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Basics of Paver Designs

paver design basics

The basics of designing a paver project will get you far in understanding how you can transform a regular outdoor space into a unique outdoor living space with a variety of color blends, textures, shapes, and sizes included in it. It is also what makes pavers the best possible pavement solution for outdoor spaces. The customization possibilities are endless and the industry continues to embrace those possibilities.

Paver Block Design

When it comes to using pavers to improve your outdoor space, there are basics you should know when it comes to ensuring that it looks the best that it could possibly be. With so many possibilities available for us to express our creativity in any space thanks to a wide range of shapes, sizes, color blends, and textures that are on the market, there is an endless amount of possibilities for creating a unique space for any paver project. Regardless of the possibilities, there are fundamentals that we need to follow to ensure the best possible installation.

The first and most important aspect of a project is deciding on the paver itself. If you are designing a driveway, you will require a paver that is rated for vehicular traffic. This requires a certain aspect ratio between the length and thickness of a paver. The longer the paver, the more thickness it requires in order to bear the load that will be placed onto it.

When it comes to pedestrian traffic, you will have a wide variety of products to choose from including pavers and slabs. However when combining a variety of products on any project, you will need to consider the thickness of these products. You can use a variety of thicknesses on a project, but this will add to the process and the time required to install.

It is easier to do this if the thicker paver is laid initially. The less thick paver can either be cut in afterwards or be placed by then building up the area with further bedding material and leveling the pavers in place. The more difficult method of doing this would be laying the less thick pavers first and then having to scrap away some of the bedding material in order to level the thicker paver in place. Either way, the easiest is to lay pavers and slabs of the same thickness on every project if possible.

There are also products that lend themselves to more modern designs and those that lean more towards a traditional design which can also be paired with modern and traditional laying patterns. Modern is typically paired with larger format slabs, smooth textures, and / or shapes that are beyond the typical square and rectangular shapes. Traditional is typically paired with smaller format pavers, textured surfaces mimicking natural stone, and / or regular shapes.


Paver Borders: Soldier vs Sailor Course

A border plays an important role in any paver project especially in projects with curves that have cuts. It will provide a full stone that will have an edge restraint retaining it while keeping any cut pieces from slipping off the paver field from the load that it will bear. A border can separate spaces when combining multiple products into the same project. Borders can contrast the field of the paver surface with a darker color or be more subtle by matching the same color of the field. Typically with multi size pavers of the same line, you are able to purchase single units of the smallest size in that line to be used as the border. There are also some pavers that work almost exclusively as border pavers. Borders can also make it much easier to complete your cuts.

For example, take this project for example. In this specific project the client specified that they did not want a border stone because they wanted that live edge that the stone already provides to show. However, this made our job slightly more difficult with cutting the stones around the curved seat wall. Each stone had to be measured, picked up, and cut individually.

If we had a border stone we could have just placed the border stone on top of the pavers, drew our line, and made the cut with the pavers in place. This saves a significant amount of time for cutting in our border, especially for curved projects. It does increase the amount of waste that is created slightly for the project which needs to be accounted for when quoting.

A project that does not have curves does not necessarily require a border.

Or in a raised patio application, the caps of the retaining wall can act as the border stone.

Or you can opt for a subtle border by matching the same color of the field.

Hardscaping Interlock Front Walkway

When installing along a fence line or other surface that should not act as a solid edge restraint for the pavers, you can also use a decorative aggregate as the border while also hiding the edge restraint that is retaining the pavers.

There are two borders that you can lay and a combination of the same: soldier and sailor courses. A soldier course is when he long sides of the border pavers are touching one another. This typically takes up more space than that of the sailor course and is perfect for larger projects. It can also be combined with a sailor course immediately afterwards to create an inlay.

A sailor course is when the short sides of the border paver are touching one another. This is perfect for smaller projects, especially walkways, so that the border does not take up a significant portion of the field. A sailor can also be doubled to provide a little bit thicker of a border if the project allows for it.


Paver Inlays

Inlays are further designs that are within the paver field and stand out beyond the border stones of a project. This could be as simple as a band of pavers before / after the border stone or as intricate as a diamond within the paver field to add some uniqueness to the project. In this example, the border stone is the same product as the field laid in a sailor course with an inlay that contrasts that color also laid in a sailor course.


Designing a Paver Patio and Driveway

Paver patios and driveways offer a significant number of design possibilities combining product lines, textures, and color blends all into one. The possibilities are endless with these types of projects. Driveways are easy to design when it comes to slope because you have a starting point and an ending point. The customization comes with what you decide to do with the surface of the pavement or how the front entrance will tie into the design.

A patio provides numerous design concepts and possibilities depending on the features that can be included into a design and the slope of the yard. Different areas can be designated with different product lines, shapes, or color blends. For example, a fire pit area can be separated by a border stone with a transition to a different product line than the adjacent area to create two different spaces. Also, depending on the slope of the property, spaces can be separated with elevations creating raised patios stepping to other patios.


Designing a Paver Walkway

When it comes to designing a walkway, the most important aspects are creating large entry and exit points in them and not installing a border that significantly reduces the size of that walkway. Installing a walkway to border ratio at most 3:1 will ensure a proper amount of walkway while complimenting it with a border. With that ratio a walkway that is 3′ wide total (border to border), the border should not be any larger than 6″ on one side making both sides measuring 12″.

Beyond the design, the walkway also needs to be functional. You will need to measure the slope of the space to ensure that the walkway is not too steep for those that will be using it. For a walkway construction, you have a starting point and an ending point. From there you need to understand whether or not you will need to incorporate any steps into the design that will get you to a certain elevation from the starting point. These steps can be broken up throughout the walkway or condensed at one point in the walkway. Unless you are willing to regrade a property, the slope of the existing grade will dictate what your walkway will look like when it comes to how many steps will be required.


Paver Design Trends

Traditionally, pavers were smaller in size and very basic in terms of their shape. However, with more competition entering the market of manufacturers pushing the boundaries, pavers are evolving and slabs have taken market share. Slabs are larger format in comparison to pavers providing a more modern appeal. Combine that with smooth textures and you get the perfect modern appeal to compliment a house. Along with that, new shapes including hexagons, triangles, and diamonds continue to enter the market to provide an endless amount of design possibilities. Typically a manufacturer will make their pavers and / or slabs modular, allowing you to combine numerous products into one space seamlessly.

In addition to shapes and sizes, so to do color blends continue to change. To get even more unique, the field of the paver project can include multiple color blends rather than just sticking to one color blend line in a product further increasing the uniqueness of a project. The design possibilities are endless for any paver project.

With this never ending amount of shapes, sizes, and color blends coming into the market, it is always best practice to leave your client with some remaining pieces of each product that was installed on their project. This ensures that if there are one or two pieces that crack, chip, or break, you will have the pieces there to replace them. This is because every year there are product lines or color blends that become discontinued by the manufacturer and are difficult to find in the following years after installation.

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