How To Screed a Large Area?

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Old 05-25-11, 02:13 PM
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How To Screed a Large Area?

I did a walkway last year and it was very easy to screed - since it was only 40 inches wide. I used a piece of one inch conduit on the left and right side and dropped a few small "plops" of cement. I positioned the conduit on the cement and got the two pieces perfectly level and with the same pitch. When it was dried the next day, I had perfect screed rails.

But now I am going to do an area that is about 25x20. I know I dont need to use plops of cement (it was just for the walkway I needed so little and it gave me confidence that nothing would move on me as I screeded) but how do I set the screed rails?

Everything I have read says to just build up some sand and lay the conduit on that and level/pitch it - but I cant imagine that it wont move when a screed board is used on top of the rails. If one end of one conduit sinks a quarter of an inch, and that happens in a handful of the areas that are screeded, it would be an uneven mess when finished - wouldnt it? Dont the screed rails need to set in something nice and firm?

What is the correct way to set the screed rails?
 
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Old 05-25-11, 03:14 PM
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Are you pouring concrete or laying pavers (screeding concrete or sand)?
 
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Old 05-25-11, 03:18 PM
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Sorry, I forgot to mention - I am laying pavers.

6-7 inches of base, then an inch or two of sand.
 
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Old 05-25-11, 04:36 PM
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I rough out the base by eye, compacting after every couple inches of base material. Once I'm close I use the transit/laser to establish my border elevations including the proper fall for drainage. For large areas I luse half an extension ladder as a straight edge so I create areas (either the edges or pads in the center of the area I'm working on). I lay the ladder section across the area with each end resting on known good elevations. Any gaps under the ladder show where more base material needs to be added. You can even use the ladder as a very long screed but you can't push much material but with it you can get the base very close.

After a good base has been established I use long lengths of tubing (EMT) for the sand layer. Before screeding I double check the elevations of the screed tubing. Usually I space the tubing less than five feet apart and screed the sand out in strips. I do the narrow strips because I'm almost never doing a big flat area that slopes in only one plane. So I'm usually working with compound slopes. Even big open areas are usually high in the center and slope down to the perimeter, cone like. If you do have a big area with one slope plane and have the muscle you could use a longer screed.
 
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Old 05-25-11, 06:10 PM
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My area will have a single slope (it makes it so much easier to me considering this isnt something i do regularly)

I understand everything (love the idea of the ladder as a straightedge for getting the base straighter).

But I still dont understand how to get the EMT to the position you want and keep it there. I amassuming the base will never be perfect so when you lay the EMT wont there always be the need to shim it one way or another?

In other words, you wrote and italized "Before screeding I double check the elevations of the screed tubing". Well, if you need to adjust it higher how do you do it? Do you just shim with anything?
 
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Old 05-25-11, 06:19 PM
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Screeding

Drive 1x2 stakes in the ground so that the top of the stake is at the correct elevation for the bottom side of the conduit. Place the conduit on top of the stake and secure with a nail on each side to hold the conduit in place. After screeding, remove the stake and fill in the void. Just my 2 cents. Good luck with your project.
 
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Old 05-26-11, 04:50 AM
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I work to get the base as close as possible to the proper elevation and pitch so usually the tubing just lies on top of the base. A shovel of sand dumped on each end of the tubing holds it in place. Once the tubing is down I double check the elevation and slope since this is the last chance to fix anything. If I do need to adjust I shim to raise it or dig a slight trench to lower it but if I need to raise it more than about 3/4" I'll throw in more stone and compact.

I don't like to elevate the tubing off the base too much because I want to limit the amount of soft sand or stone dust under the pavers. The compacted base is what really provides the support and stability to the patio or driveway. It is the foundation after all. The sand provides fine leveling ability but I don't consider it a structural member like the base so I try to limit it's thickness.

