Front Paver Walkway Makeover

2 Materials
1 Week
I had yet to install a paver walkway, despite owning and renovating two houses before this one. Hubs came into the picture shortly after I bought this house so it was great timing for me; maybe not so much for him! Faced with rows of underwhelming builder slabs that the previous owner lived with for over 20 years, the perfect opportunity presented itself for both of us to learn a new skillset!

Here’s an idea of how the walkway looked before (but you’ll have to imagine it without the pond because we installed that ourselves)!
You know the saying about many hands making quick work? Well, that’s true. But despite having Hubs’ help, improving the curb appeal didn’t happen right away. Without previous experience, we spent a lot of time researching and learning before breaking ground – and in our case, waiting for the right product to come along. With all those things factored in, our curb appeal evolved over a number of years before the actual front walkway took shape (two and a half years to be exact).

The Next Spring
In Spring of 2006, we visited a stone yard to see what was available and came upon this display of fresh-on-the-market pavers. We fell in love with the juxtaposition of three different colours of pavers combined with black cobblestone edging.
Although the display pavers were oblong, we noticed that the display board showed them in a square configuration. How novel! Along with the black cobblestone edge pavers, we both knew right away that this was going to be our new paver walkway! Or so we thought. When we inquired about purchasing the pavers, we were told that we couldn’t get a mixed skid for such a small job. Unfortunately each colour was an individual order with a minimum purchase. It was way more than we’d ever need for our little walkway 

We were pretty deflated about the pavers, so put the front walkway project on hold until we could find something we liked just as much. It didn’t happen that year, so we diverted our attention to  landscaping our back yard to take advantage of the good weather – and get more landscaping experience under our belts!

During the growing season, we made do by focusing on plant materials to deflect from the ugliness of our walkway.
Interim Improvements
In the interim, we replaced the old brown screen door with a new white one and updated the porch light. We also painted the existing door red and replaced the doorbell (pictures further ahead). Lastly, we built several trellises; one by the front door for privacy from our neighbours (which you can see vines growing on below) and another by the pond to support a clematis vine.

Small changes can add up to big impact but with those improvements, the contrast was even more apparent. It was painfully obvious that the walkway needed a complete overhaul – and soon!
Welcome News!
The next Spring, Hubs was eager to finally break ground on the walkway.  While we were waiting for the weather to improve, we made a happy discovery. The stone we had drooled over the year before was now being manufactured locally and we were able to get a mixed skid. We scheduled our materials to be delivered in early March.

On delivery day, we got a skid of pavers, polymeric sand and truck load of HPB (high performance bedding). Luckily we hadn’t gotten around to repaving our driveway yet; the heavy equipment and weight of the stone is hard on asphalt!
A False Start!
With everything now on site, the next morning, hubs decided to rip out the walkway while I was away at a business meeting for a few days. This before shot shows how badly sloped and uneven the walkway was.
Hubs lifted the font step, all the patio stones and pounded in stakes. Along the stakes on each side went string lines so he could grade and slope the walkway away from the house. Hubs established a level line beside the walkway first, then re-adjusted the guidelines to slope 1/4″ lower for each foot out from the house to ensure water would properly drain away from the house.
When you’re digging out for a walkway – or any patio, excavate at least 6″ beyond the width of your finished surface on each side. This will stabilize the edges and provide room to install the edge restraints. We skimped a little bit on the 6″ recommendation on the left side of the walkway because the edge of our house is actually on the property line. We’re on what’s called a ‘zero lot line’ and we didn’t want any complaints from the neighbour that we were encroaching on his grass.

Tarps were pretty essential on site. Putting a tarp down on the driveway, for instance, helped keep the HPB from finding it’s way into the grass. You can read more about the advantages of using HPB as an underlayment on our website (link below this post where you see our logo). We kept it covered with a second tarp during the course of the work to keep it from washing away.

Those tarps really did come in handy because it snowed! Hubs' tarped up the walkway, added the step back on top and left it for better weather. This is what I came home to (surprise!!!!).
Back on Track
Once the weather was much improved, Hubs once again removed the front step and started filling the graded area with HPB.

At this point we also ran strings across the width of the walkway to keep everything even side-to side when it came time to screed the HPB.
The process of ‘screeding’ is levelling the layer of material (in this case HPB) with a straight edge. After hubs finished transferring over the HPB from the pile in the driveway, that’s when I came in to compete the rest of the work. First I laid round metal pipes into sections of the HPB, making sure they hit the top of our string lines to follow the slope.

