How to Increase the Lifespan of Your Paver Driveway, Patio or Walkway
The most important factor affecting the lifespan of paver driveways, patios, or walkways is proper installation. The second-most important factor is proper maintenance over the years. To make sure you are doing everything you can to increase the longevity of your investment, follow these tips for installing and caring for your paving stones.
How to Increase the Lifespan of Pavers
Paver driveways, patios, and walkways are an investment that increases the value of your home and can provide you and your family with beautiful, functional, outdoor living spaces for the rest of your life. Paving stones are made to last a lifetime, so a properly installed and maintained paver installation could continue to be enjoyed by your children and their children. Paving stone hardscapes have greater longevity than slab concrete and stamped concrete, so, while the initial investment is more than slab concrete and usually comparable to stamped concrete, you will get a better return on your investment from paving stones.
Of course, a poorly installed or neglected hardscape will not last as long, so let’s look at how to increase the lifespan of paver patios, driveways, and walkways starting with tips for the installation process and continuing maintenance throughout its life.
Excavate to the Proper Depth
It is very important that you excavate to the proper depth depending on your application. For example, in Southern California, the proper excavation depth for an RV would be 11.5″ from the final grade. For standard vehicular traffic it would be 9.5″ and for pedestrians, you would want to excavate to 7.5″ from the final grade. You will also want to ensure that all root systems are removed entirely so they do not disrupt the installation in the future.
Proper Grading and Drainage
You will want to ensure that the grade is perfect and that any drainage needs are taken care of at this time. As a general rule of thumb, for the first 4 feet away from the house, you will want a 1/4 inch fall per foot for the first four feet and a 1/8 inch fall per foot thereafter. This is the recommendation to create the necessary water flow away from your house.
Compact the Sub-Base (native soil)
Compacting the sub-base before adding the geotextile fabric and road base is crucial to the longevity of your paver driveway or patio. This step will help you maintain the integrity of your installation over time by removing air gaps to avoid pavers that sink or lift in the future.
Include Geotextile Fabric
Geotextile fabric is not an absolute must in a paver installation, and some homeowners and contractors skip this step in order to cut costs. However, if your goal is to increase the lifespan of your paver installation, we recommend that you include a layer of geotextile fabric between the sub-base and road base to protect the foundation of your installation. Geotextile fabric prevents the native soils from mixing with the class II road base. We highly recommend geotextile fabric for clay conditions.
Add Enough Road Base
How much class II road base you need will depend on the function of the paver installation. For example, in Southern California, if there will only be pedestrian traffic, four inches of road base is enough. If there will be regular passenger vehicles driving or parking on the pavers, you will need to do about six inches. If you plan on heavier vehicles using the driveway, such as RVs, you will need eight inches of road base. To avoid air gaps, you will need to add the road base in two-inch layers. After you add each two-inch layer, compact that layer before adding another two inches of road base. Repeat this process until you have achieved the proper depth.
Use Bedding Sand Over the Road Base
It may be tempting to buy whatever sand is cheap and available at your local home improvement store, but it is important that you use bedding sand for this step in the installation process. Bedding sand is sharp and angular, which is what makes it an ideal choice for locking together and securing pavers.
Install Pavers in a Downward Motion
After screeding your bedding sand and choosing paver patterns, it will be time to install your paving stones. To increase the longevity of your installation, you want to avoid disturbing the bedding sand you just screeded to perfection. If you set your pavers on the sand and then slide them into place, you will disturb your sand. Instead, place your pavers in position by setting them straight down into place.
Add a Fortified Border
Some folks use simple landscape borders to hold their paving stone installations in place. This is less expensive and will save you time, but it will not foster longevity like a properly fortified row of border stones. The best way to use the border to increase the lifespan of paver patios, driveways, and walkways is to dig a trench, install bond beam footings, add rebar for extra stability, and pour concrete in which to set your border stones.
Use a Paver Sealer to Protect Pavers
Use of a joint stabilizing sealer helps prevent weeds from growing between your pavers and stabilizes the joints between your paving stones. Sealing your pavers also provides protection from the elements and makes your pavers easier to clean and maintain. Both of these functions of the paver sealer can add to the longevity of your installation.
