I am going to attempt to install pavers in my backyard. I would like
to have a fairly large patio (the length of my home and at least 12
feet out) plus a walkway in the side yard. I would like some advice
from someone who has taken on a project like this. I have heard it is
fairly simple, but backbreaking. Here are a few of the things I would
like to find out more about:
1. Is this REALLY a do-it-yourself project or is this the sort of
thing thats better left to a pro?
2. For such a large space, and limited amount of time (weekends),
would I (and 1 other person) be able to complete this in a few
weekends or is this the sort of project you have to finish right
3. Is it cost effective to do it myself? I plan on getting quotes
eventually, but am I going to end up saving a lot of money by doing it
myself or is it only marginally more expensive to hire a contractor to
That's a whole lotta dirt to move. Got any place on your lot to put it?
(6"x12'xhowever long your house is. Plus the walkway.)
Got anything to haul the pavers and the gravel or sand or whatever, for the
I would definitely recommend getting bids, for the dirt work, at least. A
bobcat makes short work of projects like this.
The bids I got here in NJ were shocking.
I did the patio myself and saved big bucks.
Also I think I enjoy the patio a LOT more than I would otherwise.
Depending on what you have to do it is really hard work.
I busted up the old concrete with an electric hammer.
That left bruises on my legs.
Had a hauling company remove the broken concrete.
Leveled the area with a shovel.
Also very hard work.
Brought in bag after bag of rock dust and sand,
more hard work.
Compacted the rock dust with a rented compactor,
not so hard.
Carted in the pavers and laid them,
not so hard.
Compacted once again.
At the time I was 57.
My back used to bother me all the time.
I even went to a couple of specialists about the pain.
I credit that project with curing me.
There's nothing like doing some hard work to get in shape.
So in one sense it was back-breaking hard but my back
used to hurt me. It doesn't anymore.
Here are some pictures and comments:
Thanks hallerb, Jake, mm, and everyone else in this thread.
This has to be one of the best Usenet threads I've seen in years.
I especially enjoyed all the pictures of the various projects.
I went to an orthopedist 20 years ago, when I was 40, about back pain.
He took x-rays and when they didnt' show anything abnormal, he seemed
to lose interest. I had to ask questions and I asked if it was my
bed. He didn't think so. My chair at work. Didn't think so. The
seat of my car. HDTS. It either was caused by joggging with really
cheap shoes (I was fooled by the tread that went up the back of the
heel), and took 4 years to heal, or it was caused by the car seat and
went away after months after I got a different car. The doctor had
had no suggestions, iirc.
I read that more than half of back pain can becured by exercising
either the belly or the back muscles, but I can't remember which.
I think it was the opposite of what one would expect, or at least what
I would expect, so I think that means the belly, like with situps.
Hard work tends to exercise a lot of muscles. Do you or anyone know or
have an opinion which muscles are the most important to exercise.
I hurt my back a little over two years ago**. It is still getting
better. I never get twinges anymore, and I only rarely get an ache by
standing too long. Part of that was losing 60 pounds, most of it in
my belly, but in case I can't find a big, hard-work project to do, it
would help to know whether I should concentrate on sit-ups, or find a
way to exercise the opposite (assuming what I read was right. It was
pretty convincing but I didn't have back pain then.)
**I kicked a 6"x6"(x4") piece of cement repeatedly to try to get it
into place. Didn't even succeed, but my back starting hurting the next
day. I though I was safe because I was sitting down and kicking with
my leg and not using my back, but I was wrong.
The notion that backs never heal is incorrect, but it can take years.
I did seven tons of flagstone with a friend.
Then I called the landscape people to do the pavers job.
If I had it to do over again, I'd do the pavers where the flagstone is, and
let the laborers do it.
It's stomach muscles. Or, more precisely, it's the other support
muscles that you work, when working on your stomach muscles.
But don't just start doing situps, or you're likely to make
matters worse. Bail on the orthopedidist, and find a physical
therapist who will help you set up a set of exercises, and
show you how to do them properly. Especially if you've already
had an injury. Even if you have to pay for it out of pocket.
Good advice. I have a friend who raves about a particular physical
therapist. I'll find out the name.
But while you are here, that brings up another question. Whenever i
see people do exercises on tv, they are always puny exerises these
days. Sit-ups where they never go down all the way to the floor, OR,
they never go up from the floor more than a little bit. Push-ups
where they keep their knees on the floor.
Are these exercises for people so far out of shape that they can't do
a real sit-up or push-up, ala the 1960's, OR have experts actually
decided that this style is safer, and that the "traditional" style was
more likely to cause injuries?
How much is your time worth?
What you want to do is not rocket surgery. Take out the dirt, fill with
appropriate sand, compact and make it to grade, and slam in the pavers. How
hard can it be?