---
This weekend I'll be doing a circle pattern which needs to be started in the center. I've never done a circle and always worked from an edge so I don't have to step on the sand. I've been asking others how they handle this problem and some use a walk board to make a bridge over the sand so the pattern can be made from the center out. Some lay down plywood on the sand so they don't compact it by walking over the area, but one guy used an approach I've never heard of before. He uses stone dust and he screeds it out like normal but then he compacts it with the plate compactor before placing the pavers. Since it packs down rock hard they can walk on it to form the pattern.
 
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Old 06-13-11, 08:24 AM
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Ok this was very helpful. BUT, I did my RCA base this weekend and it came out just ok... some spots are a bit lower than I would like for a number of reasons (rushing to beat the weather, waiting for extra load since my excavator dug to deep, and was maybe a yard short of what I should have had).

So, I posted a new thread for some advice - but it isnt showing up. So I will repost that new question here (hope thats ok)........................


Using a bit more sand with pavers than recommended
I am doing a patio of pavers that is about 600 square feet. This weekend I had it excavated and the exavator went WAY too deep. So, after my initial 8 yards of RCA base was used up I needed another load of 6 more yards.

I finished spreading, leveling and compacting and was still a little short. So, it looks like in some spots I may want to use more than the one inch of sand that is recommended for setting the pavers in. Is it a problem if the sand is deeper - maybe two inches. It would be around the perimiter as this is where the RCA tapers off.

Im not sure if there is more of likeliness for the pavers to sink if the sand is too deep.

Should/can the sand be mixed with portland to strengthen it around the perimiter where the sand may be deeper? In fact, should the sand be mixed with portland all throughout - doesnt this just strengthen everything?

Any help would be appreciated. Im hoping that the only answer isnt to get another yard or two of RCA because then I need to get the load dumped, rent the tamper again, and lose another day. I did the base this weekend and will lay the pavers next weekend, then will do my cuts the following Saturday.
 
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Old 06-13-11, 09:03 AM
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What kind of pavers? Interlocking concrete pavers (9" maximum dimension), smooth sided clay brick or the oversized "patio stones"?

Since this is just a casual patio, you have some latitude in the installation.

If they a true interlocking concrete pavers, the structural support is the compacted base (sloped for drainage desired, if necessary) and the sand setting must be a uniform concrete sand 1" thick with no cement. If you do the suggested vibration of the set pavers, the area The areasd with excess of sand will end up sucking too much sand into the joints, creating some low areas. The sand to be surface case over the pavers should be a very fine concrete sand (masonry sand) that will be vibrated down into the joint fro interlocking the units.

I you do not plan to vibrate, then you just have to accept what you get. If it was a major installation with vehicle loading like a driveway, street, airport taxiway for 747s or an industrial area, the uniform sand setting bed and vinbration is critical. I have not seem cement used in the setting bed on a critical project, but a patio is more forgiving.

Dick
 
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Old 06-13-11, 10:40 AM
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Dick - thank you for the response.

They are interlocking concrete pavers - Cambridge brand 6x9, and I plan a herringbone pattern.

My structural support should be fine. It is about 8 inches of RCA since my excavator bug so deep. It is tamped and hard as a rock.

So, just so I am clear, you are suggesting that I do NOT mix cement into my sand. I should, instead, get another yard or two of RCA and fill in my low spots, rescreeding so that my pitch is virtually identical to the patter of the pavers that will be on top.

Im curious though - why would cement not be a good idea. Mixed with the sand it would become concrete. I would imagine you could have 5 inches of sand in spots if concrete were underneath.

Im not sure of the exacy sand I am using (my receipt is home and I am at work) but it is the same that I will use for sweeping between the cracks since I am getting just one dump of sand.

I do not plan to tamp in the end over the pavers for two reasons:
1) I dont want to rent the tamper again
2) I was told by the guys at the masonry yard that it isnt necessary and I can do more harm than good.

I did a walkway like this last year and it seems fine still. But, since this a much bigger job I am open to changing my mind on that.