Belgard, a leading manufacturer of paving stones, recommends sealing your pavers every three to five years after the initial sealing. Some companies recommend waiting 90 days after installation to seal your pavers to allow you to remove efflorescence (salt deposits) that you may find after installation, however, waiting 90 days can introduce other issues as well. Bird droppings, stains from tree droppings (i.e. sap, leaf stains, etc.), tire marks, oil marks, wine stains, food stains, etc. For all these reasons, most paver companies seal immediately after installation once the pavers and joint sand are completely dry.
Prevent Weed Growth
Joint stabilizing sealers can help prevent weed growth between pavers. If additional effort is needed, be sure to regularly remove weeds or apply a weed killer between pavers to avoid weed growth. Some weeds are not an issue, but others can grow so vigorously that they can cause your pavers to shift over time, which degrades the integrity of your installation.
Clean Your Pavers Regularly
Sweep, blow, or spray your paving stones off regularly to remove dirt and small debris, which can leave marks on your pavers over time. This will help keep your paver driveway or patio looking great longer. You should also regularly remove clutter so that your patio is more functional and to help avoid mold, algae, or other issues caused by moisture.
Avoid Harsh Chemical Cleaners and De-Icers
Chemical cleaners, even those designed for cleaning concrete or paving stones, can strip paver sealer and can discolor or damage pavers. The same goes for chemical de-icers, which can also cause an increased risk of cracking if repeated use weakens the paving stones over time. To increase the lifespan of paver installations, avoid harsh chemicals that can damage the paving stones.
It is also best to avoid metal snow shovels if you need to shovel snow off of your paving stones. Instead, use a plastic snow shovel to avoid scratching the pavers.
Avoid Metal, Wire Brushes
To avoid damaging your pavers and to help your patio or driveway last well into the future, never use stiff, metal, wire brushes to clean paving stones. Stiff, metal bristles can scratch up your pavers, which you will then have to either live with or replace.
Protect Your Pavers with Furniture Leg Caps
Dragging metal patio furniture across pavers can also leave marks on them, so, to extend the life of your pavers, put leg caps on metal patio furniture pieces so that kids and guests can drag them around all they want without harming your patio.
Keep the Area Free of Aggressive Root Systems
You are going to have this paver patio, driveway, or walkway for a long time, so you will need to remember many years from now to avoid planting anything with an aggressive root system near the installation. Large, strong roots can damage any hardscape over time, so keep roots away from your paving stones to increase the longevity of your hardscapes.
Replenish Joint Sand Regularly
According to Belgard, the “joints between paving stones are the most vulnerable areas of any installation.” (Belgard.com) To increase the lifespan of paver installations and avoid your pavers shifting, regularly replenish the joint sand between the pavers. This will help keep the joints properly filled and help keep the bedding sand under your pavers from deteriorating.
Replace as Needed
One of the benefits of choosing paving stones is that you can repair the damage that occurs without replacing the entire patio, driveway, or walkway. For example, if a slab or stamped concrete driveway cracks, you will need to replace the entire slab in order to make a full repair. If there are slabs adjacent to the one you replaced, it is highly likely that the colors will not match and the new concrete will stand out from the rest. If one or more of your paving stones crack, are chipped, or are otherwise damaged, you can simply replace the damaged pavers while maintaining the integrity of the installation.
Paving stones have an interlocking design that goes together a bit like a zipper. This allows you to unzip just that area and replace just the damaged pavers, making repairs much simpler.
If your paving stones shift over time due to root growth, an earthquake, poor installation, or poor maintenance, you can take that area (or all) of the patio or driveway apart and put it back together using the same pavers.
To increase the longevity of your hardscape, replace pavers and repair shifting as needed to maintain the overall integrity of the installation.
Consider Professional Cleaning, Sanding, and Sealing Services
The easiest way to increase the lifespan of pavers after installation is to properly maintain them. This includes many of the tips listed above, including regular cleaning, sanding, and sealing. If this does not sound like fun to you, or if you just do not have the time or ability to take on these chores, you can hire professionals to take care of it for you. Professional paver cleaning services will pressure wash and spot clean your pavers, replenish the sand, and apply paver sealer to help protect your paving stones from wear and stains.
If you do choose professional cleaning and sealing services for your pavers, be sure to choose a company that uses eco-friendly products that are safe for use around pets, children, and plants.
Additional Resources for Maintaining Pavers
Over the lifespan of paver driveways and patios, there may be issues with mold, tire marks, or moss. Here are additional resources to help you take care of these issues if they arise.