If you’re searching for your next weekend project to enhance the use and beauty of your yard, installing a path or walkway to connect two or more of your outdoor spaces is definitely something you should consider. Not only are they a great way to functionally connect the dots of your yard, they also help flow things visually as well.
This post and the video below focus on one of the more aggressive path-laying projects…installing a paver path, but at the bottom I’ve provided you a few pros & cons for some other path material options as well. So if you’re thinking of installing a path sometime soon…keep reading.
Walk This Way is the 3rd video I did with Exmark for their “Done-in-a-Weekend” video series. It focuses on how to install a dry-set paver path. And although a dry-set paver path is more cost and labor intensive than some of your other path options, it is certainly the right choice for certain situations. For example:
- If the path gets a ton of traffic and/or is connecting some of the primary areas of your yard (vs. a wimpy path that doesn’t make the statement you want or provide the functionality you need).
- If it’s a primary path and you are worried about the ground settling or moving due to roots (vs. a mortared path and/or one made of concrete that would crack in those situations).
- If you’re trying to match the colors of your home or other hardscapes (pavers come in a wide array of colors).
Again, I’ll provide you some quick & dirty pros & cons on a few other path options at the end of the post, but before that, check out the video below to see if you’re up for the paver path challenge.
As with the other videos, there’s a ton of information crammed into less than 3 minutes…so I’ll try to slow it down a for you by providing a few notes.
Before you do any project like this where you’ll be doing some digging and potentially some grading you’ll want to call 811 to have your utilities located and marked.
The first real step in this project is to measure and mark your walkway. Measuring will allow you to order the right amount of material. Marking your path…with string or landscape paint…will not only help you stay within the lines during installation, it will also allow you better envision what your path will look like before you start. So if you don’t like the curves or width, etc., you can make changes before doing anything else.
Next, you can really let loose your inner Tim “the Toolman” Taylor by using a sod cutter to remove the existing sod. Today’s newer-model cutters can be rented at a local tool store…and are fairly easy to operate.
With the sod out of the way, you’ll next need to level and prep the area with a base mixture of sand and crush-and-run. The next…and very critical…step is to compact your base with a tamper (again, great time to practice your Toolman grunt!).
[Now…through the magic of post-production these 4 steps were done in less than 23 seconds. Clearly it takes a lot longer than that…and there are many details we didn’t mention. So again, although we’ve provide you some great info on the major steps for laying a paver path, make sure to do your homework to learn about the nitty-gritty.]
The next step in the project is where things really begin to take shape…laying the actual pavers. On the video you’ll see that I chose a two-piece “squares & recs” pattern from a company called Pavestone. And if you visit their website (http://www.pavestone.com/) you’ll see that there are a ton of shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns to choose from…which is one of the primary reasons some people choose pavers over their other options – variety of choice.
To keep your pavers in place you’ll need to add a soldier course to tie the walkway in. Then, add and brush sand into the paver joints. And finally compact the walkway to ensure that it’s level and sturdy…hose down and enjoy!
Now…if a paver path is out of budget, beyond your skill set…or just not the right solution for your path, you could consider one of the following path options as well.
Mulch Path: If you’re looking for a more informal and less costly option, you should definitely consider using mulch as the basis for your path. Not only is a mulch path relatively easy to install, it will flow very naturally with the rest of your landscape.
Since mulch is an organic material it’s both good and bad. Good in that as it breaks down it will enrich your soil…and your plants will like that. And bad because since it breaks down it will need to be replaced over time.
Also on the negative side, mulch won’t give you that neat and tidy look…and will often sluff off in places you didn’t intend. Some people are good with that (I am), but if you’re not, you’ll need to invest in some sort of edging to keep the mulch in the path that you want. I’d recommend stone, rocks, or brick…vs. some sort of metal edging…but that’s just personal preference.
Oh…by the way, I’d recommend that you try to make your mulch path approximately 3″ deep…otherwise it’s likely not to stay much of a path for very long.
Gravel Path: Almost as cheap and almost as easy to install, using pea gravel or mini-slate chips to make your path is another great option. Like a mulch path, a gravel path looks very natural in the landscape and is generally plant and drainage friendly. Likewise, gravel can also get outside its intended lines…so again, using an edging to hold things in place may be advisable for those who like to keep things tidy.
One other ding against using gravel is…depending on how you installed your gravel path, an aversion to volunteer green things (i.e., weeds), and other growing conditions in your yard, the frequency with which you need to pull weeds from your gravel (or mulch) will vary. So there’s that.
The primary difference between a gravel and mulch path is that gravel is inorganic. That’s good in that it won’t decompose and have to be replaced like mulch does. [Although I do freshen up my gravel paths with a bucket or two of gravel every few years to replace the rocks that have sunk into my soil or have been hurled across the yard by my kids!] The bad aspect of gravel being inorganic is that because it doesn’t break down your plants don’t benefit from those added nutrients…but there are other ways you can feed your plants.
Lastly, gravel paths can be feel a bit unstable to walk on for some folks. So if you…or someone who is often walking through your yard…is already unsteady on their feet, you may want to consider a more stable, predictable material option for your path.
After re-reading the above about gravel it seems like I’m discouraging you from using gravel to make your paths. I’m not. I really love gravel paths in the right situation, but I just wanted you to be as informed as possible.
Stepping Stones: Another informal, fairly inexpensive, and easy to install path option is using stepping stones. They can be manufactured or natural stone.
If it’s a path that you walk on often I’d recommend that you use stepping stones that are big enough and spaced so that you can walk on them with a normal cadence. However, if your path is truly off the beaten path, like to your hose…then by all means, simply use a single, smaller stepping stone…one right after the other. This will functionally provide you a place to put your feet, while not drawing too much attention to the path itself.
One of the other things I love about using stepping stones for a path is that you can plant between them…which really helps your path naturally become more a part of the landscape. In a woodlands garden, planting “steppables” like mazus or creeping jenny between and beside your stepping stones not only looks great, it also decreases the chances of weeds popping up.
Mortared Path: On other side of the formality spectrum, a path made of brick or stone with mortared joints is a great option. Like a dry-laid paver path, if you are installing a mortared path it’s likely because need a solution for a high-traffic situation where you’re connecting some primary areas of your outdoor spaces.
As you would expect, mortared paths tend to be much more costly and labor-intensive than your other options. And depending on how complicated your path is, your skill level may need to extend beyond competent to expert or even craftsman to pull installation off yourself.
But if the situation screams for a mortared solution, it’s within budget, and you have or can afford hiring the skillz to install it…then a mortared path is for you.
Well, that is unless…there’s a good chance that the ground will settle where you’re installing your path (e.g., due to roots, it’s a heavy fill area, etc.). If that’s the situation, I’d recommend that you go all the way back to the beginning of this post and consider dry-laid pavers.
Mortared paths (like sidewalks and driveways made of concrete) will crack if there is settling. Fixing a crack is costly and labor intensive…and sometimes it’s difficult to hide that a repair has been made. However, if pavers pop up or sink down because of roots or settling…all you have to do is lift up the paver, add or take out sand under it and then simply replace the paver. Good as new.
Alright…I think between the video and all the info above that that’s enough path talk for now. I hope both have been helpful to you.
Speaking of helpful, if you’ve missed any of the blogs I’ve done for the other Exmark ‘Done-in-a-Weekend’ project videos, be sure to check them out on RYGblog (the links should be below) or you can find all of the videos in one place at WeAreExmark.com.
Thanks friends…and I hope you have a great weekend,