I guess the way I envisioned my initial problem is like tiling a wall (or floor). If you hit a low spot, you can butter up the back of the tiles with more mortar and keep everything flush. I just figured that adding cement to the sand would have the same effect.

So - is getting another yard or two of RCA and renting the tamper really the only way to go?

I just rearead your post and have a questions about one of your comments:
You said "the structural support is the compacted base (sloped for drainage desired, if necessary)"

Why sloped for drainage "if necessary"? Isnt that a critical part of the layout?

And that makes me think of another question I have always thought about when I hear that tha base must be sloped for water runoff:

Lets say I am sloping my patio so that water will run off at the end. But at that end, I have backsplashed (or used any border) to hold the bricks in place. Isnt that simply a dam that will hold all water anyway?
 
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Old 06-13-11, 11:20 AM
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The other thread you started is here, but it looks like you might have already found it.

I think cement in an all or nothing affair. You can either put in a proper 4" deep full strength layer of real concrete or not use it at all. Mixing portland cement with sand and screeding it out in your low spots will probably give you a low strength, brittle mortar. You might be able to make a dry mix mortar and compact it down much like you would for a shower but by that point it's just easier to bring in the correct base material and compact it.
 
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Old 06-16-11, 10:27 AM
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ok, so I will be getting another three yards and will get the base the way it is supposed to be - straight and pitched.

After laying the pavers, is it necessary to tamp? I have heard conflicting advice. I dont want to rent the tamper a third time if I dont have to.

I plan on a base that is very good and, if so, is using 3/4 or 1/2 screeded sand an option (as opposed to 1 inch)? Is there a benefit to using a bit less? I am assuming that, if not tamped, I might get some sinking in the pavers (is that true?) If so, then I would imagine using a thinner layer of sand would give me less sinking - to the point of being unnoticable?

How much can they sink anyway? I am close to three hundred pounds. If my walking on them doesnt sink them - will they really sink by themselves?

And a couple of more questions I just thought of:
Once the base is done - how many pavers can be laid in a day (no cutting) I know it depends on a number of variables but Im thinking 100 square feet an hour is pretty reasonable - which means I can finish 600 square feet a day. If so, and I can rent th tamper late friday afternoon, I can finish laying the pavers saturday and tamp them saturday afternoon (so I can keep the tamper) Of course that would be no cuts so the perimiter would not be tamped and would be finished a few days later.

And last question - when a little girl pogo sticks on this patio... will that cause bricks to sink?
 

Last edited by rmathome; 06-16-11 at 10:49 AM.
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Old 06-16-11, 11:21 AM
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For a serious paver application you can vary somewhat from the recommended instrucrions. - It is a big differenece between interlocking pavers on a patio and a pavers on a driveway or street. My instructions were "by the book" and you can vary as you choose.

A paver is designed and should be used on a compacted base with a setting bed, but that again can be relaxed for a patio.

To get maximum strength and stability vibration, a plate vibrator is necessary as is a 1" setting bed and varying it by a small amount is not that critical IF they are vibrated for stability and levelness/eveness. They must be vibrated to draw the sand into the joints and not "tamped". Even on the streets and large areas where the pavers are laid by automated machinery in 1 square meter at a drop, they use vibration and not "pounding" with a tamper.

I have never seen a critical paving job on a setting bed with cement added unless it was more of an "artsy" application and did not rely on the stregth and stability. The larger jobs I have seen (20 to 40 acres within a few feet of the water table) never have had cement in the base or setting bed, because they must get the maximum strength because of the 30,000 to 50,000# moving loads. Pavers are classified as a "flexible" pavement, similar to asphaly that can endure the natural movement of the seasonal weather conditions, without the problems of diffrential slab movement and settlement that is not compatible with the heavy loads. Take a look at the ICPI tech notes on instructions, applications and design to give yourself a "feel". - They are pretty much the same as the recommendations for most countries that are a little more advanced than the U.S.

