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nafield 07-12-2013 03:28 PM

patio pavers vs. poured concrete vs. ground level deck
I am looking for some advice. We have a small "starter home" in Michigan. The previous owners had installed a brick paver patio and sidewalk that was buckling, rippled, and loaded with weeds. Last weekend we pulled (about 2,000 brick) it out thinking that we would re-lay it ourselves. Then we looked into the process and it seems like A LOT of work. Looks like dig out the area (approx 400 square feet) down about 6 inches, cart that dirt out, bring in several inches of crushed limestone, cover with slag, make sure it is level, lay out a border to hold pavers in, re-lay the pavers and fill cracks with polymeric sand several times and hose down. I am pregnant and not able to do a ton of the heavy work (don't really know how much use I would be even not prego) so that leaves the heavy lifting to my husband. First off, I am this realistically a diy job? There will be a lot to coordinate with delivery of limestone and slag, perhaps renting a mini excavator.

What concerns me the most is that I have been researching all of our options and it seems there is no perfect solution. If we want to re-lay the patio, it is likely that we will eventually run into some of the same problems we had before, poured concrete will likely crack and it sounds like ground level decks are prone to rot. I know there are some large tree roots in the area as well that we would either have to work around or dig and cut out.
I am not too interested in stamped concrete for two reasons - first I think it might look a little out of place with our starter home, and second I have read it is likely to crack and although it would be an annoyance with poured concrete it would be devastating with stamped.

I do have a quote of $3750 (using existing pavers)from a local landscaper. Although he promised to do a good job, he made it clear that there was bound to be some shifting over time and that although no one else would tell me that it was the truth. Is this inevitable?

Any input would be much appreciated. I am kind of at a loss at this point.

TarheelTerp 07-12-2013 06:45 PM


Originally Posted by nafield (Post 1215048)
We have a small "starter home" in Michigan.
The previous owners had installed....

...what they believed to be the best option relative to their budget, their perception of their skill level and what they believed was actually sufficient prep work (no matter what the instructions or pros told them to do).

Quote: seems like A LOT of work.
...and it seems there is no perfect solution
That's true of just about every project you'll ever want to do. Actually... it might make a great motto for a needlepoint sampler.


Any input would be much appreciated.
It comes down to your time and/or your money.
If/when you hire help to do for you the choices will range between good, fast, and cheap. You get to pick any two of those three.

nafield 07-13-2013 07:20 AM

I appreciate your feedback. I think that we are probably going to have them installed professionally. We are going to start calling around for a few more bids. And I think we are going to stick with the pavers - they are filling up the garage right now anyway...

Daniel Holzman 07-13-2013 08:07 AM

The quality of any paving project, whether it is poured concrete, asphalt, block, pavers, brick, comes down to the quality of the subgrade preparation. If you want a job that will last and not shift, buckle, heave etc., it is necessary to remove all unsuitable material, which includes organic material, topsoil, trash, debris etc., and get down to firm mineral soil. This typically requires removal of at least six inches, often quite a bit more.

My wife put in our brick walkway, and she removed about 18 inches of soil, and replaced with compacted masons sand. We did not use polymeric sand between the bricks, just ordinary masons sand. We also did not use slag, I have no idea why you would want to use such a product (slag is a broad term that refers to unwanted byproducts of combustion, and could be from a cement kiln, a coal power plant, or a steel mill). Our walkway has been in place for 20 years with no deterioration, no shifting, no buckling, due entirely to the care taken in preparing the subgrade.

It was a lot of work, requiring a lot of digging, but certainly you could rent a bobcat or similar digging machine to eliminate the hard work of digging. Similarly, you have to compact the replacement sand, but this can be done with a rented plate whacker. Actually placing the bricks is pretty easy, you just twist them into place, and tap them down with a rubber mallet or similar. This can certainly be a DIY project, many on this forum have done similar. Project life and performance will be determined by the care you take in subgrade preparation, and if you use brick, make sure the bricks are rated for outdoor use.

leenamark1 07-17-2013 01:04 PM

Personally, I prefer the look of pavers, you can DIY if you're able and willing. But unless you dig out your site and prepare it correctly like leveling, filling with sand, etc. you'll have a buckled up, weedy-cracked eyesore.

nafield 07-18-2013 10:03 AM

Thank you for all the advice. Two people have come out to see it now and both have indicated that the base that is already in place is salvageable and that we just need to re-compact and re-level it. Based on what I am reading here this doesn't really seem like a possibility. Or am I misunderstanding? It seems like if it went bad once before it will go bad again...

TarheelTerp 07-18-2013 02:36 PM

1 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by nafield (Post 1217440)
Two people have come out to see it now and both have indicated that the base that is already in place is salvageable and that we just need to re-compact and re-level it.

That's certainly possible... it's just not real likely.

Consequently you need to be REALLY sure...
and to have some objective standard to judge what you do actually have before agreeing to let that be the basis of your decision.

Do some archeology and determine just how far down you have to go to find *undisturbed earth* and then how many layers of what material(s) at what thicknesses are above that and how that measures up to what is MOST appropriate for your zone.

Below is ONE example of what you might be looking for:

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