How To Install A Paver Patio {The Foundation of My Raised Garden Beds}

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We did something extremely insane. It didn’t start out insane, but everything just spiraled out of control once the ball got rolling. First, we were just going to add a third raised box this year – easy enough, right? Then we discovered the wood surrounding our main box was rotting, so we were going to re-do that one and still add the third. We were just going to do what we always did and put the paver stones around the garden, but we realized that was actually contributing to the wood rot.

So we did what made sense (to only us), and decided to lay paver stones under the entire 3 raised garden beds and RE-DO EVERYTHING. Not only would it give our raised beds a nice foundation, but it would also give a buffer between the grass and the garden – mowing next to the garden was always a little awkward, especially when big tomato plants hang over the back side between the fence and the garden.

What started as a simple project of putting some new garden boxes down suddenly became infinitely more complicated, especially for two people who don’t always love DIY. We were determined though, we love our garden and our backyard and the time spent with family.

We googled laying paver stones, put our notes together and came up with a plan. Here is what we learned and tried and it worked! We did it in three phases.

Step 1 – Mark Perimeter

We used garden stakes and gift wrap ribbon to mark the corners and sides of the garden. This helped us as we were preparing the ground and laying bricks to know we weren’t going at a weird angle. We measured the distance from the fence and then the distance of each side to make sure we created an equal rectangle. We also used a square to make sure the corners were good.

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Step 2 – Prep The Ground

Dig up grass and dirt to get a few inches under where the bottoms of the pavers will rest. This takes time and some muscle. I think I gained some muscles while I helped my husband who was most of the muscle for this part. My shoveling was sloppy and his was always so uniform and pretty. He said that my shoveling effort still helped him, so I call that a personal win.

Before:

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During Ground-Prep:

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Step 3 – Setup Electrical Conduits For Sand Smoothing

Another thing I learned during this process is what an electrical conduit is and that they are only about $2 each! I was nervous when I saw them used in a tutorial we liked that they were going to be expensive additions to an already expensive project (200+ pavers at $1.19-$1.46 a piece aren’t cheap!), but was relieved to see the conduits actual price.

The electrical conduits provide a scraping surface for two ends of a two-by-four to slide along so that the sand can be flattened in between. The trickiest part was getting the conduits setup in the right place. You want their tops to be equal to where the bottoms of the pavers will be and if the ground needs to slope, use a level to make sure it slopes evenly along the conduit. We used rocks and dirt to adjust the ends of the conduits. We placed our two-by-four on the conduits and then put the level on the two-by-four. As we slid the two-by-four along, the level stayed the same and we knew we were ready for the next step.

I think pictures will really help if you are totally confused by that description. Look at the picture below and see the metal things on both sides of the garden? Those are electrical conduits – read the next few steps and the details will become more clear.

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Step 4 – Poor Foundation Rocks

The bag of foundation rocks says right on the package how much you’ll need for the specific size of your garden and how much space you’re trying to fill.

We poured the rocks all over the bottom and spread them out.

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We kept checking the levels as we added rocks and such in case the electrical conduits got messed up.

Step 5 – Tamper The Ground

Truthfully, we did our garden in thirds and we forgot to do this for our last third, but it still turned out fine … so I’m going to call this step optional. Now you know! Our mistake is your time saver.

Just kidding, definitely tamper if you can! It helps the sand smooth over the top so much easier if the rocks are pushed into the ground below. I ended up tampering the last quarter as my husband worked his way back just because rocks kept sticking up into the sand making it take longer to smooth for him (next step).

Side note – I learned what a tamper was! Go me! And if you didn’t know what one was, now you do – it’s the yard tool with a square on the bottom. You pick it up and bang the ground to try to flatten it out.

{See the picture of the tamper in Step 3.}

Step 6 – Add Sand And Smooth

You want to be careful not to work yourself into a corner here because once you flatten the sand, you want to avoid stepping in it.

Of course, if you have children who step in it … you could use a small shovel and flatten that area out by hand (not that I know from personal experience or anything – cough, cough – those may look like 3 year old boy feet, just a guess).

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We poured out the sand a little at a time right in front of where we were about to smooth and then drug the two-by-four down the electrical conduits. The result is a very smooth top layer of sand.

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Step 7 – Lay The Paver Patio Stones

First of all – remove the electrical conduits! You can use a small shovel and the bag of sand to fill in the hole left behind by the bag as you lay down stones.

Laying the pavers was very easy for us since were just doing a square pattern. If you do anything fancy, you may need to use a stone cutting saw to do edge cuts. We just laid them down one at a time – easy peasy.

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And it is okay to stop in the middle of it and order pizza. It’s been a long day and you’ve worked hard. Plus, your kids are “starving”.

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Step 8 – Brush Sand On Top

The next step is brushing sand into all of the cracks with a push broom. For this I let my littlest kids get a head start. I guess my 3 year old was sick of his broom and was trying to push the sand in the cracks with his hands? A second after I took this picture he started throwing the sand, so this picture seems falsely tame to me.

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Eventually after my water break I took back over the sweeping duties.

Note: If your push broom stops brushing well, shake out the rocks that are stuck inside!

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It was exhausting but feels so good to see the hard work pay off.

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That’s it for the pavers – now to add the garden!

Do you want to hear more about my garden adventures? My Planters Refresh and Hydrangea Propagation post from earlier this week and now my garden pavers are just the tip of the iceberg!

Happy gardening!

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6 thoughts on “How To Install A Paver Patio {The Foundation of My Raised Garden Beds}

  1. Looks so good! Actually tamping is not optional. The ground can and will sink in spots over the years if you don’t tampen it. So all that hard work to make it level could end up useless. I need to pull up a paver patio that someone else did because it is so wavy and sunken in. Fun times ahead!

  2. Great tutorial Mary! I have patio pavers waiting for a walkway around our pool…this a timely posting. We just had a DIY deck step replacement project last month…it cost $3000…ended up replacing the whole deck! Crazy, right?!

    1. Oh my goodness – yes, I know about projects suddenly escalating to a little bit more expensive than planned! I bet the deck is beautiful though, right?!

  3. Thank you for this awesome article about how to install a paving stone patio. I love how you gave the steps in a list. This makes the process simple and clear. Now I know that I need to start my project with marking the perimeter.

Leave a comment! I love to hear what you think!