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Nefi Valencia, foreman for Harris Landscape Construction, Inc., checks the paver alignment using the straight edge of a level. Proper alignment is a critical element needed to keep the pattern consistent. The level will also be used to confirm there is enough slope to allow for proper drainage.

Harris Landscape Construction Inc. (HLC) based in Reno, Nev. has been creating award winning landscape, hardscape and waterfeature designs and installations since 1973 with an emphasis on professional, high-quality craftsmanship using the best materials available for the job. When a client contracts with us, we offer almost every aspect of landscape construction using the same in-house craftsman, which gives tighter control on job quality. HLC has acquired a reputation for outstanding hardscape and paver stone work over the years, using tried and true techniques as outlined below.

When designing a paver stone project, keep in mind that curves and radius corners are more aesthetically pleasing to the eye than straight lines and right angles. Design possibilities are endless with an array of shapes, colors and configurations that paver stones are produced in. Keep enough samples of several paver stone styles so that you can lay out a couple of different patterns for a prospective client so they can see firsthand the quality and beauty paver stone hardscapes offer over traditional concrete flatwork products.

The most important step in paver stone construction is compaction of the sub-base. Most failures occur because 95 percent compaction is not achieved. After the site has been excavated to the proper depth, add four to six inches of base material in several lifts, compacting as needed. Be accurate and use a builder's level or transit to establish grades & slopes for drainage. Sub grade material should be lower than finish grade (one inch for sand layer plus thickness of selected paver stones).

Workers should always stay off of the sandbed to avoid compromising the gradation (above), while the use of string lines assures that the pattern remains square. When cuts are needed, the use of a wet diamond saw or a hydraulic splitter (bottom) is essential. Using the proper equipment will create accurate cuts and keep the pattern square.

Next, run string lines the length of the area being paved to finish grade or top of pavers. Place a paver stone on a one-inch by half-inch steel rod and raise it to the string line with small wooden shims every three to four feet. Screed mortar sand across parallel steel rods. Then advance the rods across the project, fill the rod pockets with sand and tamp as you progress. Run string line the length of the project and mate paver stones on stringline. Always pave from a completed paved area, staying off the sandbed.

Cuts can make or break the quality of a job and there are several techniques we use to make accurate cuts and save time. A 14-inch diamond saw equipped with a foot treadle and a hard brick or paver stone blade is essential for top quality cuts and notching. A hydraulic splitter is also worth its weight in gold for fast angle and straight cuts. This versatile and extremely fast cutting tool moves with the installer, allowing him to measure, cut and place paver stones without getting up from the paving area.

After all paver stones are installed, a silica sand and hardener mix, formulated by HLC, is swept into all joints then hosed off with water. The joint material gets just hard enough to discourage weed growth and ants from excavating sand, while allowing paver stones to move with soil conditions. The project is then washed with a 20 percent acid/water mix and dry sealed with a commercial paver sealer.

Once the pattern is completed (above), a special mixture of sand and a hardening agent is swept into the joints of the pavers (bottom) before being hosed off. The mixture falls into the joints and acts as a wedge to keep the pavers locked in place, while the hardener discourages weeds and ants from destroying the area.

Paver stones lend themselves well to the construction of stairs and elevated patios when coupled with interlocking wall systems. They can follow almost any radius and may be glued in place instead of using a mortar base, which in some cases can save a considerable amount of time. When designing large patio areas, differences in elevations, radius steps and flowing lines of soldier courses using different colors can create a visual effect that draws the eye to a focal point, as in the award winning Stoker residence. Time was taken to cut paver stones to the radius of each Keystone wall module and perimeters of waterfeature coping boulders. A low voltage landscape lighting system was designed to accent and light the patios and pathways throughout.

Each individual client has special needs that must be addressed. If you can take these into consideration and meet their personal requirements they will feel they received much more than they bargained for.

Mike Harris, founder and owner of Harris Landscape Construction, Inc. based in Reno, Nev. continues to design and implement award winning landscape and hardscape projects based on old fashion work ethics and superior craftsmanship.

Editor's Notes:

Understanding the installation process is just part of the equation. There are other parts of the project that need careful consideration. Two key components of the job are brick estimation and choosing the best pattern for the project, which can affect the estimation as well.

In selecting a pattern, there are several to choose from. Options include the herringbone, basketweave, running bond, and stack bond patterns. The use of a soldier course, as mentioned briefly in this article, is another option. Some of the more popular styles are discussed in the July, 2001 issue of Landscape Contractor Magazine in the PMBR column written by Ted Corvey.

Estimation on the other hand can save money if done properly. Ordering too many or too few pavers can be costly. Each scenario requires more time out of a contractor's busy schedule. The hassle of ordering more pavers or trying to return them (assuming the retailer will take them back), can create unnecessary pressure on a project.


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February 26, 2020, 9:01 pm PDT

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