Hardscape Installation

Whether replacing an asphalt driveway with permeable pavers, upgrading to a sophisticated bluestone patio or installing a welcoming fish pond, the experienced Van Zelst hardscape installation team will treat your home with the care it deserves.

Our on-staff stonemasons and builders are specially trained in the unique needs of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. They understand our soils, challenges and temperature extremes. As a result, you can rest assured that your foundation will be prepared and hardscape installed according to our unmatched standards of quality—and to withstand the region’s harsh conditions year after year.

Van Zelst Doesn’t Cut Corners

See how the Van Zelst team addresses each step in the installation process to ensure that your hardscape stands up to use and the elements, and learn what to look out for with other providers.

Paving and Installation Steps Where Others May Cut Corners The Van Zelst Approach
Create a design concept that addresses form and function. Installing without planning can create a flat design and visual “dead zones” that don’t flow with the overall landscape. We carefully blend formal and informal elements, avoiding the use of strict angles, and draw on a broad palette of hardscape and plant materials for great.
Determine proper grade for storm water drainage. Some providers skip this step, merely replacing hardscape in the same configuration, which only makes drainage problems worse. Our team ensures that water drains away from the home’s foundation, property lines and landscape features, without the making the slope visible to the naked eye.
Removing all existing material to the recommended depth of 12″. Many providers will remove just a few inches of material, to save on labor and disposal, which can lead to shifting, bulging and breaking. Van Zelst always begins with a 12″ depth, to ensure that pavers are stable, properly supported and appropriately drained.
Outlining patios and walkways with spray paint before laying pavers. This key step is often ignored, which can result in a shortage of materials, odd shapes and unexpected flows. Van Zelst always outlines patios and walkways with spray paint before laying pavers.
Preparing the area with compacted road gravel. A too-thin layer of gravel, using the wrong gravel type, not fully compacting the base or using sand alone can save time and money, but compromise long-term performance and appearance. Limestone gravel can harm plantings. The Van Zelst team carefully prepares areas for pavers with base materials at the full 6″ to 12″ thickness appropriate for the soil type and weight it will be expected to support. This depth also keeps weeds from growing out between pavers. What’s more, the sandstone gravel we use has a neutral pH, so it will not harm plantings.
Applying a consistent layer of sand. Too much sand—or sand without gravel—is likely to cause performance issues. A carefully applied layer of torpedo sand, up to 1″ thick, ensures integrity and a level finished product.
Determining the laying pattern and placing the full-size pavers. Beginning an installation without thinking about the overall design and flow won’t take full advantage of tremendous opportunities for enhancing the space. By considering how each space will be used, the Van Zelst team uses a variety of hardscape products to create flow, outline distinct gathering areas and guide the eye through the landscape.
Cutting and installing partial pavers to complete the pattern. Dry cutting can be time-efficient for the installer, but creates excessive amounts of dust for the homeowner and neighbors. Lack of attention to detail can lead to misaligned pavers and gaps that stand out visually. The Van Zelst team uses a wet saw to minimize dust and debris on- and off-site. Our on-staff skilled masons and stoneworkers ensure that pavers are cut and arranged to our exacting standards.
Installing the concealed plastic edge to hold pavers in place. Using fewer spikes than recommended can save time and money, but will be apparent after the first winter, when the front causes the edge to heave. Our team uses only heavy-duty edge materials, with a lip that runs beneath the pavers to hold materials securely. We use more than the recommended two spikes per square foot, to ensure stability through changing weather conditions.
Finishing, or “top dressing” the installed pavers with sand. Top dressing with only all-purpose sand can reduce installers’ costs. The Van Zelst team uses the appropriate sand for each application. While all-purpose sand is right for some cases, polymeric sand is used to provide long-term performance with certain types of pavers and larger joints.
Backfilling edges with soil. TSome providers will simply let nature take its course, or use clay soil to fill in around the newly set areas. Van Zelst only uses premium pulverized topsoil to backfill around pavers and hardscape installations to allow healthy plantings to grow.

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