Laying a Path, Step-By-Step

Give your garden some direction and charm by laying a path made of bricks, stones or pavers. Don't know where to start? Don't worry. We'll walk you through path design and installation, step-by-step.

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Paved Pathway Through Garden DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Small paving units, such as blocks, bricks and cobblestones, offer flexibility when designing a path. For this project we used carpet stones (blocks set on a flexible mat) because they are quick and easy to lay. If you use recycled bricks, make sure they are frostproof and hardwearing; ordinary house bricks are not suitable for this project.

This project should take you about a day to complete, once you have all of your materials in hand.

Materials Needed:

  • tape measure
  • long pegs and string
  • hammer
  • spade
  • level
  • nails
  • wood guide rails
  • graded base
  • hand tamper
  • masonry sand
  • carpet stones, bricks or pavers
  • sledge hammer
  • post-hole concrete
  • edging stones
  • rubber mallet
  • broom
  • sharp knife
  • trowel
  • soil, herb plants
  • gravel

Marking Out a Path

Measure the path and mark it with string and long wood pegs (image 1), spaced every 5 feet. Don't forget to allow for guide rails (see image 4 )and decorative edging. Hammer the pegs gently so they stand up on their own.

Dig out the soil between the string to a depth sufficient to accommodate layers of graded base and sand, as well as the thickness of the blocks (image 2). Check levels along the course of the path using a level.

To prevent puddles on the surface, dig the path to slope gently to one side to drain into soil. Angle it away from the house or garden walls to avoid creating dampness. Continue to check levels as you angle the slope, and make adjustments as you go (image 3).

Carefully nail the guide rails to the pegs to enclose the area of the path (image 4). Check the levels once more with the level, and make any necessary adjustments by easing the pegs up and down.

Cutting Blocks

When you are laying a path you may need to cut blocks or bricks to fit the pattern or to run around an obstacle, such as a mature tree or the edge of a wall.

To make a neat cut, place the block on a firm, flat surface. Then, using a cold chisel, score a line across the block where you want to cut it. Position the chisel on the score line and hit it sharply with a brick hammer. Use the chisel to neaten up any rough areas. Remember to wear goggles to protect your eyes while working.

Using a Brick HammerEnlarge Photo+Shrink Photo-DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Laying the Path

Spread a 3–4 inch layer of graded base (crushed stone mixed with stone dust; you can use excavated soil if the path will only get light use) along the length of the path. Use a hand tamper to tamp the base down (image 1).

Spread a layer of masonry sand over the graded base. Level the surface by pulling a length of wood across the path toward you — use the guide rails as a guide (image 2). Fill any hollow areas with extra sand.

Tamp the sand, making sure that the surface remains level. Begin laying whole blocks (image 3). Follow guides for prespaced blocks, like carpet stones; use spacers if laying bricks.

Once you have finished laying whole blocks, fill any gaps with blocks cut to fit. Secure the blocks into the sand with a hand tamper on a flat piece of wood or a plate compactor (image 4).

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