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How to Cover a Concrete Patio With Pavers

Renew an old concrete patio with decorative brick or concrete pavers. You don't have to remove the concrete. Here's how to do it quickly and easily.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Overview: Build a paver patio with less work

A concrete patio is made for practicality, not beauty. It starts out looking plain and goes downhill from there. As craters, cracks and stains accumulate, it can go from dull to downright ugly in just a few years. But there's a simple solution, whether you want to dress up a bland patio or hide an aging one. Covering concrete with paver bricks is much easier than pouring new concrete or laying pavers the traditional way. It requires less skill and less time, and it's a whole lot easier on your back.

Assess your slab
This project will work with most patios. Surface damage like flaking, chips and craters is no problem. But a few conditions make this method a no-go:

  • A too-low threshold. Door thresholds have to be high enough above the existing patio to allow for the thickness of the border pavers, plus an extra 3/4 in. to allow for “frost heave”—rising of the slab when the soil freezes.
  • Expanding cracks. This method will work over most cracks—which grow and shrink with seasonal ground movement. But if you have a crack that has noticeably grown in recent years, this method is risky. The crack may eventually “telegraph” through the pavers, creating a hump or gaps.

Note:

  • Search for “patio” or “path” to find paving projects galore.
  • Cool your scorching deck or patio! Search for “shade” to see ideas and projects.
  • Search for “patio furniture” and get complete plans for chairs and tables.

Comparison: Workload for a standard paver patio and workload
for covering a concrete patio with pavers.

Save 12 Tons of Toil

A standard paver patio rests on a thick base of compacted gravel. This patio cover-up will save you the cost of that gravel. More important, it eliminates the backbreaking drudgery of breaking up concrete, digging up soil, hauling it all away and hauling in gravel. On this 12 x 14-ft. patio, a patio tear-out and new gravel base would have meant more than 12 extra tons of wheelbarrow work.

Step 1: Assemble the materials

The materials for this 12 x 14-ft. patio cost about $850, or $5 per sq. ft. Using less expensive pavers, you could cut the cost by almost half. Most landscape suppliers and home centers stock all the materials, but you may have to do a little hunting for the right combination of pavers. The pavers used for the border must be at least 3/4 in. thicker than the “field” pavers, which cover the area between the borders. That thickness difference will allow for a bed of sand under the field. A difference of more than 3/4 in. is fine; you'll just need a little more sand. If you can't find thick pavers you like, consider retaining wall cap blocks for the border. We used cement pavers for the border and clay pavers for the field.

To estimate how much sand you'll need, grab your calculator. First determine the square footage of the sand bed. Then divide that number by 12 for a 1-in. bed or 18 for a 3/4-in. bed. That will tell you how many cubic feet of sand to get. You can have a load of sand delivered or save the delivery fee by picking up a load yourself with a truck or trailer. Most home centers also sell bagged sand. A 50-lb. bag (1/2 cu. ft.) costs about $3.

Figure A: Pavers over concrete details

Figure A: Pavers over concrete details

Figure A: Pavers Over a Concrete Slab

This technique requires two types of pavers. Glue thicker pavers to the concrete on the perimeter and lay thinner pavers on a sand bed.

Step 2: Lay the border first

To get started, scrub the border area (Photo 1) with a concrete cleaner or muriatic acid mixed with water (check the label for mixing and safety instructions). Any stiff brush will do, but a deck stripping brush on a broom handle makes it easier. Hose down the patio when you're done scrubbing the border.

While the concrete is drying, grab a tape measure and a chalk line and carefully plan the locations of the borders (see Figure B). Using the chalk lines as a guide, glue down the border pavers along the house and two sides of the patio (Photo 2). We used polyurethane construction adhesive for a strong, long-lasting bond (about $5 per 10-oz. tube). If adhesive squishes up between pavers, don't try to wipe it off. Just let it harden, then trim it off with a utility knife.

