View Full Version : What happened here?

06-02-2010, 08:05 PM
In 2005 I had a patio paver installed on a 2 year old home. Within one year I had problems with pavers sinking. The contractor came out, took out the pavers, put sand in, and replaced the paver. This has gone on, and on and on, until now the patio is not usable. The patio is a 13 x 24, and from the top of the patio to the end at (13 feet) there is a difference of 9 inches of sloping. I am ready to tie a rope around my dogs so they don't roll off the patio. The contractor says he did the work right, but look at the pictures. My steps are also sinking and there is now a lip from one paver sinking and the other raising up. The patio is hideous, but the contractor swears he did nothing wrong. He said he is a ICPI certified installer. Can someone please help a woman homeowner who wants a patio for enjoyment and one in which I can enjoy and not worry about sinking? I have more photos for anyone who would be so kind to look at and give me some indication of what went wrong. I would appreciate any help or ideas anyone is willing to give me.


06-02-2010, 08:23 PM
It could have been setteling from the home construction? I am dealing with somethng similar 6 years down the road...although it did start about 2-3 years in.

06-02-2010, 08:27 PM
What you are seeing is settlement due to a lack of compaction in the foundation backfill. At least four feet of the fill material next to your foundation should have been removed and replaced with compacted stone. Unfortunately, that will be the only long term solution to your problem now. Adding more sand is definitely not the way to fix it.

DVS Hardscaper
06-02-2010, 10:16 PM
What you have is SETTLEMENT.

In most cases, I will talk to a prospective client with a NEW home about settlement. How it happens. Why it happens. And what to expect.

I also advise an owner of a new home to wait AT LEAST 12 months before installing a patio.

The settlement is more or less a natural aspect of new home construction. I'll explain why: See, a builder will excavate the home's basement. And when they do this, it's standard practice to dig the basement hole larger than the actual size of the basement. This creates what's known as an "overdig". There are reasons for creating an overdig, but thats neither here nor there.

After the foundation has been poured or block set, and after the dwelling's floor joists have been installed to the foundation, the overdig can then be backfilled.

When backfilling is performed - the soil is gently dumped into the overdig. The backfill CAN NOT be compacted because that will cause the foundation walls to "blow in".

Most basement walls are 8-10-feet in height. So this means a new dwelling has 8 to 10-feet of loose, fluffly, backfill. Its a sure bet that this fluffy fill WILL SETTLE. GUARANTEED.

Now, I have had home owners say "well we talked to one patio guy and he said he's gonna compact the outside edge of the foundation wall". Ok, he can compact all he wants till he's blue in the face.

Two things:
#1 there is 8-10-feet of fill - there is NO way one can compact 8-10-feet of fill unless they excavate ALL THE FILL and start over.
#2 Settlement occurs from the bottom up. When you see settlement, it's not the top of the ground that's settled.

So yes, your contractor did install the pavers correctly.

HOWEVER : This is what I tell people: a pavement is only as good as what's under it.

Your contractor should have discussed potential settlement issues with you. I had a guy call today about an estimate for a patio. he told me what town he lives in. In that town is 1 new development. So instantly I asked him "how old is your house". It turned out he lives in an older development, so all was well. But had he lived in the new development I would have said "I'd be more than happy to talk to you, but you really need to wait at least 12 months to allow for settlement".

Some contractors have a clause on their contract stating they're not responsible for settlement within 4-5 feet from the foundation.

Another thing: my home is 7 years old. being I know what I know, you can be assured I have been ontop of backfilling my foundation from the day the floor joists were set in place. 2 weeks ago, 7 YEARS LATER, the THIRD BACKFILLING after I moved in was done. AND OUR SOIL is good, structured soil. My point is settlement occurrs for much longer than 12-months. Much longer than 3 years.

I preach this stuff to prospective clients every week. Many of them think I'm some loud mouth contractor talking a bunch of crap. I spend about 30 minutes going over every detail of the installation. I talk about what we do and why we do it. And I have photos to back up my statements that I'm showing as I'm talking about it.

oh, and block steps. new construction. BAD IDEA. All that block is alotta weight bearing down on that loose fluffy soil.

It's your responsibility to research.......


DVS Hardscaper
06-02-2010, 10:26 PM
Also Sarge,

You mentioned the contractor mentioning his alledged ICPI certification.

