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Pavers for Ground Coverage

By Brian Barth ; Updated September 21, 2017
Pavers have a beautiful texture that's hard to match in other ground cover materials.

Pavers cover the ground with style. They can be laid in artistic patterns and can give your yard an Old World cobblestone look or a sleek modern profile, depending on the type used. There are pavers of all shapes, sizes and colors, as well as pavers for specific applications, such as structurally engineered driveway pavers or patio pavers with monumental proportions.

Why to Choose Pavers

Compared to a lawn or other vegetative ground covers, pavers can't be damaged by pets; they never need mowing, and remain free from infestations of pests or disease. Mulch can also be used to cover the ground, but it disintegrates over time and can get ground down into the soil with heavy foot traffic, making a muddy mess. Pavers cost more than a basic concrete slab to cover the same area, but far outshine concrete in aesthetic charm. Ornamental cement work, such as staining, stamping and polishing, quickly becomes just as expensive as pavers, if not more so.

Paver Design 101

The layouts and patterns possible with pavers are only limited by the imagination of the designer and ingenuity of the installer. Layout refers to the shape of the paved area and how multiple paved surfaces are integrated and connected into a cohesive whole. Other decisions to make include framing the pavers with a border and integrating a water feature, fire pit or other special feature. Patterns range from simple symmetrical squares to artistic designs reminiscent of woven tapestries. The key is to choose a paver with a color and texture that fits the surrounding landscape and plan the design carefully on paper before executing it on the ground.

Installation Overview

All pavers need to be laid on a firm foundation. Loose topsoil must be stripped from the area to be paved until only solid subsoil remains -- sometimes this needs to be compacted as well. Then, a minimum of 4 inches of gravel or crushed rock should be laid as a foundation, although up to 12 inches is needed if the surface will be used for vehicles. This layer is compacted with a power tamper, and then a 1-inch bed of sand is spread on top to make the final level surface for laying the pavers.

Permeable Pavers for the Environment

Because so much of the ground in urban areas is covered with impermeable surfaces -- such as concrete, asphalt and rooftops -- the volume of runoff entering natural waterways in a rainstorm is wildly inflated. This causes serious problems downstream with erosion, sedimentation and pollution from surface contaminants. Covering the ground with pavers rather than concrete allows storm water to percolate because of all the little gaps between the pavers. Some pavers are designed with much larger gaps to ensure that all runoff water is infiltrated and can even be planted with grass in the gaps for a more naturalized look.


About the Author


Brian Barth works in the fields of landscape architecture and urban planning and is co-founder of Urban Agriculture, Inc., an Atlanta-based design firm where he is head environmental consultant. He holds a Master's Degree in Environmental Planning and Design from the University of Georgia. His blog, Food for Thought, explores the themes of land use, urban agriculture, and environmental literacy.