How To Set Grade For Pavers [Including By Hand]

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Are you planning on installing new pavers for your patio? If you are, do not forget to set a grade before laying your paving stones. We have researched everything you need to know about setting grades for pavers.

Setting the grade is an important aspect of doing a hardscape project. Before you start, you should prepare the area that needs to be leveled. You should also acquire some materials such as stakes, string, tape measure, shovel, carpenter's level, etc. The following are simple methods on how you could set grades for your pavers.

  1. Place your stakes
  2. Establish a level base
  3. Set your grade

Setting grades for your pavers can be a strenuous job, especially if someone had not followed the process. There are several steps you must do to properly grade your landscape. Luckily, we are here to help and guide you to level the ground for your paving stones.

laying paving stones. Garden brick pathway paving by professional paver worker. How To Set Grade For Pavers [Including By Hand]

How to level ground for pavers

No one wants to trip on uneven pavers. Leveling the ground is the first thing you must do before setting up your paving stones. By doing this, you will ensure that the area will have a smooth and even surface. Land grading is a significant part of landscaping. But before we delve deep into the topic, we must first understand what grading means.

Luxury hardscape driveway shows pavers with pattern and and gravel and slab steps along the sideyard.

What is Grade?

Grading or grade is a way how you can manipulate an area to make sure that drainage goes along a specific course. You may not want water clogging and infiltrating your house, patio, or driveway. As a homeowner, it is your job to keep everything well maintained.

It is not advisable to have a flat hardscape or patio. Having a perfectly flat outdoor landscape collects water. Setting the grade is the only thing you can do to prevent water from pooling on your patio. This process also promotes a better drainage system which every house needs.

When leveling the ground, professionals recommend having at least a 1 1/4-inch drop for every 10 feet directionally away from any structure. By doing this, you can ensure that you would not have a very steep landscape. The distance differs depending on the size of your patio. For instance, if you want to set a grade for your 20 foot patio, the outer edge should drop for at least 2 1/2-inches.

How to properly set grade for your hardscape

1. Place your stakes

The first thing you have to do is to inspect the area where you want to do your hardscaping project. After excavating and preparing the area, you will have to use wood or metal stakes and put them across the highest point of your patio.

Push the stakes at least 5 to 8 inches into the ground. By doing this, you are placing the boundaries on where you would lay your paving stones.

After doing this, you have to tie a string between the stakes. Remember to put the string on the lower side of the stake because the string will show the top of your paving stones.

Once you have finished doing this, you might want to grab your shovel because you will have to dig 6 inches into the ground along the area where you will lay your pavers.

Buildings and construction level

2. Establish a level base

In order to properly level the base, you will need a carpenter's level. It is a tool used for measuring how level or flat the surface is. What you have to do is to place a carpenter's level on the area where you have dug to check if the surface is leveled or not. This is where it gets a bit tricky.

When using a carpenter's level, the bubbles will indicate if the area is leveled or not. If the bubbles are exactly in the center of the vial, then the surface is a hundred percent leveled.

Once you have placed the equipment on top of the area that you have dug, check if the bubbles are within the specified lines in the middle of the vial. If not, you will have to level the surface by moving the soil. Continue doing this until the area is even.

Now that you have finished doing this, you will have to make small adjustments to the ground to have a slightly sloped area. It is advisable to use a carpenter's level with a vial that has multiple guidelines.

Click here for 48" level on Amazon.

To achieve a slightly sloped area, you must check if the bubbles are a little bit off-center as you go along. You will have to move the soil again. It is quite arduous work, but it is important to do this so that you can properly grade your patio.

3. Set your grade

The first thing you have to do here is to tie a second string line between the stakes from the highest point to the lowest point of your patio so that you can determine and see the slope. Adjust the string on the highest point to achieve the recommended 1 1/4-inch of drop per 10 feet of landscape. After doing this, you have successfully set a grade for your paving stones.

To ensure a stronger foundation, you just have to prepare the ground with the use of landscape fabric. You have to pin the fabric down on the edges of the path until the whole area that you have dug is covered. The next thing you have to do is to put a 2-inch layer of gravel on top of the landscape fabric. This will allow the water to drain.

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You now have to cover the gravel with a 2-inch layer of sand. Afterward, you will need to dampen the sand with water using a hose sprayer. Use a rake to smooth the surface.

Prepare your hand tamper. Tamp the sand to flatten the area, and then check the carpenter's level and move the sand to ensure a slightly sloped area. Once you are finished doing this, all you have to do is to start installing your pavers.

Click here to see a hand tamper on Amazon.

What is the importance of grading?

Most homeowners take land grading for granted because it can be a quite labor-intensive activity if you would do it by yourself, and if you hire contractors, it can be costly because you still have to pay the workers' fees. However, there are good reasons why you should start grading your landscape.

Reason #1: Provides proper drainage

Setting grade before laying your paving stones is important. It will provide you with a proper drainage system. If you would lay pavers before grading them, the tendency is that water may clog your patio or your driveways. Other times, water can even flow onto your porch if everything is evenly leveled.

This situation is dangerous especially during rainfall because the water will accumulate inside the area of your home, and it will now flow away from it. The foundation of your landscape and interior flooding is the damage caused by improper grading.

Reason #2: Even Elevation

Even elevation is an effect of setting grades properly. Having uneven flooring can cause accidents because people could trip on uneven paving stones. To ensure your landscape is not an accident-prone area, you have to assure that you would not make the slope too steep. That is why it is important to use pieces of equipment that could guide you in building a not so steep slope.

Reason #3: Smooth and Healthier Landscape

If you are a plant enthusiast, then grading your landscape is a good choice. It can prevent more damage to your patio, lawns, and backyard. As we have said earlier, the issue with water drainage can be solved. Your plants may not survive if the soil is too wet and damp.

Too much moisture in the soil can also destroy the foundation of your home. Not only that, having a damp landscape will attract mosquitos and other pests.

Reason #4: Simpler Maintenance

Once you have properly leveled your area, it would be easier to maintain the landscape. You can also use the empty space for your next projects, such as installing walkways, paving stones, etc. Once you have installed them, you won't have to worry about too much water absorption. Also, you won't have to think about paver discoloration because of improper drainage.

Construction workers installing and arranging precast concrete pavers stone. How To Set Grade For Pavers Including By Hand

In Closing

As someone who is interested in grading your landscape, do not think twice about doing it! Remember the benefits of why you should set grade for your pavers. Make sure to follow the guidelines and you are good to go!

If you have found this article helpful, you might want to check out, "How To Fix Loose Pavers."

You may also want to check out, "Can Gravel Absorb Water?"