The Big Pavers:
My wife got a bunch of big pavers for free (the gnome cost extra). And when I first saw these pavers, I knew what I wanted to do with them, build a paved landing in front of our backyard brick oven.
The big pavers were all different sizes and depths, unlike a traditional brick path where the brick is of uniform size. That could have been challenging, but I used the seat-of-the-pants method—no measuring required. I mean it’s only a backyard, right? If I were tiling a kitchen, I’d have to be more exact. However, if tiling a kitchen, I would not choose all different sized tiles. Did I mention they were free?
Tools and Materials:
The tools I used included:
• Two levels (a 4-foot and a 6-foot)
The materials I used included:
• The big pavers
• Scavenged pea gravel
• 3/4-inch gravel from the rest of the yard, as needed.
1. Determine the width
The first thing I established was the width of the landing pad. And I used the front of the oven as a guide. I just grabbed four big pavers at random and as luck would have it, they were just about the perfect width, or as close as I needed for this job. Next, I laid the stones on top of the ground at this stage. And I didn’t want to start digging until I knew I liked the arrangement.
2. Place row two
Next, I placed the second row of big pavers on the ground next to the first row and fooled around with them until it looked like it might work.
3. Place the rest of the pavers
I followed with a couple more rows of big pavers and moved them around until I got a pattern I liked. And I knew the large spaces in between the big pavers would give flexibility for spacing in a more or less consistent pattern from row to row and from front to back. I also knew once the stones were level and embedded in 3/4-inch gravel those spaces would be less noticeable.
4. Capture the arrangement
After I tried the big pavers in different positions, I decided on this pattern. I had to move the pavers before I dug them in, so I took a picture on my phone to remember the pattern. The stones are numbered in order of when they were dug, leveled and set.
5. Make final adjustments
The landing was skewed too far to the right however, so I used a board as a guide to straighten the pattern before I dug the pavers in, made them level and set them for good.
6. Establish the right height
My plan was to establish the first paver at the correct level. I would then set the other three corners in the same manner. After that it’s a simple matter of leveling the big pavers in the middle.
First, I established the paver in the upper left. I dug down and then added 4-inches of 3/4-inch gravel. Unlike soil, gravel lets water drain through and it won’t freeze and thaw. Freezing and thawing soil would heave and shift the pavers, ruining the level landing. As you can see, when I dropped the first block in it was still about 3-inches too low, so I needed to bring it up to the desired height. I added about 3-inches of pea gravel under the paver to bring the top level with the footing of the oven.
7. Get the gravel just right
I used a scoop to move small amounts of pea gravel.
8. Don’t run out of gravel
Here’s a tip: I kept a bucket of pea gravel handy for when I needed a little extra to even things out.
9. Level paver #2 with paver #1
Next I removed soil from under the second corner block (#2) and added more gravel into the hole to give it a good bed. I leveled paver No. 2 to paver No. 1 and then snugged it in nicely with pea gravel and tucked it in with 3/4-inch gravel to keep it honest—that is, so it won’t move out of position. Then it started to rain, so we hung up a camping tarp and kept going.
10. Continue to level the pavers
I repeated the process with the third corner (# 3) and then the middle paver (# 4) on the right side. I added more gravel, tucked it in with 3/4-inch gravel and then the right side was complete.
11. Trust your level!
I repeated the process for the fourth and final corner block (# 5), where I added a lot of gravel to make it the correct height. Note to novice level users: Always trust your level! The stones might look tilted, but the liquid in a level never lies.
Next I did the front center stone (# 6). Same drill: Move the stone, dig, fill with gravel, make it level.
13. Complete the perimeter
The next step was to set the final perimeter stone (# 7) in place, level with all the other perimeter stones.
14. The middle
Then I moved the six center blocks out and cleaned out the middle.
15. Pizza time!
The rest was simple: I shoveled in some pea gravel and then leveled each stone one by one to all the other pavers. After that I added 3/4-inch gravel in the spaces between the rocks to lock everything into place. And ta-da! It’s done.