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Using Paver Base Panels: Synthetic Base for Hardscapers


There are always new and exciting things happening within our industry. Being able to adapt and bring in new installation techniques to your business will help increase efficiency and make your business more money. We talked about installing an open-graded base in a previous post, but in this post we are going to focus on a different type of base.

With the emergence of synthetic bases on the market with manufacturers like Alliance Gator Base and Techni Seal EZ Base, there is a new way to sell walkway and patio projects to your customers while making your projects run smoothly and efficiently while keeping more money in your business.

In this post, we will discuss what a synthetic base is, its function, how to install it, how to sell it to your customers, and some reviews of what we have heard about the top manufacturers of these paver base panels.


Using Paver Base Panels_ Synthetic Base for Hardscapers


What is a Synthetic Base?

Synthetic base is the name that has been adapted for the paver base panels that are used to replace the base material that is used in a patio and walkway.

These paver base panels are typically five or six square foot panels made of high-density polypropylene. It is important before we continue to discuss more about polypropylene and its characteristics:

  • Has a high melting point and is used for many microwave containers.
  • It will not break down easily from water, acids, or bases.
  • It is durable and resistant to cracking.
  • It is extremely versatile and has uses in many industries including the construction industry.

They are made with channels and drainage holes in them to allow for the proper flow of water without building up underneath your interlock. On the edges is a tongue-and-groove system that allows each unit to interlock with one another to build a patio that works as one complete unit.

These paver base panels have many amazing features that are crucial to the structural integrity of your patio and walkway:

  1. Load Transfer

  2. These panels act as one single unit when they are laid. With the interlock on top of them, the load that is introduced to the patio or walkway is transferred to a wide area. This results in little pressure being transferred to the ground.

    Drawing on Gator Base as an example, it is engineered to support a dynamic load of up to 8 pounds per square inch. That is 1,152 pounds per square foot of patio or walkway that these panels are able to withstand.

  3. Freeze-Thaw Protection

  4. These polypropylene paver base panels act as a thermal blanket and are excellent insulators of the ground below which reduces the effects of the freeze-thaw cycle on the ground below the patio and walkway. This provides better protection than a typical 6″ to 8″ compacted base.

  5. Drainage

  6. With their designed drainage channels and holes, water is able to flow through the panels without being trapped on top of the paver base panels and underneath the interlock.

Why You Should Use Paver Base Panels

Whenever you are meeting a customer, you need to be able to know right away what type of base you will be installing so that you can sell your customer on that type of base. This is important in the selling process so that the customer has trust in your expertise.

These paver base panels are extremely useful, but there are some situations that you cannot use them. Knowing the limits of these panels will help you know when you should use these on a project you are quoting or if you should be using a traditional or open-graded base system.

You can use them for:

  • Patios
  • Walkways
  • Steps that do not exceed the 8 pounds per square inch of pressure.
  • Gravity and Feature walls that do not exceed the 8 pounds per square inch of pressure.
  • You cannot use them for:

  • Driveways
  • (See EASYClickBase by Azpects for a Synthetic Base for Driveways)



  • Retaining Walls
  • Steps that exceed the 8 pounds per square inch of pressure.
  • Gravity Walls or Feature Walls that exceed the 8 pounds per square inch of pressure.

Now that you know the limitations of these panels, we should discuss the benefits that these offer your installation process and in-turn your business. With how easy these make the installation process from excavation to the installation of pavers, you will find that they are a dream to work with.

  • Excavation

  • These panels save you 6″ to 8″ of excavation depending on how deep you normally install your traditional base. Typically we install our walkways and patios on 8″ of open-graded base. This means, in addition to the height of our pavers at roughly 2 1/2″, we are excavating 10 1/2″ minimum.

    With these paver base panels, you need to only excavate 4 1/4″. That is right. A savings of 6 1/4″ of excavating. This includes the minimal amount for the geotextile fabric, less than an inch for the bedding layer, approximately 3/4″ for the paver base panel, and 2 1/4″ for the interlock.

    That can be a massive savings from the labor, use of a machine, disposal of material, and time in the excavation process. Especially if you are doing a large backyard patio.

    The trade-off is that these panels are not on the inexpensive end. They typically cost around $2 per square foot. Regardless, the savings are still there with the saving on the above mentioned areas within your quote. It would be beneficial for you to create two quotes based on the same project, one with these paver base panels and one with a traditional base to see how your numbers compare in your business. If you do not have a template to be able to price your jobs, you can get your free landscape estimate template here.

