How To: Laying Interlocking Brick

Whether you need to complete a practical project like replacing your front pathway or you’re dreaming of upgrading your backyard space, interlocking brick provides a beautiful option for creating an outdoor feature. Pavers are a great option to use in place of concrete pathways, wood for patios, or even asphalt for driveways. There are many benefits to choosing to lay interlocking brick over other materials including:

  • Easier to maintain and repair should a stone need replacing.
  • Known to be stronger than poured concrete.
  • Holds up better in cold weather than asphalt.
  • Meets freeze and thaw standards of even frigid climates.
  • Has minimum water absorption.
  • Withstands high traffic, both person and vehicle.
  • Provides a long life to your project with pavers lasting 20-25 years.
  • Allows creative and unique designs with both the variety of layouts you can create and the array of stones, colours and textures available.

Materials

Installing paving stones will leave you with beautiful and long-lasting results as long as you’re willing to invest the time and attention to detail required for this DIY project. Installing interlocking brick requires several important steps that must be done with care as each step lays the base for the following stage.

From start to finish you will need the following tools:

  • String and stakes
  • Level
  • Wooden 2x4 and/or 1-inch pipe for smoothing your sand
  • Grading rake
  • Broom
  • Shovel
  • Masonry splitter or saw
  • Rubber mallet
  • Vibrating plate compactor
  • Concrete sand
  • Material to restrain the edges of your project, like additional wood or concrete blocks
  • And of course, enough brick to cover your intended project with allowance for errors

Plan and Prep

If you’re going to use interlocking brick for your project, you’ll want to determine if the area you’re going to install them has good drainage. You want to avoid laying brick wherever flooding occurs or where water stands after heavy rains. If you want to lay your brick where the drainage is poor, consider taking measures to improve either the elevation or underground drainage of the area. Typically, areas near your home are already equipped with the necessary drainage, with yards sloping gradually away from the home. Ideally, you’ll find your yard slopes about an eighth of an inch for every foot of distance.

Once you’ve decided on your placement, you’ll want to mark the area to get an idea of the size and shape of your project. You can do this using your string and stakes, placing stakes every few inches and wrapping string along between them. Keep in mind to include not only the field for your pavers but also the space required for your restraints.

You need to calculate the area for the amount of materials you require. For gravel and sand, calculate length x width x depth. The depth of your gravel will depend on your project. For regular pedestrian use, 4-6 inches of packed gravel is recommended. For vehicle use, you’ll want a minimum of 6-8 inches, more if you expect to be driving heavy vehicles over it. Your sand base should be no thicker than 1.5 inches.

Next, you’ll choose your pavers. You’ll find a vast array of options when it comes to the size, colour, shapes, patterns and thickness available. For foot traffic and regular vehicles, standard thickness is 2 3/8 inches.

Digging and Laying Your Base

Having a well-prepared base for your pavers is essential for creating a beautiful and long-lasting result. Begin your base by digging out the required depth of all stages of your project: gravel, sand and pavers. If your pavers are 2 3/8 inches high, the sand layer will be 1 inch deep and the gravel will be 6 inches deep, you’ll need to dig about 9 inches. But before you dig, be sure to contact Dig Safe to be sure you are proceeding safely and won’t be damaging any utility lines. 

First, pour and compact the layer of gravel. Typically, ¾ inch crushed aggregate is advised. Pour a layer of gravel and spread it evenly with the gravel rake then compact it down with the plate compactor. Continue adding layers and compacting until you’ve reached your desired depth. You can improve the compacting process by having your gravel slightly wet, but not soaking, use the mist setting on your hose nozzle to spray each layer down before compacting. 

Next, lay your sand layer. Use quality bedding sand. Different projects require different particle contents, so be sure to use materials specific to your project. Pour the first layer of sand and spread it evenly using your rake and 2x4 or pipe. When your sand appears level, compact it down. Check between layers for high and low spots using a level and correct these spots before moving on to your next layer.

Getting your base perfectly compact and level is a time-consuming and precise step. While it may be difficult to get your base perfectly laid, it’s important to strive for it. Uneven sand, rocks or divots will keep your pavers from sitting properly and set you up for issues maintaining the life and quality of your project.

Laying Your Bricks

When your base layers are compact and level, be sure to lay your bricks within 24 hours so the integrity of your base is not compromised.

Place your restraining wall around the area you will lay pavers so that the bricks will not shift and move as you lay more. 

As you lay your bricks, be careful not to disrupt the integrity of your sand base beneath. A best practice is to hold the brick in two hands, directly above where it will lay and place it down gently. Do not drag your bricks once they are laid and be mindful not to let one side fall heavy first as this will create divots. Continue laying your bricks snug against one another. As you approach the edge you may find you need to trim or cut the bricks to fit just as you might cut tile flooring. 

Once you’ve laid your brick, put down a light layer of sand and compact it entirely.

Finally, complete your project by adding joint sand, in your colour of choice, between every crack and space between your bricks. Don’t leave any spot unfilled. You can pour the sand on your new surface and spread it into the cracks using your broom. 

Your interlocking brick project is now complete! Additionally, you can seal your new stone pavers to boost the colour and help it to resist stains. If you decide to seal your project be sure to give it time for the natural efflorescence to fade before sealing, usually a few weeks will do.