Cheap Paver Patio Ideas (And How to Install One)

If your patio needs some TLC, or you’re looking to install a new one, pavers are a great choice for their durability, and various styles to choose from.

You can install your own paver patio, but it’s labor-intensive and needs to be done properly if you want it to last. Paying a professional will double or even triple the cost, but this depends on the site conditions and the type of pavers you choose.

Whether you opt to pay someone, or do the installation yourself, check out these cheap paver ideas to keep costs down, as well as tips on how to install the perfect patio yourself.

Mix Up Pavers and Pea Gravel

One way to get around the cost of installing pavers is to use them in conjunction with pea gravel which can be purchased for as low as $1/ sqft. These small, rounded stones are the size of peas (hence the name), and can be used around pavers, in between joints, along borders, or to fill in larger areas like walkways, paths, and gardens.

Pea gravel is an excellent type of hard mulch for xeriscape plants that thrive in full sun and dry conditions. They appreciate the good drainage and heat absorption that stones can provide. It’s also an also excellent leader material for rain gardens to help draw rain runoff from drains and pipes from one area to another.

Pea gravel would also work nicely with pavers that have wider joints. Many permeable pavers work on this concept, and absorb rain and snow melt into the ground rather than letting it run off into sewers.

Tighter, non-porous joints like polymeric sand are hydrophobic and send water away from the house into roads and sewers. Pea gravel and other aggregate materials are an environmentally-conscious way of returning rainwater back into local aquifer systems.

Pea gravel is a nice, smooth, soft stone that comes in a variety of colors – not just gray! You can find other neutral colors like beige, white, and brown, and also ones with red and bluish hues.

Pea gravel needs to be edged in properly with borders otherwise it will run into lawns or other spaces. Compacting it can help keep it in place.

decomposed granite gravel stones

Other Decorative Materials

Decomposed granite is another interesting fill-in material that can offset the cost of pavers by taking up a large amount of square footage without compromising the amount of hardscape you want.

This sandy material is reddish-brown, giving an adobe feel to the landscape. It can be laid flat and compacted to make a solid surface, unlike stones.

It’s a good material to use around trees and shrubs, xeriscape plants, and garden paths instead of using expensive pavers. Similarly to pea gravel, it only costs $1-$2.50/ sqft.

River rocks are another decorative stone often used to guide water from one place to another. It’s often added around ponds and fountains since it looks nice when wet.

These rocks are smooth like pea gravel, but come in various sizes starting at one-inch to three-inches in diameter. These inexpensive stones also range from $1-$3/ sqft.

They’re also very good at allowing drainage and can be used as a top mulch for desert gardens. They are generally one color, which is a variety of natural tones, just like you would find in river beds.

Lava rock is made from volcanic lava, and is even cheaper than the other decorative materials. They come in interesting colors like black, gray, and red, and have a unique porous or bubbled surface.

They are very lightweight, making them cost-effective for covering a large amount of ground. They are sharp, however, and need to be contained by solid borders.

Lava rocks absorb heat during the day and release it at night when it’s cooler. They can be used in a variety of landscape projects in conjunction with pavers, often for under $1/ sqft.

Keep in mind that any decorative stone can be a haven for weeds once they get in, so installing a proper base, limestone screening, and landscape fabric in certain cases will help to deter weeds from growing up through the soil.

reusable pavers

Salvaged/ Used Pavers

Buying used or unwanted pavers is a great way to keep costs down. You can find free or discounted pavers on sites like Kijiji, Craigslist, and Marketplace, and some of them may even be brand new if the homeowner changed their mind, or has leftover material.

This can save you a lot of money, as new concrete pavers cost anywhere from $2-$15 per square foot depending on the style you choose. For example, a basic 400 square-foot patio space built with the cheapest $2/sqft pavers would cost $800 just for the pavers.

The caveat is you usually have to go and haul them away yourself, but you could use the money you are saving towards hiring help or a delivery service.

You can often salvage old bricks to reuse for patios, as well, just note that these are made of clay and are different than concrete pavers that are meant to look like brick. Concrete brick pavers start around $2-$5 brand new, making salvaged bricks an affordable option.

Bluestone, granite, and flagstone patio pavers are going to be the most expensive choice because they’re all natural stones, so if you can source these secondhand, you can end up with a high-end patio for cheap.

Wait for Deals

Garden centers and hardware stores regularly have sales throughout the gardening and patio season, so if you can wait to score a good deal on pavers, you can often save ten to twenty percent on the total cost.

Any clearance item will also be at a much lower price, just keep in mind you may have a hard time finding it again. Make sure you purchase enough, and even go so far as to over-estimate the square footage you need by 15 percent, instead of the recommended ten.

Consider making a deal on broken stones at these stores, especially if you know some will need to be cut.

Local paving companies and contractors may also get a deal when they purchase material for you. While homeowners can apply for store credit cards, contractor discounts are usually much better. Consider this if you are thinking of hiring someone.

Buying in bulk is another way to offset the total cost of pavers. Not all stores or companies will discount large orders, but it never hurts to ask first. If someone else you know wants to install a paver driveway or patio, this could be a way to save money together.

person making concrete paver with mold

Make Your Own Pavers

Pre-made plastic molds are an interesting way to make your own pavers if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, and spending longer than a weekend to finish the job. You can place the molds where you like and then pour your own concrete into them.

