Installing the Proper Base for Concrete or Porcelain Paver Projects

As the saying goes, if you want something to last, be sure to start with a solid foundation. This definitely holds true for paver patios, walkways and driveways. We’ve all seen paver installations that are uneven and cracking. In most cases, the fault lies with an improperly installed base. Although soil conditions can certainly be a factor, the information below can help those do-it-yourselfers looking for insight on installing concrete or porcelain paver installations that can remain beautiful for years to come.

Standard Concrete Paver Base Installation

Step 1 – Excavation:  Excavate all the topsoil off the area where the project will be installed.  It’s imperative to dig down to the clay or subsoil.  If the subsoil in your project area has recently been filled (i.e. as a result of new construction), it’s a good idea to compact it with a large walk-behind compactor before adding the gravel.  Otherwise, if it hasn’t recently been filled or disturbed, you can begin adding the aggregate layer. When calculating the depth of the excavation, you will need to add the thickness of the paver itself, 1” of bedding sand, and the necessary gravel recommended for the type of project you are installing.

Step 2 – Aggregate Layer:  Typically, this layer consists of crushed gravel that will vary in size from  3/4” down to dust. For walkways and patios, you will need to add 4-6” of this material. For driveways, you will add 8-12”.  If you have heavy clay subsoil, it’s also a good idea to add a geotextile underlayment. This woven layer of fabric will prevent aggregate from mixing with the soil below. This is especially important in driveway applications. In colder climates, it may be necessary to add more aggregate base material to allow for the freeze/thaw conditions present there. It doesn’t hurt to add more base material if you are unsure. Once the material has been placed, you will want to rake it off evenly.  It’s critical at this phase that the gravel be pitched away from the house to allow for water runoff.  Typically that slope will be between 1/8” and 1/4” of drop per linear foot (or more for driveways, depending on the location).

Step 3 – Compaction:  For this, you will need to rent a plate compactor with a minimum of 5,000 lbs. of force.  Most local rental companies will carry this piece of equipment.  Ideally you will want to compact in lifts (layers of gravel) no greater than 4”-6” at a time.  Doing more than that will result in an improperly compacted base.

Step 4 – Bedding Layer:  Next, you will add and level 1” of bedding sand.  The easiest way to level the sand is to purchase two pieces of 1” metal or plastic electrical pipe conduit.  Place the two pieces of conduit down, and using a 2 x 4 board, screed the sand smooth.  Keep moving the tubes down as you go, making sure to fill the voids where the tubes were by smoothing the surface with a trowel.  You are now ready to lay the pavers.

For additional or site-specific design, consult your local Belgard representative or a civil/geotechnical engineer experienced with flexible segmental pavement design.

 

Overlays – Installing Pavers over Existing Concrete

Thin concrete pavers or Belgard Porcelain Pavers may be placed over an existing concrete slab or a new concrete slab (4,000 psi  and 4” thickness minimum) on a sand or DriBond setting bed. DriBond will actually adhere the pavers directly to the concrete slab, similar to how thinset adhesive works for tile. It goes on as a thin dry powder (3/8” thick max). Once the pavers are installed, simply soak the pavers with water to activate it. If just using sand, you will want to install an edging restraint as shown in the above diagram.  Prior to installation, verify that the distance from the top of slab to the doorsill will accommodate the proposed paver and setting bed thickness. If the concrete won’t allow for the thickness of the new overlay material, many rental companies will rent small grinding equipment. As long as you are left with a minimum of 4”, you can remove some of the top layer of the existing concrete. The other option would be to cut and remove the concrete near the transition and re-pour it at a lower height. If the site is located in a freeze-thaw zone, consider any heave movement in your height calculation. Thickness of the concrete slab should be 4”-6” with consideration given to heavier loading (RV, travel trailers, trucks, etc.) to determine the correct depth of concrete base and any internal reinforcement.

For additional or site-specific design, consult your local Belgard representative or a civil/geotechnical engineer experienced with rigid segmental pavement design.