Yeah, more than likely he is telling the truth.

But do a search on this forum on ICPI.

You'll see many responses from COMPETENT, VETERAN contractors that are anti-ICPI BECAUSE OF SITUATIONS / CONTRACTORS like yours.........


06-02-2010, 11:20 PM
To everyone who has been so kind to write in, let me explain. I moved into my new home 12/31/03. In 09/04, I had an ingrown pool installed. In 04/05, I had a heater installed on the pool, which meant running a gas line from the side of the house, across the back lawn, and connecting to the pool equipment. In May, 2005, I got estimates for the paver patio. Everyone was aware of and could see that there was a utility line cut across my lawn where my paver patio would go. In fact, the person who would do the patio would need to put more fill dirt into the utility line cut before the patio could be started. The winning contractor was talked to about the disturbed area and said he knew how to handle everything. One week later the crew showed up and within days the patio was done. The only thing different being done was the inspector from the state of Md. said that the sump pump discharge pipe had to be extended so that it discharged away from the house/patio/pool, and he said he wanted an extension put on it and for it to exit some 15-20 feet away on the other side of the house (after being buried under the pavers). As I stated. after the first winter, we saw changes, especially where the utility line was covered up. The contractor was notified, and he just played everything down and just kept filling in areas with more sand. Maybe I am crazy, but in a distance of 13 feet to have a slant that at the end is 9 inches lower than the top of the patio sounds really drastic, and it is. I have neighbors who had the same kind of patio and within months of mine, and theirs is perfect. I never asked for the kind of slant that I got, the contractor just did it. The entire patio retains water and has puddles everywhere and has moss growing from standing water. We waited 2 years before we had the patio installed -- shouldn't that have been enough time to wait? The bricks in the pictures were never touched or removed by anyone. This is what the bricks are doing to themselves. Do you think the patio could collapse into a sinkhole. Could a patio have been installed correctly or was this and is this a no win situation? Will I ever be able to have a paver patio installed correctly? If you were the contractor, how would you have started and completed this patio knowing it was a 2 year old home and the ground had a utility line cut already that needed more dirt to level it.

Thanks to all who have answered my question.

DVS Hardscaper
06-03-2010, 12:27 AM
Anne - with all due respect, i addressed the time frame in my initial response for settlement. I believe it's at the end of the post, please review my post for where I have addressed this.

It's my experience (not theory, but experience) that settlement can INFACT occur for MANY years.

The UTILITY LINE - Can speak for others, but we NEVER backfill settled areas with SOIL. We ONLY backfill with a compactable aggregate, this we everyone has peace of mind that it was done correctly. However, Again, you're only backfilling the surface. As stated in my initial response - the surface is NOT what settles. Settlement occurs from the bottom - up.

Sink hole - no. Fact of the matter is - the contractor did a poor job. And as consumers it's our responsibility to do our homework. Ask for references. ok, and now when I say this - I always get the same responses - "they did all the neighbor's patios". Ok, big wow. Patio references should always be of jobs of 3 yrs of age. A new patio always is beautiful and the people are always happy. It takes about 3 yrs to see the effects of a patio done wrong.

The pictures appear to be settlement. If you would like a different answer, then we're gonna need more exhibits of pictures.

If it's not settlement - then it's water issues.

Food for thought. We had a patio we did in 2002. Had to go back 4 times to fix settlement. Finally on the 4th visit, i discovered that they client was not cleaning the gutters on their home. they live on a wooded lot. So the gutters were over flowing and water was gushing down onto the patio, this causeing the patio to sink.

The improper grade of the pavers - from what I see, thats how it was done at the time you cut the final check. Looks like a deliberate and intentional grade. Which looks terrible in my opinion. But from what I see, it appears it's been that way since day one. Not standard practice to pitch a pavement that steep. Again, we consumers need to be mindful of this stuff at the time of handing out that final check!

dont mind my typos, it's late!

Feel free to brouse our website to get a feel for the competency of my advice / opinions offered - www.outdoorfinishes.com


06-03-2010, 10:52 AM
That's a lot of good sound advise from DVS. The only thing that I would expand on a little, is the possible underlying drainage issue. The pics that you have are not telling the whole story. Remember, water will always take the path of least resistance. The movement of those brick, especially the raised ones is telling me that you are experiencing some hydrostatic pressure against that wall, caused by the collection of water in that area and then freezing.