They come in a few different styles, and can be great for creating walkways, or full patio spaces. Using them to make a driveway would be cumbersome, and likely wouldn’t hold up to the weight needed.

DIY paver molds are a fairly cheap option as a 12-pack costs around $150 and bags of concrete are inexpensive.

This option poses some negatives, however, as there is room for a lot of error. It’s also time-consuming and could get messy if you haven’t worked with concrete before.

You’ll still need a proper base and site preparation to make these DIY concrete pavers last as long as a regular paver patio.

Cheapest Paver Patio

The cheapest paver patio to install is one that has a simple design and easy to calculate square footage. That means no intricate patterns, just a square or rectangular space with square concrete pavers on terrain that’s mostly flat.

Installing your own basic square concrete paver patio can substantially cut the cost of hiring a professional at $10-$20 per square foot, as labor alone is half the amount. While concrete pads are a little cheaper at $6-$10/sqft, you can still save more with a simple DIY paver patio.

Without any deals or sales, the least expensive type of paver you can buy is your basic 12-inch by 12-inch concrete paver at around $1.80 each (which ends up being under $2/sqft).

They’re usually double-sided with a diamond or simple bordered pattern to choose from. You can also find these in 16-inch x 16-inch or 24-inch x 24-inch sizes, just remember that the larger they get, the heavier they will be.

These pavers are easily found in hardware stores and garden centers that sell landscape materials, and you have your choice of a few neutral colors, including red.

These will be the easiest to work with and come up with a design for. The 12-inch size isn’t too heavy for one person to lift and place properly, and the square footage is a breeze to calculate.

While you can decide to do a staggered or diamond pattern, laying them side by side in a line will go the fastest. If you want some variation, consider choosing two or three different colors and creating an interesting pattern that way.

How To Install 12×12 Concrete Pavers

gloved hands installing concrete paver

1. Design and Layout

Calculate your overall square footage by multiplying the width and length of your patio space together. For instance, a 20-foot by 20-foot space will be a total of 400 square feet.

If you aren’t cutting any stones and can purchase an exact amount of pavers to get your square footage met, it’s still recommended to buy an extra 10 percent in case any break, or are in bad shape. If you end up with too much, you can use it in the future.

Mark the area so you know where your borders are as you’re working. Landscape-friendly spray paint, stakes, and string can all be useful to create temporary markers.

If you are installing any edging or paver restraints, allow for this extra space, as well. Make sure your corners are square with a carpenter square, or the “3-4-5” method.

2. Grading and Slope

Proper grading and slope will help ensure that rain and snow melt run away from the home’s foundation or any other structures. Use a line or laser level to establish the slope you want, which is usually one-eighth-inch per foot from the highest point downward.

Permeable pavers and the use of drainage gravel or stones in between joints may not need as established of a slope if water runoff will be absorbed into the ground. Even a slight slope is still recommended in case of any excess standing water.

3. Prep for the Base

Preparing the site before you lay pavers is one of the most important things to do to ensure your patio lasts a long time. It can also be the most time-consuming, as you can’t simply lay pavers on top of compacted dirt without future problems arising.

For a typical patio, you should excavate the area so that four inches of gravel can be laid first, then one inch of sand or limestone screening, plus whatever thickness your pavers are so that it will all be level with the surrounding ground once finished.

4. Install the Base

Some people like to lay geotextile or landscape fabric at the very bottom of the excavated land, and then pour the four inches of gravel on top. If you have a lot of weeds, plants, or grass around the spot, this isn’t a bad idea.

Start pouring the gravel in, continually compacting it as it’s being laid so that it lays hard and flat, and won’t shift. Use a level or flat board to make sure there are no bumps or dips as any imperfections will show up when you go to lay the pavers.

After compacting the gravel, lay one inch of sand or screening. Lightly tamper this material, and again use a level to ensure an even, flat surface according to the grading and slope you chose.

5. Lay Your Pavers

Start in one corner and lay your first paver. Plan out your path beforehand, especially if you decide to do any patterns that deviate from a simple square.

Lay the pavers using the “click-drop” method. You want to hover and nudge the paver against the other one so you hear a click, and then drop it gently in place. This ensures that the underlying sand does not move or shift.

If you want wider joints use spacers and similarly click the paver against the spacer and drop it in place. Try not to slide pavers once they are set.

Install any edging around the borders according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Most require nailing down ten-inch spikes every foot or so.

6. Apply Sand/Finishing

Typical paver patios will use either all-purpose or polymeric sand between the tight joints between the pavers. There are pros and cons to each type of sand, but both need to be swept into the joints and tamped with the end of a broom so sand fills in.

Polymeric sand requires a wetting step to lock it in place, which has a risk of error and ruining your paver finish. Follow the steps on the package, or use all-purpose sand if you don’t want to risk it.

Permeable pavers and pavers used with decorative stones around them will have wider joints that can be filled with your porous material of choice. These should also be lightly tamped so they fill in the space properly.

Whether you choose a basic design or want to get a little creative, these cheap paver patio ideas can help you choose an interesting design that fits your budget and aesthetic needs.

Incorporating other cost-effective materials, looking for deals, and buying secondhand or salvaged materials is a great way to get a different look for less, without compromising on quality or the “wow” factor.