    Brainstorming ways this can help your business is:

    • If you have a significant amount of work booked and are looking to save time on your installs.
    • If you are just starting out and have not purchased equipment for excavation yet.
    • If you have minimal access to a backyard and are not able to get a machine to the backyard.
    • If you have a shortage of labor like is very evident in this industry.
  • Installation

  • Once you screed, the panels are incredibly easy to install. Once you have one down, you can walk on it. Something you cannot do on your bedding layer if there was no base panel. This makes it extremely easy for you and your workers to be able to walk to the person installing the interlock and stage pavers. This saves an incredible amount of time in the installation process.



    In addition, typically interlock is laid using the click and drop method. In this method, the paver that is being installed is put edge to edge with a paver that is already installed and then slid down into the bedding layer. This ensures that the bedding layer is not disturbed until the entire surface area of the bottom of the paver is laid down into it.

    Using these base panels, you can slide pavers around on them while they are down. This saves some time in the installation time being able to just slide the pavers in place.

How Do You Sell Your Customer on Paver Base Panels

If you are not sold on these panels, then you will not be able to sell your customer on them. It may be something that you are just trying out on a project, but you should try to educate yourself on the above listed concepts so that when you meet with a customer you are confident in what you are telling them.

These products have been proven with years and millions of square foot installed and one company claiming to not have had a warranty issue with them. Especially in freeze and thaw cycles, this is an impressive feat.

You are likely to be met with a customer that has never heard about these products and is a little bit weary about what you are trying to sell them on. This is in fact an uphill battle for you to face that if you are not confident in trying to persuade your customer of the benefits, we would recommend to not try. Confidence and knowledge are the two most important things to help you in your selling.

The best way to discuss this with your customer is to let them know that it will save them money and the job will be completed quicker than it would with a traditional base. Discussing with them about the ease of excavation and installation, as well as the minimal wear and tear on their lawn, will help them see the light a little bit more with these panels.

In addition to this, it is important that you discuss the drainage aspects of these panels which is important in diverting water from beneath your interlock, as well as the insulation value that these panels hold which will reduce the effects of the freeze and thaw cycles that your area may experience.

Confirming with them that these panels have millions of square feet installed and have been on the market for more than five years with a lot of product research behind them is important when finalizing selling them on these. If you wanted to, you could even offer an extended warranty with these panels as it is less likely for you to have to come back for warranty work. This is a major selling point for the majority of customers.

With all of this information and selling points, you should have the confidence to walk into your next client meeting and to be able to sell them on the idea of these panels as their base.

EZ Base and Gator Base Installation

Installation has never been made so easy. With these products, your patio or walkway will be completed in a breeze. Let’s walk you through the steps of your installation:

  1. Planning, Preparation, and Excavation

  2. The planning and preparation of your walkway or patio is the same as any other process using a traditional base. The only thing that you will need to take note of is the height of your pavers, as you would with a traditional base, because this will determine the depth of your excavation.

    Once you know the depth of your excavation, you will need to dig out likely 4 1/4″ of topsoil. This should bring you down to native soil, whether that is clay or sand where you are. If it does not, you will have to dig down further in order to get to the native soil. You should never prepare your base on top of topsoil. There is too much organic matter that will negatively effect your base. Make sure that you excavation runs a minimum of 6″ beyond where the edge of your project will lay.

    One easy way to complete this minor excavation is by using a sod cutter. Doing a couple passes will provide you with the depth that you are looking for as well as provide you with a fairly flat surface to then continue to the next step.

  3. Compaction of Subsoil

  4. Making sure that your excavated area slopes away from any structures that you do not want a build-up of water is important. Once you have that accomplished, you can then inspect the soil. Typically we have one of two soils in North America: sand and clay. In a clay subsoil, we like to amend the soil with Portland cement or lime.

    To do this, we use 50 pounds of Portland cement or lime for every 100 square feet and spread it around evenly. We then spread about a layer of ASTM #57 stone (3/4″ Crushed Stone) throughout the area. With this completed, we then use our plate compactor to compact the area. Regardless of your subsoil, it is important to compact before moving on to the next step.