Optional Bases for Porcelain Pavers

Porcelain pavers have the option to be installed over a standard base, permeable base, sand, grass, concrete or pedestals. For additional information on installation of porcelain pavers on these various bases, and for special instructions regarding accommodating vehicular loads, download the Belgard Porcelain Paver Installation Guide.

Trends in Outdoor Tech

Folks today expect all of the same modern conveniences in their outdoor rooms they have come to rely upon inside of the home. It’s no surprise that a recent national survey of landscape architects revealed wireless connectivity and outdoor stereo systems in the “must have” list for outdoor living designs this year. And it’s also no surprise that outdoor-rated tech is beginning to flood the market. Here are some of our favorites:

speakersRockustics Speakers

With unidirectional speakers, omni-directional speakers, and subwoofers in a variety of styles that look like rocks, planters, and even stone or brick walls, these outdoor speakers can create the perfect sound while seamlessly blending in with your outdoor living design. By placing speakers and dimmer switches throughout your outdoor living area, you can create a balanced level of sound that won’t result in late night phone calls from the neighbors. And, your guests will be entertained just trying to figure out where the music is coming fun. Rockustic also has a couple of lines of traditional mounted speakers, but what fun is that?

waterproof-remoteCrestron Waterproof Remote

Compatible with a variety of home automation system gateways and IR-receivers, this rechargeable “remote on a rope” comes with a charging station and is even safe to use in the hot tub. With several weeks of wireless use per charge, you can control lighting, music, TV and more with ease…and without worrying about wet hands or the battery corrosion that can happen when you leave a remote outdoors.

projectoscreenVisual Apex Screen and LG Wireless Projector

Only 28 pounds, washable, mildew-resistant, flame-retardant, and easy to hang or setup on a stand, the 120″ Visual Apex ProjectoScreen HD is portable and can instantly convert your backyard into an outdoor movie theater. The LG MiniBeam PH550 720p projector holds a charge for up to 2.5 hours and wirelessly connects to Apple or Android devices. Throw some pizzas on the grill, and you’re ready for an unforgettable move night.

wifi-repeater2Ubiquiti Outdoor Wi-Fi Repeater

Unfortunately, kids these days can’t go 32 seconds without an internet connection. If you want to keep them from burning through your monthly data this summer, better get one of these bad boys. Able to withstand wind, rain and snow, simply plug the Ubiquiti UniFi Wireless-N Outdoor Access Point into an external outlet, connect it via your computer to your indoor wi-fi router, and extend your network up to 600 feet. Problem solved.

DIY Project:
How to Build a Block Column

TOOL LIST:

  • Hand tamper
  • Level
  • Rubber mallet
  • Tape measure
  • Caulk gun
  • Spade shovel
  • Stiff metal rake (for leveling gravel)
  • Yard stick or 2×4 board (for screeding sand)

MATERIALS LIST:

  • Wall blocks (quantity depends on height, will need 4 rectangular blocks per layer)
  • 20″ wall cap (if desired) or 6 additional wall blocks for cap
  • Crushed gravel
  • Bedding sand
  • Masonry adhesive

STEP 1: Prepare Base

  • Remove 6 inches of top soil (approximately 2’x2′ section)
  • Fill with 5 inches gravel, level with a rake and compact with a hand tamper
  • Top with 1 inch of sand, screed to level

STEP 2: Column Construction

  • Lay base blocks
  • Apply a layer of adhesive
  • Lay next layer of blocks and adjust placement with a rubber mallet, as needed
  • Apply a layer of adhesive
  • NOTE: Use a staggered pattern to increase column strength (see video)

STEP 3: Add Layers

  • Repeat STEP 2 until you reach desired height (maximum height 42 inches)
  • Add final layer of adhesive to the top of the stack

STEP 4: Column Cap

  • Option1: Position 6 blocks horizontally as a cap
  • Option 2: Top with a single 20″ square wall cap

Spring Paver Maintenance Tips

Pavers: Dublin Cobble
Pavers: Dublin Cobble®

Mother Nature can be cruel. If you have chosen Belgard for your hardscape projects, you’ve already taken measures to increase resistance against weathering and corrosion. Still, seasonal hardscape maintenance is encouraged to preserve the beauty and integrity of your installation. Here are a few Spring paver care tips.