It is not hard mentally. It is hard physically.
I just had about 600 sf done at my house. They were ghosts. In, out, gone.
They had so many tricks. They made it look easy. Yet, there were eight
laborers running around, all knowing what to do. They were here a few days,
bing, bang, boom............. and then they were gone.
If you want to drag something out for three months and do it yourself,
that's up to you. But, when you figure how many hours you will take to do
it, and multiply that by what you think you're worth, it's cheaper to get a
pro to do it.
Unless you are young and full of strength and energy. But, when you figure
the hours and your rate per hour, you'll see it ain't no bargain. Yes, you
have no labor cost outlay, but what are you worth.
I commonly make $50 to $200 per hour or more for what I do when I choose to
Why would I want to do that hard stuff when I can hire someone and pay them
$10 an hour to do it?
You have to do your own math.
You can do it in a few weekends with a helper, most stages it can be left
with no trouble, but you will work hard, moving dirt, sand, stone and pavers
is a lot harder than it seems at first glance. But as long as your healthy
and don't mind getting a good workout, and you can follow some simple
directions which you find online or in a book, a nice patio is definitely a
good home owner project. Once it's done you WILL enjoy it all the more for
having done it yourself.
I'm happy with the deck and patio I built last year... you can see them here
if your curious, when I started this was just grass and a 30 inch normal
door from the kitchen with a set of iron stairs leading down to the yard.
I used some really large simulated slate pavers ( 18 inches), they are
unusual and I never have seen them other than in the store I bought them
from but I really liked them so I went with it, and I'm glad I did.
The combined project did take quite a few weekends, I forget how many, but
it was well worth it.
"Jake" < firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote in message
I have a 13' x 60' area planned by the end of summer. All done by me.
The kids didn't even help!! Pick, shovel, wheel barrel and a pair of
Take your time. The only rush I had was to get the rental compactor
back to the store.
I think that I estimated that doing cement myself would have been
cheaper, but that was too back breaking and I had no one to help. So
the slightly extra cost of the pavers was worth it.
My procedure, less the cement work, was to dig down 7". Lay 4" of Class
II base. Compact. Screed a layer of paver sand ( high.) Set pavers.
Compact. Cover pavers with sand. Compact. Sweep off sand. Enjoy look
of new paver driveway!
If you haven't done this before, I personally wouldn't start with this
big of a project. One aspect that has already been mentioned is the
large volume of materials that needs to be moved, leveled, removed,
etc. Maybe more importantly, is the experience factor. It's been
pointed out that this isn't rocket science, which is true. But, on
any job I've done, I know I could do it better, faster, etc the second
or third time. Experience does help in how things come out. And
there is a lot we don't know. For example, doing a simple square
area, with no constraints is one thing. Having to cut pavers to fit
around or joining various existing surfaces, like walkways, pool deck,
etc, is another.
If you decide to DIY, maybe there is a smaller sub area you could
start with, that is less critical. And if you get it done
professionally, make sure you see some of their existing work and
You can do it yourself! I think you will feel better about when finished if
you do it yourself.
Absolutely two people could do it in 2 - 3 weekends (excluding excavation.)
Parts of the job need to be finished quickly once started: Base rock should
be delivered and spread out before getting rained on. The base layer of
sand should not be disturbed once you start leveling it for pavers.
You will save money if you do it yourself. It really depends if you are the
DIY type or not. If you hire someone to do it be sure to get referrals. If
seen some crappy paver jobs: uneven patios, weeds growing betwen pavers,
Most of your time will be prepping the area... excavation, etc.
Do you need to run drainage or conduit under the patio?
If you do it right you will be very satisfied with your patio. Do it wrong
and you'll hate it.
Here are the step to doing a good job:
- Excavate - Usually 7-8"
- Use about 4 inches (after compacted) of base rock (3/4-) - this is your
foundation and allows drainage
- Install borders at unbordered edges
- Use about 1 inch of leveled sand - 1" PVC pipes and a 2x4 works well
- Set pavers
- Spread masons sand or equivilent
- Compact pavers - this locks them in place and evens out everything.
- Seal pavers and joints - usually expensive, but a quality sealer will keep
the weeds away.
Here's a link to my backyard paver project:
Does your town have a section for day laborers? Many of them are
experienced in landscaping, and might be highly experienced at the job.
The only thing I noticed that was even slightly technical was the placing of
the lines to get the final sand to grade. They drove stakes, stretched
lines, put in the dirt, and compacted it until it came to the strings. Not
difficult, but I wouldn't have come up with the idea.
And while you have them there, have them slam in the pavers, too.
But, GET THE SAND AND GRADES RIGHT! That's exactly what you will see when
the pavers go down, and you'll see every bump and swale.
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