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Installing Brick Paving

Brick paving is a common way to make a path or courtyard in a backyard. Fortunately, it can be done without any expensive machinery or equipment, especially if you are doing small areas at a time.

You will need:

  1. At least two stiff straight edges - can be star pickets, wooden stakes, reinforcing bars or similar. Star pickets or flat steel bars are easiest. Depending on the area to be paved, at least 1-2 m long

  2. One beam - can be a wooden or steel beam. Also depending on the area to be paved, 1-2 m long. About 50-100 mm wide allows efficient screeding (scraping the excess sand off the top). Stiffness helps but is not essential.

  3. If you are brick paving a large area, consider a water level.

  4. Consider geofabric if ants are a significant problem (not known to have been tested!)

  5. Builder's sand if it will be frequently trafficked or you otherwise wish to avoid settlement/movement - will need at least 30 mm over the area

  6. Brick pavers

  7. Dry sand

Preparing the Native Ground

Using the water level if necessary, add or remove native soil to the level you need. Make sure it is moist - if it is dry, you will need to wet it with a hose until it's moist and sticks together but not muddy. Remove excessive organic or soft material. If practical, consider the best time of year to do the brick paving.

Add the native soil so it's slightly heaped and consider compacting by stomping or hitting with a shovel. Allow for the thickness of the brick pavers and if necessary, 30 mm of builder's sand.

Preparing ground for a garden shed
Preparing the native ground for a garden shed. Note in the corner there was a wheelbarrow load of soft stuff (organic material) that got removed. Leaving it there would have led to settlement.

Preparing the Surface to Lay Bricks On

This is actually the part that requires the most attention. Improperly prepared ground will lead to settlement.

Add the builder's sand if you are using it. Make it heaped to allow for compacting.

Using the water level if necessary, set at least 2 straight edges where you wish to brick pave. They cannot be spaced wider than the beam you will use to screed. Allow for the thickness of the brick pavers. With concrete pavers, make sure your two straightedges are parallel or the pavers can wobble. Use a stiff, flat wooden board, water level or as a last resort the pavers themselves.

Compact the soil down by stomping on it, hitting with a shovel or other object or even beating with a gloved fist if easiest to do one brick at a time.

Using the beam, scrape over the top of the straightedges, giving you a flat surface.

Repeat the above process for large areas.

Screeding builders sand using star pickets
The left side was done, next was the right side

Lay Geotextile

If using geotextile, lay it now. You may need weights to stop it from blowing around.

Lay Pavers

If the soil dried out, re-wet it.

Considering the desired pattern and any constraints, place the pavers.

Concrete paving squares
Concrete pavers in action, brick pavers yet to be in action or chucked (that's Australian for disposed of)

Brick paving steps over many pipes
Lots of constraints can require a bit of creativity. Here, bedding sand went around the (low voltage!!) electrical conduit

Brick steps over many pipes
The completed brick steps. Earthy grey and a bit rough looking because that ain't the main walkway down there (it will be a garden)

Add Dry Sand

Sweep dry sand over the top. This will help them to lock in place. Consider a vibratory machine to bed the sand in.

For large gaps, consider concrete. However, if you're like me and want to try something quicker and cheaper, get some sieved limestone rocks 20 mm or bigger and push/whack them into the gap (if, of course, you have a gap that will fit them).

Limestone rocks to compact into a gap
Selection of limestone rocks to fill a gap. Trying to cut that broken paver to fit would have been a nightmare.

Get sieved limestone rocks 5-10 mm big and compact it in with a hammer or brick. We chose limestone rocks because they are easy to smash in (literally). Make it slightly heaped so that hopefully it won't get washed away by rainfall.

Compacted limestone in gap for brick paving
Voila! Let's see if it survives tomorrow's downpour!

Happy paving and happy treading on paving! 😃

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