Know the basics of paving stones before hiring a contractor. The recent economic downturn has greatly affected the construction and landscaping trades, and more contractors are expanding their work to keep up with the changing times. While this means consumers have more choices, it also means many of those contractors probably don’t have the skills, knowledge and experience to properly perform specialty work like paving stone installations.
To most people, installing paving stones might not appear to be a complex process, but creating a safe and durable surface isn’t as simple as it seems. Someone with minimal experience installing paving stones is likely to make mistakes, requiring the work to be redone after a few months or years and perhaps even creating a safety hazard. Before you hire a contractor to handle a paving project, make sure you’re familiar with some basic industry information:
Proper treatment of the underlying soil and base
The first step to a paving stone installation is to remove four to 12 inches of soil from the area. After that, the subsoil is compacted, and several inches of aggregate (crushed rock) are added and compacted. The required thickness of the base varies depending on native soil type and climate. Next, a bed of sand is laid down and leveled. The pavers are installed in the chosen pattern and sand is swept into the joints. Then the pavers are compacted and more sand is brushed in until the joints are completely filled. After cleaning, a sealer can be applied to the surface.
When the ground is sloped, as is the case in much of the Bay Area, the paving stone process is even more complicated. Water must be removed from the base, bedding sand and surface to prevent erosion. Also essential is the use of stationary edge restraints, consistent and tight paver joints, and interlocking herringbone patterns of stones.
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When evaluating potential paving stone contractors, it’s important to check certifications and ask how long the company has been installing paving products. Be sure to check references—not just recent customers but also work the company performed several years ago. That way, you can see if its customers are still happy with their installations several years down the line. “You should also look into the warranties a company offers,” adds Jorge Neukirchen, project manager at Viking Pavers in San Pablo. “Paving stones are long-term property investments, so it’s important to get a warranty that will protect them for many years.”