Nov 7, 2010

History of Brick Paver Raised Patio in Canton: 15 Years Later

Pavers in Canton need Repair, Sanding, & Cleaning

This past week we did a much needed repair of a brick paver raised patio in Canton, Michigan. This raised paver patio was installed 15 years ago during the roaring mid 90's.  Canton was a thriving suburban city that was growing at lightning speed during the 90's.  As new home construction soared, this city was encountering the huge benefits of brick paver patios, walkways, driveways, and modular retaining walls. For me this week, it was a time flashback to the incredible pace that was set installing interlocking paver patios.

But the fast pace of home building and landscaping installations created some inherit problems that are present today.  Now that I am inspecting, repairing, and restoring many brick paver installations in Canton, I have molded some conclusions. 15 Years later and my unprecedented  experience with raised paver patios has formed my opinions below about the reasons for the numerous paver repairs & restorations in Canton.


  • Pace of New Home Construction:  As the home building during the 90's in Canton, Michigan was feverish, so was the installation of paver patios, retaining walls, and landscaping.  Backfill around the basement foundation of a new home needs time to settle. It is best to wait one freeze thaw cycle in Michigan to allow this natural process to occur.  Canton has an added problem because of the abundance of clay soils. When the builders backfilled with the excavated clay soils, this create open spaces throughout the 5-8ft of backfill along the basement walls therefore insuring years of settling.
  • Pace of Landscape Installations:  Like many new communities today, there was strict Homeowner Association Rules or Policies which required a new homeowner to have a completed landscape installation within 90 days of closing on their new home.  Though it was beneficial for my business of installing brick pavers, I was not in favor of this policy. This policy did not only allow for the proper settling of the backfill around new homes, but it forced customers to make fast and uneducated decisions on the contractors and landscape products to use. It was a breeding ground for "fly-by-night" brick paver and landscape contractors.  Many where stealing jobs with low pricing, inferior products, and ridiculous 5 to 10yr warranties.  Most of these landscape contractors where out of business within 2 years. 
  •  Poor choice of Brick Paver Installers:  During this fast paced time, there was a transformation from homeowners using brick paver specialist to install their paver patios, walkways, porches, and driveways Landscapers where now becoming brick paver installers without the experience, education & training, or expertise to execute a quality product. Landscapers offered "landscape packages" that included raised paver patios. Most had never installed one before, but that did not stop them from taking advantage of uninformed new homeowners.  They pressured new homeowners with "if we do not install the brick pavers, we can not guarantee any completion time of the other landscape services (sprinklers,sod, & plants)". Due to the aforementioned Homeowners Assoc. policies, this put added stress and poor decision making on the new homeowners. This tactic worked more times than not, and it amazed me how homeowners, who had all the leverage ($$$), would get bullied by this unethical business practice. 
  • Homeowner Do-It-Yourself Paver Installations:  If you inherited a brick paver raised patio that is in distress, do not assume it was installed by a landscaper or qualified brick paver contractor.  During the 90's, there was a huge market for do-it-yourself homeowners installing brick paver patios and walkways. In Canton, most customer's were on a tight budget. So instead of waiting to have a properly installed paver patio installation, they saved some money by installing their patio themselves. Even more than landscapers, homeowners lacked the experience & expertise to execute a quality paver installation. To this day, I rarely see a good brick paver installation by a homeowner.  When it is flat work (ground level) there is some success, but when it comes to modular raised patio walls and steps, there is alot of failure in design and execution.
    • Lack of Educating the Homeowner:   When I am performing brick paver repairs in Canton, I am amazed how homeowners are not aware they need to periodically sweep joint sand in  their paver patios, walkways, porches, etc... Some homeowners have not swept in paver joint sand for over 10years!  This is the #1 basic paver maintenance service that is needed each year.  As a brick paver specialist, I spent at least a half hour after we installed a paver installation educating the homeowner on periodic maintenance requirements, landscaping needs, signs of possible repairs, and options for cleaning & sealing paving stones. These neophyte brick paver installing landscapers would tell homeowners that their brick pavers were "no maintenance" and nothing needed to be done over time.  Pavers are a low maintenance option but do require attention to avoid costly paver and retaining wall repair.
    •  Lack of Proper Landscaping around Brick Pavers:  Nothing infuriated me more than returning to an installed paver patio weeks or months later, and proper landscaping around the installation was not performed.  It is essential for pavers to have proper landscaping around the edges to insure long term success. Erosion and washout will cause irreparable damage to a paver installation. This will result in unnecessary costly paver repairs. The most important landscape need for a raised paver patio is to cover up about half of the bottom block face with landscape soil, sod, or mulch.  Also, it is important for the installing brick paver contractor to bury atleast half a block below grade if already existing.  If the retaining wall blocks shift due to washout or flush out, your raised paver patio has been compromised and you will experience future repairs.  A good brick paver contractor will temporarily cover all edges with on-site soils, customer tarps, or fabric until the homeowner can properly landscape.
    • Poor Design & Execution of Paver Installations: Due to their inexperience and lack of knowledge, landscapers in Canton installed inferior and unstable paver installations. One large landscaper in Canton used garden blocks as the raised brick paver patio walls.  Because these garden blocks are designed for small landscape walls , they can not bear the weight and hydro-static pressure of raised paver patios.  These same "wanna-be" brick paver contractors failed in execution because of the lack of properly cutting pavers, blocks, & caps with diamond blade saws. Most of these landscape contractors would leave gaps that not only left an inferior aesthetic look but also promoted erosion and washout.
    • Homeowner Neglect of Pavers :  I want to say that the occurrence of paver patio repairs is not just the result of a poor paver installation by a contractor.  Even the best raised paver patio installation can fail due the drastic effects of the elements and more importantly homeowner neglect. Homeowners are required to keep the paver joints filled with the proper joint sand, especially the joint on the inside of the wall cap. Homeowners are required to make sure that any signs of erosion, washout, or settling are addressed.  When caught early on, homeowners can perform this repair service, or pay an experienced paver contractor a nominal fee.  Letting your brick paver patio, walkway, driveway, or porch fill up with dirt, grass, weeds, moss, and loose bricks, blocks, & caps, is unnecessary neglect. This will contribute to an accelerated deterioration of your paver project.
    Canton, Michigan is a perfect microcosm of the success and failure of interlocking brick pavers and modular retaining wall systems in the Midweat. I listed above the variables that I believe have contributed to the avoidable failures that have occurred over the last 15 years or more. The information gathered and the observance of the 1000's of raised paver patios in Canton has guided me and my crew to better paver design & installation techniques.

    Daily we are performing paver patio repairs, observing and studying the reasons for failure so we can educate homeowners and contractors alike with articles like this. Brick pavers and modular retaining walls are proven pavement and wall systems that have tremendous benefits if properly designed, installed, and maintained.

     Raised paver patios that are properly installed or repaired will give endless years of beauty and performance.  Multi-level patios with structurally sound steps, firepits, sitting walls & pillars, will create functional and aesthetically pleasing outdoor living spaces. If your paver patio is in distress, all is not lost, it can be restored and enjoyed again.