As far as the production rate the biggest factor is getting pavers to the setter fast enough, so logistics and spotting of pallets is important. with a properly prepared base, a goot pver setter will need 2-3 laborers to supply him if the lays two handed.

Don't worry about the pogo stick if they are installed properly - you will have to remove a large area just to get one paver out due to the interlocking strength.

Dick
 
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Old 06-16-11, 11:49 AM
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ok - there are couple of things I dont fully understand.

When you say that, because this is a patio, the method can be relaxed, does that mean because since there will not be trucks or cars on it that it wont move/sink anyway? Or do you mean that since it is only a patio that, if it moves, what does it really matter?

As for the vibrating of the bricks... I thought tamper/vibrator were the same machine. I know that the action of tamping is clearly different than the action of vibrating, but everything I have read had led me to beleive that I use the same machine for the base and for the final work on the bricks. Am I just confused?

And just so I am clear about the question of using less sand: If I decide not to vibrate after laying them, isnt the problem that I risk some of the pavers settling a bit and sinking? If so, and we assume that a paver might sink 1/8 in an inch of sand - then wouldnt it be that it would likely sink only about 1/16 in a half inch?
 
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Old 06-16-11, 01:01 PM
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An aside: You said 6" x 9" pavers and you intend to do a herringbone pattern. To my knowledge, you can only do herringbone with pavers or tiles having a 1:2 width:length ratio, you have 2:3.
 
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Old 06-16-11, 02:43 PM
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Thanks Mitch - I didnt realize that. As I check now I see that the only example I see are a modified herringbone with 6x6 and 6x9.

Just saved me a headache - thank you.
 
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Old 06-16-11, 02:48 PM
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rmathome -

The vibration is done for several reasons, no matter home large the installation or the loads.

1. Since you sprinkle a small amount of sand over the surface, the vibration draws sand up into the tight paver joints (that is the reason they usually have very small spacers on the sides) and it also draws up sand from below to finaliaze the structural interlock.

2. It also makes sure the finished surface is smooth, even and locked in place.

I missed the 6x9 large size and just was assuming it was one of the proved shapes. The classic herringbone pattern, especially on a diagonal is more stable. The 6x9 size is a little unusual (at least for heavy loads), but can be acceptible for a patio. If it moves a bit and you notice it because it is under the microscope you may have created the acceptible standard. For roads and warehousing where smoothness for moving vehicles they have been accaptable for decades.

The uniformity thickness of the setting bed is important, just as it is when wet setting tile on a surface since eveness is critical. That is why a uniform 1" sand setting bed (uncompacted) is critical for performance. The ICPI tech notes address the materials and installation very well, except for the machine set pavers.

Some of the non-modular paver sizes made for the retail market place the importance on rounded corners and varaible colors for artistic appearance since performance is not as important for a patio. they are still 8,000 to 10,000 psi as opposed to 3,000 psi concrete.

It is your patio, so just don't over-think it.

Dick
 
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Old 06-23-11, 09:40 PM
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Ok, I worked more on the base and it is in real good shape.

Now, I began laying my pavers, a 45 degree herringbone. I layed about 75 feet and noticed I was drifting. So, I checked and found my starter course had strayed from my baseline. So, I will pick them up and re-do them, not a big deal. But, it now has me concerned that, even if I do keep to my baseline, that I might still drift - is that possible.

It seems, from the videos I have seen, that I need to work off of my base line.

My patio is a long rectangle - about 34x17. My straight base line is the 34 foot side of my rectangle. Now, it seems that I <i>should</i> lay my first course the length of the 34 feet. Then lay the second course the length of the 34 feet. Then the third course the lenght of the 34 feet and so on. This way, I can ensure that the pattern doesnt drift.

But, it makes more sense for me to screed areas that are about 8x8. This means that while I will lay my first course against the baseline for about 8 feet and then work into the center of the patio and then to the left side - working various 8 foot areas.

