Did you have a tough time shoveling your walkway this winter? Perhaps the bricks or pavers were uneven and you rattled your bones and bruised your muscles banging your shovel over and over against the uneven edges sticking up from frost heaves. Or maybe your walkway was encased in solid ice – the result of poor drainage and standing water that froze hard and stayed that way for weeks. Both of these common problems can be easily avoided with a properly installed walkway.
Most do-it-yourselfers make the mistake of not adequately preparing the ground upon which they’re going to build their walkway. They might scrape away some of the grass growing in the pathway, do a quick leveling with a shovel and then start putting down bricks of pavers, or building a quick form and pouring concrete. These approaches are doomed to eventual failure as poorly draining water seeps underneath the hard surface, eroding the base or forming frost heaves in the winter so that in a relatively short period of time, the walkway begins to buckle and heave.
Instead, a trench 8-10 inches deep should have been dug first for a brick or paver walkway. The depth along the length of the path chosen for the walkway may vary in depth because the surface of the ground is uneven, but you want to make sure that the base is even and level. It’s easy to check this using a common carpenter’s level or a fancier laser level.
Once the trench is dug, leveled, and checked, it’s always a good idea to use a plate compactor to harden the surface to ensure the finished walkway will be level and even and stay that way. If necessary, add or remove more dirt during this process to keep the surface level.
The next step is adding a layer of crushed gravel a couple of inches thick and compacting it. Do it again – it’s always easier to control the surface and compactness of it with a couple of thinner layers instead of one thick layer of gravel.
On top of the gravel goes a layer of coarse sand that needs to be carefully leveled and compacted. Now you’re ready for your bricks or pavers, which need to be placed – but not compacted – on the sand, checking for evenness. If you notice high or low spots, add or remove sand. Once you’re all set, put a piece of cardboard on top of the walkway to keep it from scratching and then compact it. Brush a little coarse sand between the bricks or pavers to fill in the gaps. You may have to repeat this step several times as the sand starts to settle.
There! You’re done.
Of course, a properly installed walkway is a lot of work, as you can see. If you’re unsure of your ability or willingness to do the job right, from the start, seriously consider hiring a professional to do the job for you. It’ll be faster, better, and more cost-effective in the long run because your walkway will perform better and last longer. It’ll also be safer, too, because a well-drained, even walking surface provides better footing to help keep people from slipping, tripping, and falling.
Come next winter, you’ll be amazed at how much faster and easier it’ll be to clean your walkway because you had it installed by a pro. To learn more about properly installed walkways and to get a free quote, contact the walkway professionals at Manning Tree and Landscape.