Home Improvement

I want to build an inexpensive patio. I see you have to add gravel, then sand, level it and then add paver stones. I have clay soil. What if I level and compact my soil. Add 1/2 in layer of high strength concrete to lock the stones and then set paver stones and add locking sand in between the joins?

By June 30, 2019 22 Comments

I want to build an inexpensive patio. I see you have to add gravel, then sand, level it and then add paver stones. I have clay soil. What if I level and compact my soil. Add 1/2 in layer of high strength concrete to lock the stones and then set paver stones and add locking sand in between the joins?

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  • Tedmosby9931 says:


  • Cabrim says:

    Of course you can do it your way, but the drainage and flex from a good base can reduce a lot of problems in the future. Personally, maybe I wouldn’t care about pavers shifting, and the polymeric sand cracking, but I don’t think I’d like constant moisture (and icing) concerns. And, the gravel and sand isn’t terribly expensive, vs most home improvement stuff.

  • AUCE05 says:

    Clay moves. If you put a static member (concrete slab) on a moving clay unit, your slab will crack to shit. Stone/sand will help drain, which will reduce expansion/contraction of the clay and reduce movement.

  • FatBastardIndustries says:

    do it right the first time or do it twice.

  • frenchiebuilder says:

    You can do pavers on mortar on top of a slab; it’s pretty common in high-water-table areas around here (low-lying areas of Staten Island & Long Island, for example).

    You’ll need a good 6 to 12 inches of gravel underneath the slab. The slab itself should about 6 inches thick & reinforced with rebar.

    Then glue the pavers onto it, with thinset or medium-bed mortar. Grout the seams.

    It’s a lot more work & expense than a regular gravel-base-sand job, but (I guess) it’s a lot more durable, in situations where the ground underneath shifts around too much.


    Side note, about clay soils: you’ll need to rent a jumping jack compactor, for your initial compaction of the soil below/under the gravel base. Plate compactor won’t compact clay, no matter how many passes you do. A jumping jack, will. Eventually.

    You’ll still need the plate compactor for the gravel bed & etc.

  • BasicBrewing says:

    This sounds like a way to make a more expensive (and worse) paver patio.

  • fungiinmygarden says:

    I think if you were to build two patios, one your way and one the traditional gravel and sand way, you would find that the traditional way is easier and lasts better.

  • beardedbast3rd says:

    pull out the top soil, pack the underlying clay, add gravel ontop of it.

    then you can pour concrete on it, or place sand and paver stones.

  • umaijcp says:

    I have clay. I used clay – no sand, no concrete. I mostly used clay that was in place, without disturbing, just shaving off a few inches to level it. When I had to add clay, I packed it tight with head of sledge hammer. I also had decent slope for drainage.

    My only problem is the weeds grow in the cracks.

  • distantreplay says:

    Clay is not better. Clay is far worse. Expansive soils like clay shrink and expand with moisture more than all others. To deal you need to remove more sub, pitch and drain the sub, compact more, add back base and compact still more. Use jumping jack compacter in many, many passes.

  • Haydendem says:

    Don’t do this. I just ripped out a small patio that was put in that way. The pavers were put directly on top of the soil and then cemented together. I’m not sure how old it was, but it was cracked in several spots, and one side had sunk about 3 inches.

    Just do it right and avoid having to tear it out.

  • DongleNocker says:

    How deep is the layer of clay?

  • Trghpy00 says:

    A concrete patio if done right involves 6-8 inches. 4 inch slab on 4 inches of paver base.

    Concrete less than 3 inches will crack and fall apart.

    You can do what you suggest, it’ll last 1-2 years.

  • el-vaqueroelegante says:


  • Youmati says:

    How about a deck instead?

  • paradism720 says:

    Concrete is expansive and difficult to do in any amount DIY without lots of experience. 1/2 inch of it will be cracked within a year. A proper patio of any kind takes more than that. To keep costs down search for used or overages of patio stones online or in clearance. I purchased most of the patio stones for a 18 x 15 patio on craigslist for $50, I supplemented a few additional bricks to match to complete the size needed. Do the work yourself with friends and family. Take your time, it doesn’t need to be done in a week or two, if you spread out how long you do it you can spread out the cost overtime. Borrow the tools if you don’t have them. Rent the ones you don’t want to purchase. That being said the proper way to build a patio:

    1. Excavate, about 8 inches deep (use a line level to maintain level at depths) and if desired put down landscape fabric but most people believe it is unnecessary
    2. Spread process, about 4 inches deep, and compact with power compactor (rental)
    3. Spread stone dust (about 2 inches deep) and screed level and compact
    4. Install pavers, take time, keep them level, make sure to eliminate low spots and that it slopes slightly away from the house (if against house). Use a simple pattern to eliminate cutting and waste of patio pavers.
    5. Sweep stone dust or Polymeric sand (which is more expensive but I would recommend) into cracks and power compact again
    6. Sweep more stone dust or polymeric sand into cracks and power compact again
    7. Water polymeric sand as indicated in instructions on packaging
    8. Viola! Patio done!

  • iamjomos says:

    If you do it like that, it will last 6 months. I’m not sure you understand how hilariously small 1/2 inch of concrete is. You need like 10 times that minimum. There’s no such thing as an inexpensive patio if you want it to last

  • brettmancan says:

    Sorry for the ugly link (I’m on my phone and grabbed the first one I found) but I think this is what you’re looking for. It’s cheap, the individual concrete pieces are small so they won’t crack like a slab would, and it looks nice enough. Use paverlock sand in between to prevent weeds from growing in joints, or put in dirt and plant a ground cover like creeping thyme. You don’t need to do a ton of soil prep for this, but try to get it level.

    Edit: just to clarify, this is cheaper and will last some years but it’s not going to come out perfect and it will fall to nature faster than a traditional patio done correctly would. But I think this will do alright. I’ve done paver patio the right way by hand (700 sq ft solo) and it came out great. I also did it the wrong way in the garden because I had spare block and didn’t want to spend effort and money on it. The garden path is fine – hasn’t cracked or shifted in two years, but it’s definitely wonky. If anyone is interested I’d be happy to share the differences between the projects and my perception of the durability of each.


  • Woodwagon says:

    What if you add cement powder to your gravel base?

    The ground and air moisture will hopefully set it?

  • GeorgieWashington says:

    Where are you? Climate makes a big difference regarding what you can get away with.

  • decaturbob says:

    will not look very well in a couple years, Why there are tried and true methods of patio paver construction

  • mhud311 says:

    Don’t do it! I used to lay over patios for 3 years, don’t cut corners! Other people have told you what you need to know (gravel, tamp, repeat, leveling sand, and most critically, use the POLY sand between stones), but just remember, do it right or do it twice… The few comments saying you can get away with this are really lucky, you likely wouldn’t get lucky with this method. We installed a patio for my brother and he bought the cheap joint sand, not polymeric. Everytime I go over there and see the weeds growing and a few pavers not sitting true anymore, it just makes me sad I didn’t force the poly sand…

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