You have a drain at the bottom of those stairs...is it working properly? Do you have any standing water in that area after a heavy rain? Is your basement damp near that corner where the two walls meet? Is the sidewalk pitched or sloped in that direction? I'm not really getting a good sense of how and where all the work was being done for the pool...but that may be something to look at. Also, if the footer drain pipe was disturbed (broken, crushed, etc.) that would be a cause for the problem, it should be tied into that drain...which is where the water from up top seams to be finding it's course. What I don't understand is why that much slope was put on it in the first place, it may or may not have anything to do w/ what is going on. My guess is that he didn't want to over excavate and have to haul out or move a lot of soil.

06-03-2010, 12:17 PM
Okay everybody, here are all the pictures I have. We had a pool put in with a cement walkway around the pool. The following year we had the patio put in totally leaving it up to the contractor as to the design, etc. We wanted a paver patio with steps that would leave from a kitchen walkout (steps), onto the paver patio, and then onto the pool deck. We did not ask for any pitch, slant, etc. We felt that if the guy was ICPI accredited, that he knew what he was doing. Like I said, the only thing the state inspector wanted was for the sump pump drain to come out next to the steps and be buried under the paver patio and exit away from the house. It was to connect onto a drain at the top of the basement steps which then goes about 15 feet off to the side and drains out away from the patio. It is open and drains water when the sump pump goes off in heavy rains. We wanted a patio that we could enjoy and one in which our chairs were not rocking. It looks like we got a deal for our money because we now have a table and chairs that rock without having rockers on the bottom. Even the dogs water bowl is rediculous. It is 2 inches at one end and 6 inches at the other end. Everything is slanted. Over the entire patio stones are sticking up, sunken down, turned sideways. Even the steps are failing. Here are the rest of the pictures. I would like to ask this: would you have erected a paver patio like this if I gave you the go ahead to build me a paver patio that would not hold water puddles and would last? To me it doesn't even look like he dug out at all, just put the pavers right on top of the dirt and left. Your honest opinion please.

06-03-2010, 06:00 PM
Well, the last picture says a lot. Looks to be about 1" of fall per foot. If it were me, he would have been thrown off the job far before laying the first brick. I'm actually surprised he got paid and that it is at this point...I'm just being honest. I would have liked to have seen the rest of what you say is bad, but at this point I've seen enough, because it should all be removed and installed correctly. Do a proper excavation w/ a proper base and find the leak if there is one. You will know more when it gets removed. Dig it all up, check plumbing connections, and make sure water isn't rolling back up the pipe. As it sits, it's a guessing game as to why you are getting movement...it could be settling and could be from water collecting. BTW, those certification courses can be taken over the course of a weekend...then your a pro! :rolleyes:

DVS Hardscaper
06-03-2010, 06:46 PM
respectfully, it's settlement.

not plumbing or anything along those lines. I can assure you there are no plumbing lines in that corner, it would take 2 days to drill through the concrete in a corner.

That pool drain (the white drain at the edge of the concrete) is probably filled with settlement and not functioning. Everytime we do pool decks and we rip up those drains - they're packed full with sediment.

The reason some pavers are higher is because the poured wall is not of consistant texture. I'll use the word "barb". The pavers are clinging to "barbs".

The patio needs to be re-done by a competent, EXPERIENCED contractor.

I can NOT stress the importance of prospective clients being well educated on paver installation, settlement, and so on, and the archives of this forum contain many posts from me stressing this.

All our prospective clients are provided with the following link. If your price providers are not locatable via this link - THEN DO NOT USE THEM:



06-03-2010, 07:13 PM
I'm curious...for this job...

Did you obtain multiple bids for this project?

Did you choose the cheapest installer?

If yes to above, was the contractor significantly cheaper than the other bids?

Did you get a price per square foot for the install?

Did you find out how long this contractor has been performing this type of work?

Did you visit any of the contractors previous jobs?

Did you speak with any of the contractors previous customers?

Did the contractor provide you with a warranty?