I started screeding the HPB in the right-hand corner. I took a long straight board and dragged the HPB toward me to level it with the top of the pipes and establish the slope. At the same time as I was dragging toward me, I also moved the board in a back and forth motion across the surface to distribute the HPB evenly across the width.

If you’re not already doing squats at a gym, you’ll get a good workout laying the walkway!
When I was done the first sweep, I put my board back on top of the pipes at different distances to make sure I couldn’t see any gaps below the board. If you do find gaps, fill them in by tossing in extra HPB and dragging the board toward you once again to level out.

Installing the Paver Walkway
We put down a plywood board over the HPB after screeding so I wouldn’t disturb it as I laid the pavers; it helps to evenly distribute the weight! You don’t want footprints in your perfectly level underlayment! The plywood was positioned within arms reach of the first row, as you can see below. When I got to the last row, I moved it back to expose a new area.

You’ll notice I’m wearing knee pads in only the picture below. I found them uncomfortable to wear so opted for a foam pad instead. Don’t do hardscaping without some form of knee protection; your knees will thank you!

I started laying the pavers piece by piece. I butt them tight against two edges, then lowered each one into position. A rubber mallet is helpful if you misplace a paver and need to lightly tap it into position to get it tight up against the other pavers.
It took a few hours to complete half of the pavers; when I reached the bottom edge of pond, I stopped for the day.

The next day I started bright and early and completed the remaining section, laying the black cobblestone pavers along the edges as I went.

The picture below gives you a good view of the extra 6″ that should be left around the perimeter to stabilize the edges. You can also see that the metal screeding rail is still in place beside the cobblestones. Once the pavers were complete, the rail was lifted and I filled in the gaps with more HPB.
To lock-in the walkway, I added metal restraints along all the edges hammering them into the ground with long spikes. It’s not necessary to place a spike in every hole; the spacing should be every 8″ – 10″. We prefer metal over plastic because it’s more durable. It can also be bent around corners as you can see below.
Polymeric Sand
To further lock the pavers in place, I swept polymeric sand into the joints. Polymeric sand gets misted with water and dries to a hard finish to ensure you won't get weeds between the joints of the paver walkway.

Once you wet down the pavers, it sets up like concrete and there’s no getting the sand off the surface. So if you have a textured surface, like these pavers, do a thorough job of getting the polymeric sand off the surface and into the gaps!

By the way, you have to ensure that there’s no rain in the forecast when completing the sanding step. You should also wear a mask when applying the sand to protect your lungs from the fine particles!

Apply a misting of water according to the package directions. By the time I was finished sanding, it was getting dark. We misted the sanded joints using a garden mister. A garden hose would have been better but we didn’t think to buy an attachment that could be adjusted to a fine spray at the time! Hubs helped out by refilling and pumping the mister for me to pressurize it.
Once the sanded joints were set up, we added soil over the HPB along the edges. To fill in the empty gaps near the grass, we planted grass seed so it would eventually fill in (you’ll see that it didn’t take long to fill in beautifully in the reveal shot below).

Finishing Touches
With the walkway complete, there were still things that needed attention. We reinstalled the trellis we built for the clematis. We then turned our attention to finishing off the pond. You'll find the tutorials for both projects on our site :)

With the growing season underway, we accessorized by adding some container plants. It's ironic that a year before, our planters provided the only curb appeal in our front yard. Now the planters were the finishing touch - and not just a distraction from an ugly walkway!
After 11 years, the only maintenance on the paver walkway has been re-sanding the joints (which we completed just last weekend). It still looks as good as the day we laid it and has withstood the test of time! What more can a DIY'er ask for?

There were way too many details and pictures of the whole process to post everything here (like pouring a new front step and all the finishing touches), so head to our blog to find out more!

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Suggested materials:
  • Pavers   (Stone Yard)
  • HPB (high performance bedding)   (Stone Yard)
Birdz of a Feather
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 5 questions
  • Jeanstar Jeanstar on Aug 16, 2018

    Very nice.

    Is there room to position an older bike with a woven basket at a slight angle to hide neighbor’s trash cans?

  • Roxanna Morgan Roxanna Morgan on Aug 17, 2018

    What was red pipe for?

  • Kathy Kathy on Aug 30, 2018

    Beautiful walkway! Your instructions are more in detail than any I’ve found. What is HBP please? Thank you!

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