Figure B: Border layout

Figure B: Border layout

Figure B: Border Layout

A Snap a chalk line parallel to the house to mark the location of the border pavers. Remember to leave a gap of at least 1/4 in. between the border pavers and the house.

B Lay out field pavers to locate the side borders. A simple row of pavers will work even if you plan to lay them later in a “herringbone” pattern as we did. The goal is to establish a field width that allows each course to end with a full or half paver, but not smaller pieces. That means less cutting, less waste and a neater look.

C Position the border pavers and mark their locations. It's OK if the border pavers don't quite reach the edge of the patio, but don't let them overhang. Nudge one border outward by 1/4 in. to allow a little extra space for the field pavers.

D Snap a chalk line to mark one side border. To make this line square with the line along the house, use the 3-4-5 method.

E Mark the other side border. Measure from the first side to make sure the two sides are parallel.

F Leave the final border unmarked and install the border after the field is complete. That open end makes screeding off the excess sand easier and lets you position the final border perfectly.

Step 3: Spread a flat bed of sand

If the field area is more than 10 ft. wide, you'll need a screed pipe in the center of the patio (Photo 3). A 10-ft. section of black or galvanized steel plumbing pipe ($14) works best. For a 1-in. bed, use 3/4-in. pipe; for a 3/4-in. bed, use 1/2-in. pipe. Keep in mind that each pipe size is listed by its inner diameter, but the outer diameter is what matters here: 3/4-in. pipe has an outer diameter of about 1-1/8 in.; 1/2-in. pipe, about 5/8 in. In both cases, you'll get an extra 1/8 in. of sand bed thickness and the field pavers will stand about 1/8 in. above the border pavers. Then, when you “tamp” the field with a plate compactor, the sand will compact and the field pavers will settle flush with the border.

“Screed” the sand flat with a notched 2x6 (Photo 4). The depth of the notch should be 1/8 in. less than the thickness of the field pavers. If the field is less than 10 ft. wide, notch both ends of the screed board and skip the pipe. Screeding is hard work and it's best to have a helper.

Step 4: Lay the pavers and finish the border

From here on out, this is mostly a standard paver job. Lay the field pavers as you would on any paver patio. Scrape away the excess sand and cut off the excess landscape fabric with a utility knife. Glue down the last border. Let the glue dry for a few hours before you tamp the field pavers and sweep sand across the patio to fill the joints.

Common Questions

Q: Why not skip the sand and glue down all the pavers?

A: You could do that. But gluing down hundreds of pavers will add a few hours to the job and you'll spend at least $100 on adhesive.

Q: I want a bigger patio. Can the pavers extend beyond the current footprint?

A: The pavers could continue onto a standard gravel base. But the gravel base and the existing slab might shift in different ways, creating a gap or hump where they meet. So it's best to keep them separate. If you want to add a grilling area, for example, separate it from the main patio and set a steppingstone or two between the two paved areas.

Q: Can I glue pavers over the steps?

A: Yes. If your patio includes steps, you must cover the treads in order to maintain the height of the steps. Or you can completely cover the steps if you like. Just be sure to leave a gap of at least 1/2 in. between the pavers on the steps and those on the patio to allow for movement.

Q: Do I have to use paver bricks?

A: You can cover the field with any type of paving product: natural or manufactured flagstone, pavers of any size or shape. But paver bricks are best for the border because they provide a flat, even surface for screeding (see Photo 4).

Back to Top

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Tape measure
    • Caulk gun
    • Chalk line
    • Wheelbarrow
    • Utility knife

You'll also need a shovel, leather gloves, a plate compactor (rental) and a scrub brush with handle.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Pavers
    • Sand
    • Polyurethane construction adhesive
    • Concrete cleaner
    • Landscape fabric
    • Screed pipe, 3/4-in.
    • 2x6

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 12 of 12 comments
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June 21, 12:17 PM [GMT -5]

Hmmmm. I have my doubts. In areas with sub 0 celsius temperatures during winter, you would be very sorry to have applied this method once winter sets in and the water that seeped into the sand turns to ice. The expanding ice will cause the pavers to move up in a way you certainly wouldn't want. To avoid this, you first need to drill a good number of large holes in the concrete and fill them with gravel to allow the water to seep away. Please add the caveat that the method you suggest is just for warmer climes.

svc

April 28, 1:33 AM [GMT -5]

... but what i would like to know is how to revive an old paver patio without much work?

