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How to choose a paving contractor

Be it a driveway, pool, or the entertainment area of your dreams, paving, when installed correctly, will add value to your home and to the enjoyment of your space and outdoor living areas. For most homeowners, the entire paving process can be a steep learning curve – often, it is their first encounter installing paving. Trusting their installer to turn their dream into reality makes sense. SmartStone shares why not all installers are created equal.

Often, a poor installation may only become visible months after completion, and the results can be financially devastating, turning your dream into a nightmare. Signs of poor installation include discolouration of pavers, sagging paving, or paving that chips and breaks. Fortunately, armed with a few valuable insights, you will know what to look for (or avoid) when deciding how to bring your paving masterpiece to life. Using beautiful quality products such as SmartStone textured cobbles or elegant flagstones is money well spent. However, if your installer lacks the skill or takes shortcuts, the investment in quality products is lost.

There is certainly no shortage of builders, handymen, or service providers who will eagerly claim they have been paving for years, but how can you be sure they won’t just be quickly laying pavers without the necessary know-how? Don’t take their word for it; ask the questions that will help you choose a qualified installer.

As with quality paving, expect to pay a premium for quality paving installation. Skilled installers will cost you more, but it will save you money and frustration in the future.

Ready to safeguard your investment? Here is some practical advice for selecting the right paving contractor and how to spot opportunistic installers.

Strong compacted base layers

With paving, the real work happens beneath the surface. Installers need to remove the topsoil and replace it with material that is not organic and can be compacted. This foundation creates a barrier between organic material and your pavers and makes the surface strong.  Poorly trained installers or those who want to save costs will skip this crucial step. SmartStone advises against installing paving without the correct sub-base, especially for load-bearing areas like driveways.


Better quality installers will always discuss the drainage plan before commencing with the installation. Beware of installers who tell you they will determine the drainage requirements once they start installing.

Edge restraints are crucial

Edge restraints are essentially strong borders that keep your paving intact on all sides. A good contractor will describe various options in detail. Durable edge restraints will be more expensive. Undesirable contractors will opt for troweled edges in situ (smoothed concrete edges) – troweled concrete edges will often fail within a year.


Either using too little or the wrong bedding material is very common. Quality bedding material will be more expensive, so this is often where low-quality installers take shortcuts that cause site failures. For cobbles, professional contractors will use moist, good-quality, washed river sand that is at least 25 mm thick when screeded. For flagstones, good contractors will use a 50 mm river sand/cement screed.

Handling pavers with care

For cobbles, ensure that wheelbarrow tipping is not allowed. Flagstones should be carried individually by hand. Careful handling will be more time-consuming, but good installers will not throw or tip your paving which will cause them to become scuffed or damaged.

Careful grouting

Paving will be stained and the installation a disaster if grouting is not done properly. Ensure the contractor has a method of combating cement staining when grouting. When grouting with sand, ensure that the contractor re-grouts in seven days.

Visit SmartStone for more paving advice and information.


SA Home Owner Online

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