General maintenance

  • Clean your pavers each Spring with a coarse-bristle “stable” broom and a routine maintenance paver cleaner to keep them looking like new.
  • Some weeds, if left unaddressed, can shift pavers apart over time. Be sure to periodically apply a granular weed preventative between joints as a part of your paver maintenance routine.
  • Be careful when cleaning your Belgard pavers with power washers as they can remove the paver finish and expose the aggregate on the paver’s surface.

Cleaning

  • Before applying any paver cleaning solution to your hardscape, test a small inconspicuous area first to be sure you get the desired results.
  • Be sure to read and follow the directions printed on container labels for cleaning solution use, application, precautions and first aid. Always rinse the solution off thoroughly after use.
  • For tough stains, use a specialized cleaner to treat the specific stain. Techniseal offers specialty cleaners for organic stains (moss, mildew, dead leaves, blood, wine); greasy stains (motor oil, barbecue, oily foods); rust (caused by steel, rusty objects or fertilizer); and paint, tar or rubber (including gum). Each of these products are specifically formulated to clean pavers and masonry and should not affect the color or tone of your hardscapes. However, it is always a good idea to test a small area area first.

Protecting

  • The joints between paving stones are the most vulnerable areas of any installation. Keep these joints topped off with jointing sand to prevent the sand-bedding layer below from deteriorating, causing the pavers to shift.
  • Every three years, apply a sealer to keep your pavers looking their best. Depending upon your preference, sealer options can offer a natural matte finish, a color-boosted matte finish, a clear semi-gloss look, or a wet-look gloss finish. Sealers should not be applied more than once in three years. Too many applications will create a film on the surface which may discolor in sunlight. You can easily test whether your pavers are ready to resealed by dripping some water on your pavers. If the water initially beads, your pavers are still protected. If the water immediately soaks in, it’s probably time.
  • For older pavers that have suffered from weathering and neglect, bring back the original shade of pavers or give them new color with NuLook Tinted Sealant, which is a semi-transparent semi-gloss sealer designed to rejuvenate faded pavers. NuLook comes in four different shades to bring new life to pavers or create interesting designs. Watch the amazing transformation in the video below.

Tips for Choosing a Hardscape Contractor

In many areas of the country, spring has already sprung. Even those still battling icy conditions can tell that it’s just around the corner. Time to get your outdoor living spaces ready for company! If you’re considering an outdoor living makeover, there are a number of factors to consider in choosing the right contractor. Get some tips on making the right choice for your project.

WHAT’S THE ADVANTAGE TO CHOOSING A BELGARD AUTHORIZED CONTRACTOR?

We take the Belgard name very seriously and hold contractors to rigorous standards. When you choose a Belgard Authorized Contractor, you can trust that the contractor is an experienced professional who is certified in hardscape installation techniques and is properly licensed and insured. By visiting our locator web page at www.Belgard.com/locator, you can find Belgard Authorized Contractors and Dealers near your zip code location and can even narrow your search by distance or by types of services offered. If your contractor is not Belgard Authorized, be sure to ask which certifications your contractor carries and whether he or she is a member of their local landscape association. This will at least be a good sign that they are committed to education and are up on the latest trends.

SHOULD I ASK TO SEE REFERENCES OR EXAMPLES OF PAST PROJECTS?

Absolutely! Ask to see photos of past projects both for design ideas and to get a sense of the contractor’s level of creativity and expertise. Even better, you may want to get an address or two and check out the workmanship up close. You will, of course, need the property owner’s permission first. But don’t be afraid to call the contractor’s references and ask tough questions about work ethic and accountability. At the very least, be sure to check out the contractor’s website for testimonials and project photos. In this day and age, there is no excuse to not have a good website that represents your business.  If the website is dated, that’s a good indication that the contractor is not overly focused on the details of running a great business.

design-studio WHAT SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT THE DESIGN PROCESS?