April 27, 10:20 AM [GMT -5]

What if the old concrete patio is not level? I had root damage from an old Silver Maple causing areas to lift and sink by 1"+. Can I level it and then pave over? Removing the concrete is not an option for me.

April 11, 8:54 PM [GMT -5]

I want to reuse my old patio brick pavers. Can i glue them onto pressure treated plywood and lay it down on the grass?

December 10, 10:46 AM [GMT -5]

Will the pavers w/ mortar over the patio work if you use the half pavers? I want to cover my concrete front porch with as thin a paver as I can get so that the height is minimized. Also do you think the colder weather in NC (some freezing and thawing) would be a problem with the mortar adhering to the concrete? If necessary, I could drill some holes in the concrete.

August 24, 9:31 PM [GMT -5]

On the issue of extending the pation past the slab - a professional landscaper suggested a mud job over the gravel to keep it consistent with the concrete

He also suggesrted laying right on the concrete without sand or glue if the condiiton allows. For a small patio there is not much risk in trying. T o MCR - if time is not an issue try a 6x6 test area and see if you like it

May 23, 4:42 PM [GMT -5]

My concrete patio is not level and about half of it slopes toward the house. Can I still do this and if so how would I get border pavers to the level I need?

May 17, 2:15 PM [GMT -5]

In the Denver metro area, there are recycled tires that are made into rubber pavers. They come in a variety of color and are "dog bone" shaped for easy laying on concrete.

The manufacturer suggested that you glue the outside boundary to stabilize the entire field. I didn't do that, but made a small frame of cedar to surround the pavers.

They've been down now, without sand for several years without any shifting. I really like them as they are soft to the feet and when the back yard gets hot, I just spray a little water on them, and they keep the backyard cool all day. As they are rubber, the water goes through the paver and wets the concrete below. These days, I noticed that HD carries a similiar type, but a larger "brick" more on the 18" X 18" size. There are a couple of different patterns and colors too.

A3D

March 15, 12:15 PM [GMT -5]

Would water runoff be a problem in this method? How could it escape with the perimeter blocks being glued down on the concrete pad? If it does run off would it wash the sand away or cause you to replenish it more often?

MCR

March 07, 3:44 PM [GMT -5]

In the Q&A section someone asks, "how about skipping the sand and just put the pavers over the concrete?" I have a 20ft by 20ft concrete patio that is new, less than 1 year old. It is level and in great condition. I want to put pavers over it, and my only concern is do I, or do I not skip the sand part??? What are the pros/cons of sand/no sand? I live in Atlanta, it does get cold in the winter but not NE cold or snow. Has anyone actually NOT put the sand down? How did it turn out? Do you regret not putting the sand down? I've looked at literally 100's of YouTube videos on paver laying and I've only found 1 video where someone was putting pavers on concrete without sand. The video did not go into much detail or commentary and it did not show the finished product or how it turned out.
So, is purring down pavers over concrete practical? Is it a good way to go, and are the results just as good if you had done it with sand? Thanks for any comments,

March 02, 6:01 PM [GMT -5]

This is a great DIY project for a weekend warrior. On ething to keep in mind is that you are not stuck on the one traditional pattern shown in the how-to. Not only do pavers come in lots of colors and styles, they also come in different dimensions, allowing for your own creativity to shine through. Check out basalite.com and see all of the different patterns you can create with, for example, the Artisan Premier series, which offers twelve different paving patterns for your project.

December 08, 1:35 AM [GMT -5]

please visit our website
http://www.constructionbuddy.net for all your construction needs
we have various apps & construction calculators for iphone and android.
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