In other words, lets say my baseline runs on the east side of the patio, from north to south. Can I work from north to south? Or should I really work from east to west, laying one course at a time, the length of the patio.

Im concerned that there will be drift and I will find myself at the end with large spaces between pavers.
 
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Old 06-24-11, 03:46 AM
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I often do like you mention by putting out sand in an area about 8 feet wide and lay the pavers. Once the pavers are down in that area I re-create my base line on top of the pavers where I can see it. I have pulled a string or popped a chalk line (make sure you use a non-permanent chalk which in my area is usually blue) then I frequently measure off the new base line so I can keep an eye on the pattern. If you catch the pattern drifting early it can be corrected pretty easily.

I've also done a large patio and to save all the moving around to get the end of a tape measure on the base line I took several tape measures and hooked them on cracks/joints that were on the base line and set a paver on top to hold them in place. I had four tape measures spaced out across the width of the patio. Then as I worked laying pavers away from the base line I keep pulling the bodies of the tape measures with me. When it's time to check the pattern you just read the dimension off each tape and if they are not the same you are drifting.
 
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Old 06-24-11, 06:20 AM
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Interesting. So, with the tape measures, you are placing them parallel to the baseline - so that you are checking not just that your first row is on the baseline but that rows further into the center of the patio are also parallel to it and not drifting... is that correct?
 
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Old 06-24-11, 07:12 AM
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Looking down from above I had four tape measures perpendicular to the base line. One on each end of the patio and two spaced evenly across the center which tells you if your pattern is going parallel to the base line. In the other direction/axis is pretty easy to just sight down the blocks to see if the pattern is straight and I measure off the side to insure that the pattern is 90 degrees to the base line.
 
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Old 06-28-11, 08:03 AM
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ok - so far so good. 500+ of the 600 sq ft are down and everything looks great. Im assuming it is ok to split this up over a number of days - I will do my cuts and finish the job over this weekend.

So now, a final few questions.

1) Before cutting, I would like to spend an hour or so marking each cut (so that when I rent the saw I can bw sure I wont waste any time and need it more than a day). I figure that I can mark each brick with a permanent marker since I will be cutting that mark off anyway (and figure any kind of chalk/pencil might get washed away by the water of the wet saw). But to avoid picking up, cutting and replacing one brick at a time, Id like to also mark each brick with the location - on the side or bottom of the brick. This way, I can bring a number of bricks to the saw at one time, cut them all, and place them back in the sand in bigger groups - saving time. Should I write on the bottom of the brick in permanent marker? I know it is "permanent" but might it run and, with alot water someday, stain the bricks somehow?

2) I have been doing this in stages and it has taken a few days to get the bricks down so I have not tamped/vibrated them. I really dont want to rent the tamper again. I have noticed a couple of bricks are slightly low - maybe 1/8 inch at a corner. I guess I layed them down a bit hard or maybe dug the corner in as a laid them. But only three or four out of the 500+ sq ft, so I am ok with it. But other than that, I have been walking on these for a few days and they seem to be pretty solid.

I had seen a youtube video on laying pavers and the guy laying them (seemed professional) mentioned that, at the end you either use a tamper or, if it is a small area, tap them with a block of wood and it will have the same affect. If that is true, then when I am done, I will make a quick tool to do the job (maybe three foot long 2x4 T. I can have the T upside down and gently tap all around the patio. It would probably be no slower than going to rent the machine, unload it from my truck (alone), tamp, reload(alone) and return it. But would that really do the job of tightening up the bricks?
 
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Old 06-28-11, 08:16 AM
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You can mark the bottoms of the pavers if you want but I just get the saw close to my work area and pick up one paver, cut it and put it in position. While bent over putting the cut one down I pick up the next one. Having a helper makes it go even faster.

I would plan on renting the compactor again especially if you are going to use polymeric sand. Not only does it do a better job compacting and leveling the pavers into place the vibration is great for settling polymeric into the joints. I have a hand tamper and have done smaller walk ways with it but it's a lot of work since you have to go over the area several times to get the polymeric to settle into the joints. If using regular sand I think you can get away with less vibration since you can always add more later but hand tamping is still a slow process.

