on a mortar bed.
One way of refurbishing an old concrete patio is to lay a brick pattern in a bed of mortar on the patio surface. Clean the old surface as much as possible, then prepare a standard mortar mix and spread a 1-inch thick coat. Lay the bricks in the mortar in the pattern chosen. Place mortar on the ends and one side, position in place and tap each brick firmly to avoid air pockets. Frost can cause the bricks to heave around air pockets. Leave about a 1/2-inch wide mortar joint between each brick. Use a level and long straight edge or 4-foot level to make sure the bricks are level with no low or high spots. Trowel the joints flush, or lightly tool them with a mason’s jointer.