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Proper Paver Selection

Paver selection can be overwhelming, to say the least.  We will try to untangle to the web of questions you will need to ask yourself prior to signing any pavement contract.

When I meet with homeowners, nine times out of ten they have already selected a concrete paver that they would like to have us install.  Some contractors blindly agree and put a cost together for the project using this paver.  We, on the other hand, like to pause and walk the homeowner through some important considerations to factor in prior to settling on a paver choice. Typically we start from the bottom up as detailed below.

1. Does the site require a certain type of paver or base?

Each site is unique, and therefore should be addressed as such.  We NEVER quote any job on a square foot basis for this reason. First, we analyze the site to determine if there is a requirement for the use of permeable pavers.  An example of such a site would be an area of the project that is continually plagued with water issues or has a soil grade that would inhibit surface draining water when using a standard paver. This also helps us to determine whether we would use a densely graded base (traditionally used on standard pavers), or an open-graded base (used in our permeable systems). See this difference below.

 

2. Determining application

It is important to determine the overall function of the area.  Will this area be used for pedestrian traffic or vehicular traffic?  If it is subject to vehicular traffic, then what is the Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR), or weight, of the vehicles that will be running over the paver?  This is immensely important as it relates to the depth of the base that is required, as well as the size of the paver being used.  Elegant Estates can take this information and calculate what depth of base is required based on the type of base being used, as well as what geotextile is required for the subgrade.  Answering these questions also comes into play when choosing a paver size. Professionals in our industry refer to a paver’s aspect ratio when determining its usefulness.   What is aspect ratio?  Aspect ratio is the relationship of its overall strength relative to its length and height.  Essentially, the wider and longer a paver is made, the thicker they need to be in order to bear heavier loads. Keep in mind that you should factor in the worst case SAWR.  For example, if you are planning to have a paver driveway installed then you need to ask yourself questions like this – My home has a septic system, so I will need to have that tank emptied from time to time. How heavy are those trucks?  Not only that, you need to know that they will be a lot lighter when they show up, and tons heavier when leaving your driveway. When you, or your contractor, fail to factor these variables into the base equation it will lead to a failed base and overall rutting of your pavement.

Aspect ratio illustration:

Aspect Ratio

Image Courtesy of BelgardCommercial.com

3. Now to the fun part – paver selection!

Now that you have narrowed down the choices of paver based on the type of paver you need (permeable vs. standard paver), the type of base you will need (open vs. densely graded), and purpose of the pavement (in order to verify the proper size required), you can move on to identifying the “look” that you want.  There is still a multitude of choices left to wrestle though including, but not limited to shape, color, and texture, as well as design questions relating to the overall appearance of your project.  It is important to familiarize yourself with certain terminology when it comes to pavers and designs. This will be covered more in length in future posts.

Remember, if you are feeling overwhelmed with paver selection, and would like to have a professional handle the A-Z of the process for you, we are only a text, email or call away and would love to help you out!  To view or download any of our current vendor material catalogs, please visit our download page.

Always Start With The Hardscape – The Design Process

Tackling Size and Site –

We’ve all seen those HGTV shows on how to spruce up your backyard, and even better yet – how to do it with a few friends in a weekend or less!  While that may be the case for some of us, others more likely have more ambitious of plans or intend to do a little more than just mulch some existing beds. When it comes to a backyard landscape installation or renovation, there are many things to consider.  For the purposes of this article, we focus on why it is important to think about the hardscape design first.

Most backyard plans are designed because homeowners want to increase not only the beauty of the yard but wish to increase the functionality of it. They want to add elements like paver patios, walkways or garden paths, water features, dry creek beds, outdoor kitchens, fire pits or fireplaces, pergolas or pavilions, or seating areas. In our experience, purpose and functionality are the primary motivating factors for updating one’s back yard.  During the client interview with Elegant Estates, we explain that the hardscape is the backbone of the design.  It is there to serve a purpose.  Therefore, it is designed accordingly.   When that is reasoned out, everything else is worked around the hardscape and serves to enhance it.

Define the purpose and scope of the space –

You will want to take some time to consider how your space will be used in order to determine how large it will need to be.  Many times we get called for a project and we find that the homeowner wants to install a 15′ x 15′ patio and they want to install a patio table and chairs on it.  They mention that it is only going to be for our family of 5.  After discussing the scale of the project with them, they quickly realize that in order to accommodate the furniture, there is little to no space left to walk on the patio when the family is seated. Proper planning at this stage can save you thousands of dollars being misspent.

backyard patio area

This patio was designed with multiple levels serving many functions. One area for casual seating, and one for fire feature entertaining and dining. By designing landings, the surface grade was addressed and transitions from the door to the patios were comfortable.

