A project for our SF Bay Area home I've been managing with our contractor is finally nearing completion. And although there were delays, most were due to a several weeks of extreme rain. All the paving stones are now in place with only a small garden bed to complete. For this project, I did some research online and decided it best to hire a contractor to prepare the paver stone foundation and lay the paving stones. I ended up buying paver stones at a local landscape supply shop (Broadmoor) who delivered the product to my driveway.
Paving Stone Installation Research
One of the first steps to any home project whether it's a DIY project or hire a contractor is to do the research. Understand the basic steps for proper installation. For this, I turned to Google search and several YouTube videos. In the end, I decided it was best to hire a contractor.
This is mostly the case because I lack most of the equipment necessary to complete this paving stone job. A quick breakdown of many of the items that I already have include a shovel, safety goggles, and ear muffler. I would either need to purchase or rent a wheelbarrow, jack hammer, vibratory plate compactor, and wet saw. From my understand, the raw materials like base rock, sand, and paver stones can all be delivered to my home.
But, hauling base rock, sand, and paver stones from the front and backyard would require a lot of sweat work and I just wasn't ready to put that much strain on my body, especially since this would end up being a solo project. Another upside to hiring an experience paving stone installer is they have the experience to properly level the paver stones. Errors in this measurement would rainwater (in the worst case) to run towards the house.
Finding a Paving Stone Installer
I took a few approaches in finding the right paving stone installer. The first was a randomly flagged down an installer doing work on a home in my neighborhood. He came by, provided me a full quote of approximately $14,000 that includes labor and materials. By far, this was the easiest method and I had an example of the work he did right in my neighborhood. Problem was that $14,000 was far exceeding my budget and was a cause for alarm, as I was afraid I would not be able to pursue the project.
The person on Yelp that I had come by for a free paving stone installation quote quoted about $7,000, which was already much better than the first quote. He seemed like a very nice guy and communicating with him was very easy because he spoke very clear English.
Not giving up, I contacted a few other companies on both Yelp and Thumbtack and found an independent contractor who quoted a much fairer $3000 for labor and I pay for whatever it costs for materials. He had estimated it would approximately $3000 for materials. Additionally, he was also working on another project so I would have to wait, which was fine. The upside to working with the contractor from Thumbtack was he lived in a nearby city, so I figured this would make it easier to work out details if we needed to meet. Though communication wasn't as clear as the previous quotes, I figured I'd take a chance since his previous work looks just as good as the others.
In addition to these three quotes, I made several other appointments to meet with Paving Stone companies that just completely failed to show up or provide a call back.
Selecting and Ordering Paver Stones
The contractor we selected to complete our project suggested looking at Broadmoor Landscape Supply. They hand samples of various small pavers examples including garden paver stones, driveway paver stones, patio paver stones in both the man-made variant (stamped concrete blocks) and natural stone pavers with natural markings.
The upside to concrete pavers is each and every piece is uniformly created whether they're all a new look or all the worn in look. They're also cheaper to purchase per pallet and require less general maintenance. On the contrary, natural stone pavers have a natural look, so there may be markings in it. These are more expensive will may require more staining because natural rock is porous.
Other aspects to consider while purchasing paver stones is the size. For the backyard, we considered large pieces vs smaller pieces. Personally, we found the larger interlocking paver stones to give a better look for the inside pattern. And the brochures provided by Paving Stone Supplier contained various patterns along with the ratio to paver sizes. Lastly, we have to decide the edge pattern. From here, we selected between soldier and stretcher and ended up going with the soldier course. See wiki for a quick detail on the edge pattern courses.
Lastly, Braodmoor Landscape Supply receives batch orders of paver stones delivered from the main distribution center in Sunnyvale. For a fee, they do the "last mile" delivery from their shop in South San Francisco to my house. The the exact same paver, there are multiple prices. One for a full pallet vs partial pallet. The price of each piece is cheaper per full pallet and more expensive on the partial pallet. The wooden pallet that the pavers are delivered on are charged, but refunded when returned.
Paving Stone Installation
There are tons of videos outline how to install paving stones, even as a DIY project. Therefore, I won't go into major details, but instead walkthrough the process we went through with the contractor. Because the progress was slow due to weather, I was able to see the various steps of the process:
- Preparing the Area: This means digging out a lot of dirt and removing thick concrete. I estimate they removed about 3-4 inches of existing dirt/grass/concrete from the backyard. By far, this took the most number of hours, especially removing the concrete which was extremely thick.
- Laying Base Rock: The contractor had a heavy duty truck, which he picked up base rock from a supplier. I estimated he put down 3 inches of compressed base rock. Some videos show the base rock being compressed with a hand tool. These guys came with an electric vibratory plate compactor, which does a much better job compacting. Surprisingly, this step was fairly quick, 1-2 days.
- Laying Sand: Again, the sand was picked up by the contractor in his heavy duty truck. A much smaller layer, estimated about 1 inch of sand was applied and compacted with the same plate compactor.
- Laying Paver Stones: The final step took a bit longer than the base rock step. Laying the inside pattern pavers in the center and courses was the fastest part of the process. The slow part was when pieces needed to be cut with the wet saw. The edge of the paver stones is also supported by concrete to hold the entire project to prevent sagging paver stones at the edges.
- Sealing the Pavers: Later in the warmer months of summer, a sealing layer and polymeric sand needs to be applied to both protect the paving stones and prevent weeds from growing between the paver stones. Sealing helps protect the pavers from stains while the polymeric sand is sand when mixed with water will harden into something resembling concrete.
Cost to Install Pavers
The cost to install pavers will vary from DIY to home project. But these numbers broken down can help guide you in the right direction. And because location and time can affect prices, this paver stone installation occurred in the San Francisco Bay area around Jan 2017.
- Cost of Paving Stones: $3000
- Cost of Paving Stones for Garden Bed: $750 for small garden bed
- Labor: $3000
- Base Rock: $100
- Sand: $50
- Misc: $600 for other odds and ends (like PVC pipes for water sprinkler, bags of concrete mix, etc)
There are challenges for any project. And laying paver stones in my backyard is no different. Here are some of the pitfalls that I ran into and ones I may run into in the future.
- Like any project with contractors, communicating what you want along with working along their timeline is often times the most challenging part of the project. Especially towards the end of your project, the contractor showed up less and less, and my best guess is they're searching for their next large projects. This is a story I hear countless times, and there never seems to be a good way around it.
- Ordering the right number of pavers turned out to be a big problem. We had to order 3 times to get it right. This not only messed up budget planning, but some of the pavers were purchased at a higher price due to the partial vs full pallet pricing model. Additionally, the landscaping company only gets their batch deliveries once a week resulting in project delays.
- Weather played a larger role in this project and severely delayed the timeline. Even though I'm not in a huge rush to get it done, the pavers did end up sitting in my driveway for over 2 weeks (blocking garage access). If possible, I would take on outdoor projects in the summer.
- A long term challenge is how well the pavers will set. The pavers will look perfect when the contractors finishes the project. The true test of time is what the pavers looks like years down the road.