  5. Installation of Nonwoven Geotextile and Bedding Layer

  6. The installation of synthetic base requires the use of a nonwoven geotextile fabric. This is a fabric that looks a feels like felt and is thick enough to hold the weight of base material that will be on top of it. This is what it looks like:


    nonwoven geotextile fabric

    You will lay this fabric out throughout the project and up the sides. You will want to make sure that the fabric is overlapped by two or three feet and that it allows for water to flow away from any structure without going under the next piece of fabric. This means that the piece closest to the structure will be the top most piece and the piece furthest from the structure will be the bottom most piece. So we lay the piece furthest from the foundation first and make our way towards the structure.

    Once we have the fabric in, we can lay the bedding layer. For this we recommend ASTM #8 stone (3/8″ or sometimes 1/4″ Crushed Stone), however you can use ASTM c33 (Concrete Sand or Washed Sand). If you are using sand, you will need to compact this screeded layer before you continue to the next step. This is why we recommend ASTM #8 stone as it is self-compacting and you will not need to compact until after the polymeric sand is installed.

  7. Installation of Paver Base Panels and Pavers

  8. With the bedding layer complete, you will then install the paver base panels. To do this, you will follow the tongue-and-groove system that is laid out by the manufacturer. Gator Base installation states that their gator logo should follow the same direction throughout the project. One gator logo is vertical while the other is horizontal. The logo should be in the same orientation throughout the entirety of the project. This ensures that the tongue-and-groove system will always line up.

    Start with a full piece at a corner along the foundation of the structure that you are laying against and lay across in a row. Once you have completed the row, return to the first piece you laid and start a new row by cutting a piece in half and laying that first. This staggers your paver base panel joints and ensures that you have a solid foundation for your pavers. Continue this pattern throughout and cut in any pieces that are required on the ends. Make sure that your panels extend 6″ beyond where you will be laying the pavers.

    Now that you have your paver base panels laid down, you are ready to start laying your pavers. Remember, at any time you can walk lightly on these panels which makes it easier to stage your pavers for whoever is laying. You can also slide pavers on the base panels to lay them in place.

  9. Installation of Edge Restraint and Polymeric Sand

  10. Edge restraint in base panels follows the same as a typical install with a plastic edge restraint with a 10″ nail driven through every 1′ on straight runs and 6″ on curved runs. However, Gator Base has their own system where instead of using nails, they have screws that adhere the edge restraint with an anchor to the bottom of the base panels. We do not recommend using concrete or alternative edge restraint methods on these base panels.

    Once your edge restraint is in place, you can install your polymeric sand as you typically would with a final compaction of the sand into the joints which will provide the locking of the interlock and a firm surface to walk on. You will notice when you are walking on the stone before this is done, there will be minor movement of the stones. This is normal.

If you have any questions about a typical installation of interlock walkways and patios that were not answered in these steps, visit this post.

Paver Base Panel Reviews

  • Alliance Gator Base Reviews

  • This is the industry leader in synthetic base systems with their Gator logo appearing on the panel. They provide excellent customer support and have an incredible product that has revolutionized the preparation of bases in the hardscape industry.

    Alliance is most known for their exceptional polymeric sand in the industry. With their reputation being very strong in this industry, it means a lot that they were willing to put their name on the line to create and endorse this product.

    It worked out as the Gator Base continues to grow in popularity within the industry and is causing a lot of controversy and turning-heads. We would have no problem recommending this product to anyone who is wanting to get started with synthetic bases for pavers.

  • Techni Seal EZ Base Panel Reviews

  • Techni Seal is another company that is well known for their polymeric sand and is one of Alliance’s main competitors in this space. It makes sense that they too would compete with them on the polypropylene base pads.

    They produce a slightly larger panel in comparison to Gator Base, but they have the same characteristics including drainage channels and holes along with the tongue-and-groove locking system. This is another company that produces high quality products that we would recommend you try when getting started with synthetic bases for pavers.

Conclusion

There are so many advantages to using these paver base panels. I have used them in the past on several projects as long as three years ago with no problems. I loved them then, and I love them now.

It is easy for me to recommend these products to you for your business because it is extremely useful in some situations that you will find yourself in. Whether you have limited access, you are behind schedule, or have a lack of labor, these panels are your answer. They helped me grow my business when labor was difficult to find and to keep the money coming in to my business without becoming overwhelmed.

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