 

Asking yourself the following questions will get you well on your way to a functional space –

  1. Who will be using our space? (Family, friends, or both?)
  2. How will we use this space? (Daily family gatherings, weekend block parties, occasional dinner parties?)
  3. How will our space be furnished? (The more furniture that you plan to use, the larger your space needs to be)
  4. Do we want to have a grill on the patio area?
  5. Do we want to have a fire pit or fire table?
  6. Do we want to have extra space for people to stand and mingle, or do they have to be seated to enjoy the space?
  7. Think about flow – Have I accounted for enough space for flow of foot traffic to and from, or through the patio?

Identifying water issues –

I am shocked by the number of clients who indicate that we are the first to ask about what the water is doing on their site.  Since water can be public enemy #1 to a successful paver installation, it is a valid question. It used to be that if there were water issues that could not be rectified, then a concrete paver installation would not be possible. Fortunately, now we have access to what is referred to as a permeable paver that allows water to run through it and not over it.  Essentially, you can create a large french drain with a paver as the surface.  See the installation diagram below from our Techo-Bloc product vendor which shows a cross section of how we install these systems.

permeable paver detail

For example, in the early days of permeable pavers, we had a client call to have a walkway replaced.  We found that the grade would not allow for a standard concrete paver to be installed since there is nowhere to run the surface water off of the walkway.  This would lead to premature failure of the paver system.  Rather than declining the job, we were able to offer a permeable paver option as the solution to the hardscape design.  Not only did it look great when we installed it, but we were also able to reduce the water infiltration that the client was getting through that side of the basement. We are discovering this more than ever as we get calls for paver restoration.  Simply put, the pavers were installed in an area where drainage was not feasible, or just not done at all.

courtyard design

Permeable pavement installed that handles 100% of the water between the two building structures – Water is then piped to a nearby stormwater drain

How do I know if I have water that should be addressed?

But how do you know if you should be concerned about water on your site?  We recommend asking yourself a few simple questions about your site below before attempting your hardscape design.  If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, then you, or your contractor, need to deal with the water issue first through the design process.

  1. Do you have mold or moss in areas where you plan to pave?
  2. Do you have a damp or wet basement?
  3. Do you have gutters?
  4. If you do have gutters, where do they run to?
  5. Look at the slope of the land – does it look like water from the surface would run off towards your project area?

The bottom line is this – NO pavement project should be installed without first considering how water will impact the area.  Here are a few of our projects that we have installed where we show what is going on UNDER the ground versus what you see as a finished product.

 

Other hardscape design considerations –

While we briefly laid out a couple of starting points to consider when designing your hardscape area, there are many more things that will need to be factored in during the process. Other factors can include paver type, paver scale, borders, inlays, steps versus stoops, lighting the hardscape, utility piping, adding water features and landscaping. We will get more in detail regarding those in future posts.

To learn more about our hardscape design service, click here.

 

Why do they call it hardscaping?

I giggle occasionally when I think of myself first getting into the landscape business back in 1999.  I recall going out on design consultations and speaking to clients about their project.  I would talk about how their house lends itself to, say, a modular design.  I would talk about softscaping and which types and sizes of plants we would use, the color of mulch, etc.

Then I would then say “now let’s talk about the hardscaping”.  I would guess about 90% of the time I would be looked at as if I was from outer space.  I would then respond with some contractor humor “you know, its the hard part of the job”. Being sort-of a landscape industry insiders joke, some prospects got it while others not so much.  Being a proud father of 4 children (3 of them girls), I was reminded the other day of the “hard” nature of our daily work in this video and I could totally see my girls pulling this stunt…

Knowing that each one of those real pavers in that clip was approximately 15 pounds each, you can sympathize with the folks on the receiving end of this prank!

True, hardscaping is indeed hard work and deals with more than just boulders, pavers and retaining walls. It’s work that can be done by the above average DIY’er if they have the spare time, the right equipment, and choose to follow the proper steps along the way.  Having the right equipment certainly helps make the project less “hard”, but not everyone has thousands of dollars to rent machinery.

We plan to have future blog posts relating to what kinds of things to look for when either choosing a contractor for your landscape and/or hardscape project, learning how to speak hardscape jargon, as well as how you can avoid common mistakes when installing your hardscape projects.

Looking for a free estimate? Call us to set up an appointment at 607-533-3699.