Ask the Carpenter: Tips for installing a paver walkway and patio

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Q. When we built our house 18 years ago, we installed a paver walkway from the front porch to the back deck, as well as a patio. There has been settling, weeds, and ants over the years, and something needs to be done to make it level and attractive. We’d like to do it ourselves again. Do we need to rip it up and redo it?

Is there anything we can do this time to prevent ants, which seem to thrive in stone dust and undermine the area? Also would plastic or landscape fabric help? This time we would use polymeric sand on the top. We are in our early 70s, but we have the time and a front-end loader. We thought we’d use 12-inch pavers in some of the areas this time rather than the smaller ones.


A. It sounds to me as if you need to rip it up and redo it. You don’t need plastic or landscape fabric. Remove or add sand as needed to level the area, and then add polymeric sand between the joints. Many landscape designers and masons like to use polymeric sand in paver projects because it:

■ Reduces weed growth

■ Resists joint washout

■ Guards against insect penetration

■ Helps lock the pavers in place

Create joints that are ¼ to ½ of an inch wide. Wider paver joints take longer to harden. Fill the entire depth between the pavers with polymeric sand.

Watering the joints is crucial. You need to add enough to saturate the sand but not so much that you float the polymers out of it. The most effective way to water the sand is to adjust the hose nozzle to a light spray pattern. Water the paver joints until no more soaks in.

Once you wet the sand, the polymer will begin to set, and no more water will penetrate. The danger in not watering thoroughly is that the top will harden but the bottom will not.

The finish has failed on this composite sink. —Handout

Q. My undermount sink’s composite finish wore down within 18 months of its installation in my custom kitchen. The warranty was 12 months. Alas, the sink is not porcelain enamel, but a substance they stopped using to make sinks soon after I bought this one. I had purchased a second sink of the same material when I installed the first one — just in case I ever needed it. Now I need it.

Can a plumber take out this ugly sink and install the replacement without ruining my granite, which I love? The granite is on the sink island and throughout the kitchen.

You might be thinking: Why does she want to put in another one of these crummy sinks? Well:

1. I found a sink mat that can protect the new one.

2. The sink fits the granite cutout.

3. Unfortunately, no other sinks in stainless steel or porcelain enamel match the measurements of my sink cutout in the granite.

Please let me know whether a plumber can manage this replacement.


A. Yes, a plumber can swap out that sink without damaging your granite, but it looks as if the old sink can be reglazed. Note: It’s better to use a stainless-steel rack than a rubber one.

Dear Rob

From S.S.: Thank you for using my question about the drainage problem under our deck (“Ask the Carpenter: How to replace a few broken floor tiles,’’ Sept. 1). I just wanted to let you know that I picked up a yard of pea gravel for $32 and spread it about 2 inches deep under the deck. It has worked perfectly.

Rob: I’m glad it worked out and with minimal expense.

Rob Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter, editor of, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business. Send your questions to or tweet them to @robertrobillard. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at