Few elements in hardscape beat the reliability and aesthetic appeal of a paver patio. With a great variety of materials to choose from, pavers have proven to be a staple in modern hardscape design. When installed correctly, they can last for a lifetime. Still, replacing old pavers might be necessary, so we created this simple guide to help you with it.
Pavers might need to be replaced for a variety of reasons, but almost all of those reason could have been avoided.
If the problem comes from above, for example, in the form of stains and overall discoloration, sealing could have been arranged to protect the pavers. If it comes from below, as in sunken or shifting pavers, the installation itself might not be as solid as initially thought.
So the first case is the least problematic one. Sometimes you can only replace a single paver without many problems. If it’s the second scenario, however, things can be a little more problematic, as a complete reinstallation of the paver is recommended.
So let’s dive in and walk you through a simple step-by-step guide in 5 easy steps on how to replace your old pavers.
Replacing Old Pavers: Before Starting
Before moving on to the guide, it is important to clarify some things.
It is crucial that you assess the overall situation of your installation to determine if you can work exclusively on a few pavers or if you have more of a generalized problem.
In the case of stains, you’re probably not dealing with a lot of trouble. If your installation is solid, with no sunken pavers or weeds, you can safely just change the stained pavers.
As for sunken pavers, if you have a small amount in just one or two spots, you can also safely replace them. Not even replace, exactly. If the pavers themselves are still in a good condition, you can just place them back in after fixing the base.
But if your entire installation is compromised, full of uneven pavers and weeds between the joints, maybe you should consider removing all of them and remaking your installation from scratch.
For the purposed of this guide, however, we will cover the first scenarios and teach you how to simply replace a few pavers.
Remember to always make sure you’re going to do this job around a few days without rain in the forecast.
5 Steps to Replace Pavers
First, let’s talk about the tools and materials you’re going to need:
- Pressure Washer (if you’re going to replace all the sand in the installation)
- Leaf Blower (for high textured pavers)
- Rubber Mallet
- Two flathead screwdrivers (preferably old) or similar tool
- Paver Base Sand
- Polymeric Sand
Step 01 – Removing Sand Between Pavers
First order of business is to remove the sand between pavers. The best to do that if you’re working in just a few pavers in with the help of an old screwdriver. We say old because, since you’re going to use it to scrap and prior paver, you don’t want to use a new one who will probably get damaged in the process.
Simply place the screwdriver on the joints and scrape it up to remove sand and materials from it. Do that around the entire paver.
If your installation is in a dire state, and you need to do that for a lot of pavers, maybe it is best if you use a pressure washer and remove all the sand from the joints in all pavers.
In order to do that, set the nozzle on your pressure washer to a jet stream with enough pressure to remove the sand between the joints. You don’t need to completely clean every single joint, just blast it away for a few seconds and move to the next one.
Make sure to use safety googles. Things might fly around.
Step 02 – Removing Pavers
With the sand between the joint, be it just in a few pavers or on the entire installation, now is time to actually remove the pavers. If you’re working with pavers from different sizes, always start with the smallest one and work your way towards the big ones.
Using two flathead screwdrivers or any other similar tool, gently start to pry the paver. Place the two screwdrivers at opposites sides of the pavers and force it between the joint, all the while wiggling it back and forth to bring the paver up.
Patience is the key here. Don’t rush it, or you might get hurt or damage the pavers. Once the paver is high enough, you can simply pick it up with your own hands and finish the removing job.
Once the paver is removed, scrape any sand from its sides, as well as any weed, leaf, rocks and dirt from the exposed bedding.
Step 03 – Leveling
A 2×4 wooden plank will be your best friend when replacing old pavers. It can be used to level the pavers as well as, with the help of a rubber mallet, to be hammered into the exposed aggregate beneath the removed paver to level it up.
So, for starters, use the 2×4 to determine which pavers are actually uneven and work on removing said pavers. Afterwards, using the techniques we previously explained, you’ll have the exposed ground beneath the pavers.
After removing any debris from the ground, place the 2×4 directly on it and gently hammer it with the rubber mallet, enough to “compact” the ground beneath it. You might have to use the short side of the 2×4 and change its position often, but, in time, you’ll be able to compact the ground.
You can also, if there’s enough space, use the paver itself to level the aggregate. Simply place it directly on top of the aggregate and hammer it with the rubber mallet.
Step 04 – Sand Base
Technically, on top of the compacted aggregate, there is supposed to be a 1″ layer of sand base. However, you might need to eyeball the right amount of sand to make the removed pavers leveled. Eyeballing it involves trial and error, so make sure to constantly use the 2X4 to check if the pavers are leveled around each other.
It might be difficult to work around little space, but that’s what makes replacing pavers a test of patience. Maybe is best to remove all the pavers around a specific sunken one in order to better work on it.
Never compact the sand beneath the pavers, only slightly tap the pavers into place using the rubber mallet once their positions are settled.
Step 05 – Polymeric Sand
Let the paver rest for the night. On the following day, pour polymeric sand all over the installation, sweeping it around in the direction of the joints until all of them are completely filled.
Afterwards, sweep the excess sand away with a broom or a leaf blower, if it is proven to be particularly difficult. In that case, make sure to not use too much strength with the leaf blower.
With all the excess sand removed, now is time to wet the entire area using a garden hose, preferably on a shower setting.
Always follow the instructions on the label of your sand of choice, but they usually tell you to wet the area two times with a 30 minutes interval and let the pavers dry for 24 hours before allowing movement on top of them.
Professional Help Replacing Old Pavers
And there you go. Now you know how to place those old pavers in a simple 5-step process.
However, some installations cannot be fixed by simply removing a few pavers. If the entire base is compromised, it is better to redo the whole thing.
That’s why it is important to hire professionals in hardscape to help you reach a better decision.
We here at S&S Pavers have helped countless homeowners replacing their old pavers across our 12 years of experience, so we know how difficult things might get and how important it is to work closely to someone with experience.
We highly recommend you get in contact with a professional in your area to help you with your project. In fact, if you happen to be around our area of activity, the Sarasota and Manatee counties, in Florida, why not give us a call to help you?