Properties of every shape and size need a safe pathway from the front yard to the rear yard. Creating a low maintenance pathway is surprisingly simple with affordable paving materials and a clear plan. Whether you want to DIY this landscaping project or hire professionals, think about how to design an attractive paved walkway and make access easy and safe.
Step 1 — Lay Out the Path of Least Resistance
Formed pavers allow any homeowner to create a stable pathway on a limited budget, and are available in a wide range of shapes, designs and colors. You'll need to find the path of least resistance for these building materials — look for an area with limited grading or slope and enough space to move your wheelbarrow and/or lawn mower through the area.
Suburban homes have a choice of one side of their house over the other. Think about possible obstructions (such as the central air conditioner or gas meter) and stay clear of areas near your swale. If the yard grades down significantly, you'll need to consider installing steps or retaining walls within the pathway.
Otherwise, most paving layouts can accommodate a slight grade down or up. You can also install multiple levels on the pathway, resulting in gradual steps spread out over the pathway.
Step 2 — Choose Your Paving Stones
Visit your local building materials retailer to have a look at the paving stones available. Choices range from traditional brick pavers to paving stones that resemble cobblestone, flagstone or slate. Capture a modern look with large, colored pavers set in a linear pattern and edged in a contrasting stone.
Browse through online photo-galleries for ideas on color combinations and paver sizes. Mix and match your favorite styles to create a design that's completely unique to your home. Look at natural stone pavers, such as flagstone, but be aware that these products require a little more skill during installation.
Paving stones can help create a theme in your yard. For a modern look or to display classical charm, whether Japanese serenity or contemporary crispness — your local building supply store has a massive selection of paving stones perfectly designed to flow with your outdoor living space theme.
Step 3 — Consider the Border
Most pathway designs look better with a border installed. This thin row of paving stones set along both sides of the path creates a clean visual line and helps the balance of the pavers sit tight. When frost and settling occurs that border creates a parallel pressure to offset any shifting.
Some paving stones work for both the main area and border, while other styles look best with a contrasting border. Consider something smaller, such as square pavers or bricks, to mimic the look of a picture frame and allow the main paving stones to take center stage.
Step 4 — Prep the Site
The secret to a low maintenance pathway lies with a well-laid base. You'll need to excavate down to an adequate depth and fill that area with sand and gravel to protect against frost and water damage.
Prepare for excavation by clearing away vegetation and other obstructions. Claw back the gardens, trim the trees and bushes and remove any large rocks in the area. Cut out the grass with a flat spade and a few hours of work, or bring in a sod cutter to make the job quick and efficient.
Experts agree that stone pathways need about 6-inches of base for optimum stability and longevity. This may be difficult if you have clay soil or your path is located in a boggy, low-lying area. Keep this important step in mind when choosing a location; hard to reach areas and inappropriate soil conditions make site preparation difficult and costly.
A good base must be compacted before the stones are laid. This process provides greater stability and strength. Many homeowners find compacting challenging, and hire a professional landscaping company or stone professional for this step.
Step 5 — Plan for Plantings
The look of your new path also depends on what types of plants surround it. Popular selections include easy care groundcover plants such as thyme or moss, low maintenance shrubs such as juniper or spirea or non-invasive perennials.
Setting out a well-established border keeps these plantings in the garden and out of the pathway. It may also be wise to lay down landscape fabric between the border garden and stones to prevent healthy perennials from moving in on the stonework. You can spray weed killer in the area during installation, but without a solid border many stubborn plants will make headway into the path, moving stones and creating major work for maintenance and repairs.
Step 6 — Think About Safety
Choose a stone with some texture for safety. Paving stones become slippery after rainfall, especially if moss has grown in the area. Apply anti-moss products to reduce the risk of slipping, and try to keep branches trimmed for optimum sun exposure.
Just as a proper base is important, you'll also need to design for drainage on the pathway. Leaving narrow gaps between the stones, filled with sand or limestone, allows for effective water run-off. If this design feature doesn't redirect the water, have your contractor install a larger drain at the lowest point.
Some homeowners invest in radiant heating to avoid shovelling snow and spreading ice melt in the winter. Talk to a reputable contractor about the possibilities for radiant heating on your project, and consider heat mats if a built in system is not feasible.
Designing a low maintenance pathway is simple with your choice of paving stones, a well thought out plan and adequate preparation. Whether you hire a contractor or DIY, paving stones provide the ideal way to create a safe, attractive and worry-free pathway in your yard.