4 Common Mistakes When Working With Paver Steps

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In addition to their durable nature and striking appearance, one big advantage of building a patio or driveway with pavers steps is that they are not as labor-intensive to work with when compared with building a frame and pouring concrete. Brick and stone pavers also don’t require the extra step of applying mortar to secure them and they can be arranged in an attractive design of your choosing.

In fact, most of the work on paver projects doesn’t come from handling the pavers and instead consists of excavating the dirt to set the pavers. Don’t let the deceptively easy tasks surrounding the steps themselves fool you though. As simple as the overall process can be, there are also key things that need to be executed correctly for the pavers to turn out well.

Because the ideal way to build paver steps seems so clear and streamlined, the best way to avoid making potential mistakes isn’t to tell you what to do, but rather to tell you what not to do. Keeping that in mind, consider some of these potentially disastrous mistakes.

Ground Not Level

When excavating the ground to form the bed for the steps, it is important that you make sure the area is level. If anything, it should slope ever so slightly down to allow water to run off freely. However, even then the slope must be shaped deliberately during the excavation process and take the angle into account, the ground itself must remain consistent throughout the entire area of the project.

What you do not want is for the steps to be angled up at the front edge and slant down toward the rise. This will cause water to pool up each time it rains and eventually undermine the foundation of the project.

Inept Foundation

damaged uneven paver stones

Another mistake do it yourselfer's often make is the omission of a foundation. It seems logical enough to lay the pavers into their arrangement directly on the leveled ground. This idea becomes even more attractive if you’re working with compact or clay-filled soil. When you excavate under these conditions, the natural earth foundation has all the appearance of being sturdy enough to support the pavers.

Don’t trust it. It’s not.

Given enough time, use, and rainfall, the compacted soil will slowly resettle, and it will take the pavers with it. At the very least, pavers need a smoothed-out bed of sand in which to sit. Better yet, use a compact layer of gravel covered with a bed of sand and place your pavers on that.

Rise Support

The rise between each slab and the next needs something to support it. If the only thing between the step is soil, erosion is likely to occur after time. The weight of the pavers coupled with use can eventually cause the soil that creates the rise to give way, ruining an entire step. The rise can be supported by either maintaining the natural grass between each step or by installing bricks or planks to add vertical support.

Area Too Small

When planning the excavation, make sure you take the size of the pavers into account before breaking ground. Take precise measurements and check the excavation frequently. If the area ends up too big or too small, the slabs won’t fit as planned, and you may have to make cuts, which could upset your design and create instability.