What kind of base preparation is required for a paver walkway?

Creating a paver walkway can transform your outdoor space, providing both aesthetic appeal and functional pathways. However, the longevity and stability of a paver walkway largely depend on the quality of the base preparation. A well-prepared base ensures that the pavers remain level and secure for years to come, preventing issues such as shifting, sinking, and weed growth. In this blog post, Liberty Heritage Nursery Farm helps about the necessary steps and considerations for preparing the base for a paver walkway, ensuring a successful and durable installation.

Planning and Design

Before breaking ground, thorough planning and design are crucial. Start by sketching out the desired layout of your walkway, including any curves or intricate patterns. Consider the width of the walkway, which typically ranges from 3 to 4 feet for pedestrian paths. Measure the area accurately and mark the boundaries using stakes and string or spray paint. This initial planning phase helps you visualize the final outcome and calculate the amount of materials needed.

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Soil Assessment and Excavation

The first physical step in base preparation is assessing the soil. Different soil types (clay, sand, loam) have different drainage and stability characteristics. Conduct a soil test to determine its composition and drainage capabilities. Based on the results, you might need to improve drainage or reinforce the soil. Once the soil is assessed, excavation can begin. Excavate to a depth that accommodates the paver thickness, the bedding sand, and the base material, typically around 8 to 12 inches. Ensure the excavation is uniform and level to prevent any future settling issues.

Installing Edge Restraints

Edge restraints are crucial for maintaining the integrity and shape of the paver walkway. They prevent the pavers from shifting and help distribute loads evenly. Install the edge restraints along the perimeter of the excavated area, securing them firmly with stakes. The choice of edge restraint material (plastic, aluminum, or steel) will depend on the project’s budget and aesthetic preferences. Proper installation at this stage is critical as edge restraints provide the framework that supports the entire walkway.

Adding the Base Material

The base material, typically crushed stone or gravel, is the foundation of your paver walkway. Select a base material with angular edges to help it compact tightly and provide excellent stability. Commonly used materials include limestone or granite, and the ideal size ranges from 3/4 inch to 1 inch. Spread the base material evenly within the excavated area, ensuring a uniform thickness of about 4 to 6 inches. Compact the base material using a plate compactor in several passes, making sure each layer is thoroughly compacted before adding the next. Proper compaction is essential to prevent future settling and provide a solid foundation.

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Leveling and Slope Considerations

After compacting the base material, it’s crucial to ensure the base is level and properly sloped. A slight slope (approximately 1/4 inch per foot) should be maintained to facilitate water drainage away from structures and prevent pooling on the walkway. Use a level and a straightedge to check for any uneven spots and adjust accordingly. Consistent slope and level base preparation are essential for the longevity and functionality of the walkway, as improper drainage can lead to erosion and paver displacement.

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Installing the Bedding Sand

The bedding sand layer is the final component of the base preparation. Use coarse, well-graded sand such as concrete sand for this layer. Spread the sand evenly over the compacted base material to a thickness of about 1 inch. Screed the sand using a straightedge to achieve a smooth, level surface. Avoid walking on the screeded sand to prevent any disturbances before laying the pavers. The bedding sand provides a smooth surface for the pavers to rest on and allows for minor adjustments during installation, ensuring a tight and uniform fit.

Laying the Pavers

With the base properly prepared, you can begin laying the pavers. Start from one end of the walkway and work your way to the other, placing the pavers carefully on the screeded sand. Leave a small gap (about 1/8 inch) between each paver to allow for sand filling and paver movement. Use a rubber mallet to tap each paver into place, ensuring it sits flush with adjacent pavers. Continuously check the alignment and level of the pavers as you progress to maintain a consistent and professional look.

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Sand Filling and Compaction

Once all the pavers are laid, the next step is to fill the gaps between them with joint sand. Use fine, dry sand such as polymeric sand for this purpose. Spread the sand over the pavers and sweep it into the joints using a broom. Ensure the joints are filled completely and evenly. After filling the joints, use a plate compactor to compact the pavers and sand. The vibration from the compactor helps the sand settle into the joints, locking the pavers in place and providing additional stability. Add more sand if necessary and repeat the compaction process until the joints are fully filled and compacted.

Final Touches and Maintenance

After compacting the joint sand, remove any excess sand from the surface of the pavers. Check the entire walkway for any uneven spots or loose pavers and make necessary adjustments. Water the walkway lightly to help the sand settle and bind the pavers together. Regular maintenance, such as reapplying joint sand and cleaning the paver surface, will help preserve the walkway’s appearance and functionality. Additionally, inspect the walkway periodically for any signs of shifting or settling and address any issues promptly to maintain its integrity.


What is the base for paver walkway?

Don’t be tempted to lay pavers without a good base layer, as pavers laid straight on dirt or sand and dirt will move, stain and promote weeds. The Road Base or Crushed Rock you use should be well graded, with a spread of sizes from dust through to around 20-30mm so it locks in well.

How do you prepare the base for pavers?

Before you begin laying pavers, prepare the ground. Ensure you have a root and rubble free compatible sand sub-base of at least 50mm thick. The sub-base should be roughly levelled and damped down before tamping down firmly with a hand or mechanical compactor.

What is the foundation for a paver walkway?

A sand-set paver base is the traditional way to install pavers. This method uses a layer of sand as a bed between the base and pavers. After installing sand, the pavers are laid on top and pressed into place.

What is the base layer for pavers?

The base material usually consists of crushed rock, such as 3/4 minus gravel. The crushed rock has varying sized stones with sharp edges. The sharp edges and size variance makes for easy compaction. Using crushed gravel that has a little moisture in it, makes compacting much easier.

Do you put sand or gravel under pavers?

The principle to remember is this: your pavers are only as stable as the base they’re sitting on. That’s why you’ll need to lay a substantial gravel base on top of your dirt. Use road base gravel so that you get the right mix of fine and coarse aggregates for the best compaction.


Proper base preparation is the cornerstone of a successful paver walkway installation. By following these steps—planning and design, soil assessment and excavation, installing edge restraints, adding and compacting base material, ensuring proper leveling and slope, installing bedding sand, laying the pavers, and filling and compacting the joints—you can create a durable and aesthetically pleasing walkway that will stand the test of time. Attention to detail and thorough execution at each stage will result in a walkway that not only enhances the beauty of your outdoor space but also provides a reliable and long-lasting pathway.

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