The more complex the project, the more important the design process. While it might not be necessary to see a design rendering on a simple patio, an outdoor kitchen or multi-level terrace is a different story. A design sketch or rendering will ensure that you and your contractor are both on the same page, reducing the chance of miscommunication. Belgard Authorized Contractors have access to 3-D renderings with fly-through animation through the Belgard Design Studio, which will give you a realistic vision of your future space, including furniture placement and how hardscaped areas will look with your existing home, exterior structures and landscaping. Be sure to ask if your contractor charges a fee for design and consultation. Depending on the size of the job, some contractors do charge a fee; however, this should be perceived as a good sign and indicates they have the experience and reputation to justify this expense. These fees are almost always deducted from the final cost of the job, but be sure and clarify that upfront.

 WHAT ELSE SHOULD I ASK A POTENTIAL CONTRACTOR?

  • Will their team manage aspects like landscaping, plumbing, irrigation and lighting – or will you be expected to handle this separately?
  • What’s the estimated start date and turn-around time?
  • What are the payment terms and options? Belgard Authorized Contractors also have access to the Belgard Preferred Payment same-as-cash financing program, which could help you build sooner or expand the scope of your project without overtaxing your financial resources.

Decorative Ways to Enjoy Your Outdoor Space in Colder Months

Just because the temperature has dropped doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the outdoors. There are a number of decorative ways to keep your outdoor spaces livable during the winter months that add both ambiance and warmth.

Fire Features

Fire pitarbel_stone_urbana_stone_aqua_rock_horz_1_rt-newedits are currently one of the top must-haves in outdoor living, and with good reason. They easily fit into any outdoor living design and provide a spot for groups of any age to gather and enjoy the outdoors. Whether roasting hot dogs or s’mores, sharing a bottle of wine, or just having a cup of hot cocoa, everyone loves sitting around the fire pit. For design tips and trends, check out our fire pit design blog.

Outdoor fireplaces make a dramatic statement and become the focal point of your outdoor living design. Not only will it add physical warmth to your outdoor living space, it will become the favorite spot for enjoying a glass of wine or an intimate conversation. When designing your outdoor living space, remember that gas fireplaces can be placed just about anywhere, but a wood-burning version will likely need to be 10 or more feet from any structure.

Gas fire tables also make an excellent gathering spot and typically either emulate the look of a coffee table or a high-top bar. There are endless varieties available for purchase from retail outlets. However, a built-in fire table constructed with Belgard wall products will be much more durable and will actually add to the value of your home.

Decorative Heaters

tabletop1Tabletop propane heaters come in a number of sizes and decorative styles and are available from various hardware stores and online retail outlets. They typically heat a 5-foot radius and operate off of 1-pound propane cylinders that can be found at just about any hardware, sporting goods, or camping supply store. Although it will vary by heater, each cylinder only lasts a few hours, so it might be a good idea to buy cylinders in bulk to get you through the season.

Full-size propane heaters also come in a number of decorative styles. With higher heat output than the tabletop versions, they heat a wider radius (6-7 feet) and operate off of a standard refillable propane tank. Be wary of operating taller units under a porch, which could potentially cause heat damage to the porch ceiling. One way to help alleviate this possibility is to run nearby ceiling fans in “reverse” mode while heaters are in operation, which will disperse the rising heat without blowing cold air onto guests.

lamp3Endless Summer offers a line of electric patio lamp-style heaters that come in both tabletop and floor models and are available from a variety of retailers, including Home Depot, Lowe’s and Amazon. Each heater looks like a standard lamp, but actually functions as both a lamp and a heater, offering a soft glow and heating up to 144 square feet, depending upon the model. The only drawback is that an outlet needs to be nearby.

hanging3Decorative hanging heaters are a more permanent option and are available in natural gas and infrared (electric) models. Both can be designed to operate from a wall switch and will heat a large area, approximately 10 feet in diameter, depending upon the model.

Homey Accessories

Adding retractable solar shades to a porch will not only provide protection from the glaring sun in summer months, they can also help keep you warm in the winter by blocking the wind and helping to hold in any ambient warmth created by area heaters.

Comfy throws not only add a cozy look to your outdoor space, they provide that extra layer that some folks need to keep warm. Decorative outdoor bins can be a good place to store throws; however, you may want to choose an easy-to-carry basket that can be stored indoors when not in use, which will keep your throws free of unwanted critters.