My hand tamper has a cast steel base about 8" square and I think it's 8 or 10 pounds. I don't think a wooden one would be heavy enough unless you pounded it down or added some weight. You will have to go over the area repeatedly with the hand tamper to achieve the proper compaction since you will not have the vibration to help things settle. It can be done by hand but after you've been at it a while the half day rental price for a plate compactor seems like a good bargin.
 
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Old 06-29-11, 10:36 AM
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So, just so I am clear, the vibrating locks the pavers together?

I am trying to understand this and the best analogy I can come up with is this:
That it is not really about setting the pavers deeper in the sand (although that will happen too - but I dont see how that will help lock them together). But, as pavers vibrate, the sand comes from below, and from above, to fall in to the cracks between them. Since the pavers are vibrating, the sand gets wedged in tight. Sort of like when you get something stuck between your teeth - it pushes them tighter against the other teeth. When you do this across all of the cracks, the entire structure becomes more monolithic.

Is that accurate in any way?

In any case, I guess the tamper is good idea after all this work.

So, is it also accurate to say that properly tamping will fight a tendency for them to sink and sag?

And lastly, the two biggest concerns are that:
1) pavers might break. I know that it is standard practice to use the plate compactor but, as I used it on my RCA base I had thrown some bricks in the mix and a few of them got cracked. Of course, they were real bricks and not concrete pavers - and they werent in a bed of sand. But is breaking pavers a valid concern?

2) The pavers will be more uneven after tamping than before. As of now, it looks good - nice and flat. There are a few pavers here and there that are for some reason 1/8 inch high or low on one of thier corners - maybe where the screed rails were placed and when they were removed I troweled the channel they left behind?

Oh, and a final question now that I just thought about the troweling. In some areas near the perimiter (the patio is essentially a rectangle but one side is gong to have a curve - like an "S" but not nearly as prominently curved. In any case, I could only screed properly in the actual rectangle. The area that is to be curved I did a some screeding and some troweling - probably more troweling than recommended. But, in the end the pavers put on this area look good (straight and flat). Is it safe to assume that if it looks good - then it is good?
 
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Old 06-29-11, 11:06 AM
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The use of a vibrating plate is the most common practice for good paver installations throughout the world for decades. - Just look at the Interlocking Concrete Paving Institute (ICPI) web site (icpi.org, I believe).

You are right about the sand working up from the setting bed and down from the top to create the interlock. The 1" uncompacted sand setting bed is to to provide a uniform surface to lay the pavers on and work off of. It seems strange, but it is proven everywhere. I have seen 20 acre heavy duty (50,000# loads on 4 wheels) on industrial sites where the pavers were vibrated with a plate vibrator and set a square meter at a time.

The purpose of the paver is to use vibration to move the sand AND make the surface uniformly flat over an area because it is moving. The "tamper" approach is sort of a caveman method or "if it doesn't fit, get a bigger hammer" that does not work with pavers, but it can work for some types of soil.

For curved shapes, there are 2 common approaches. Usually running the base and 1" setting bed beyond the contours is the most common. This also allows any moisture the sand can collect to drain away.

1. Lay it out and install whatever type of edge restraint you choose (plastic, steel, aluminum, concrete), set the pavers and then cut or split the pavers to size and shape.

2. Lay the pavers slightly beyond the area and mark a line for the desired contours and cut with a gas powered masonry saw. Then place the edge restraint, spread some mason's sand and the vibrate. This was done on a semi truck area/parking lot because of the area.

Dick
 
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Old 06-29-11, 07:06 PM
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ok - and just so that I am 1000% clear, the vibrating is done with the plate compacter... the same machine that I used to tamp the RCA?

Its not a different machine, right?
 
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Old 06-30-11, 05:26 AM
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Correct. You use the same machine.
 
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