06-07-2010, 01:19 PM
I agree with Both DVS and Stone face, all good advice. Though to me there's only so much to be learned from photos, and not defending your guy, becuase there's most always a way to not creat a pitch like that, it's outright dangerous if snow or ice covered. Anyway, is there something off to the left if the pictured area that explains why he created the pitch, was there something there he needed to meet the height of somehow? If so I think he picked the wrong way, but at least there's a reason. Also Stoneface makes a good point, I'll buy the possibility of those "odd" pavers being caused by a water/ice condition, however the whole right side of the patio has a belly about midway between the poured walk and the house, thus I believe a combination of problems. Either way the fix is the same, removal and re-installation, proper excavation and compaction are big here, and you'd get a chance to fix that ridiculous pitch too, patio does not appear large from pics, but again, they only show the problem area.

06-07-2010, 04:53 PM
The person, and right now I couldn't even call him a contractor or a man of his word because of the work he performed, did provide pictures and a list of happy customers, but guess what, they went out of business shortly after my patio was done. I should have done a lot of things different, namely one would have been to sit all day with these guys and watch what they were doing. They told me how they were going to perform the job, but through an engineering evaluation, this was not the way the job was done. When this mess gets torn up and redone, you can bet I am going to have a list of things that I am going to require the new guy to initial as well as looking at work that he did a few years ago, and not just finished. This company went out of business, and now I have an open claim with the DLLR. Your evaluations have helped me tremendously. If you guys did the job, would you have leveled the patio and put something like a French drain in for rain water to run off. This slant is ridiculous and one which I have been fighting about since day one. The contractor said it was necessary. The drain at the top of the steps that you see in the picture (white) is open and clean, but my worry is that this contractor buried the sump pump drain and I fear that it was never connected to anything and is simply dumping out its discharge underneath the pavers and not draining anywhere, just sitting there. Yes, this was the cheapest estimate, but he was a local contractor and said since I lived in the area, etc. I know, I know, I should have done my homework. This is definitely the most expensive lesson I have ever learned. May I state one thing? When I have contractors come to my home and I ask them to put things in writing when I am getting estimates for jobs; i.e., length of warranty, how long the job will take, when the job will start, etc., I have gotten some pretty weird remarks and no one wants to put stuff in writing. From now on, if it is not in writing or if they refuse to put something in writing, their not doing the job! I trusted the contractor and took his word, now look at the job I got. Can you believe that when the original contractor saw this patio as it looked in the above pictures, he said it only needed some pavers taken up and some handfuls of sand put in. I think they need to re-evaluate his license. Thanks to all of you. Do any of you guys live in Carroll County Maryland and want to do this jobthe right way?

06-07-2010, 06:22 PM
I have my MHIC and ICPI cert. references from 5+ yrs ago but i haven't done any work in carroll county, mainly harford, baltimore and cecil. Whats the sq footage of your patio? DVS thats your neck of the woods right?

06-07-2010, 07:31 PM
The patio was a 13 x 24, and I would like one without the exaggerated slope, please!! Only kidding. Yes, I live in Manchester, MD.


DVS Hardscaper
06-07-2010, 07:42 PM
Sarge -

Please read the following with an open mind:

There are good police officers. And there are bad police officers.

There are good doctors. And there are bad doctors.

And so on.

Ok, we contractors are screening prospective clients just as you mentioned screening contractors.

A good contractor will put most stuff in writing. However, keep in mind.....as you're asking for all this stuff in writing - you're also raising red flags. In other words, as you're saying "ok, put that in writing, and put this in writing", your contractor i saying "yes maam, no problem"......but he is also adding monies into the proposal. These monies are unofficially know as the 'PITA factor'. You can do the math as to what PITA means :)

I do feel your pain. Believe me. I feel it because I go to great strides to EDUCATE a prospective client. Many of them hear what I'm saying and they respect me for what I'm talking to them about. And.....many of them think I'm full of it and look at me as if I'm trying to sell them and old rusty worn out car for the price of a new one!

We have a speciality service we offer that is more along the lines of excavating services. Last week a prospective client sent me an e-mail with about 8 questions in regards to the work proposed. At the end of the e-mail he stated he wanted me to address his questions in the proposal. Well, one of his questions was a liability concern regarding a potential to property damage. He wanted me to write in the proposal that in the event a certain type of damage is inflicted - we could assume liability. OK, well we DO have liability insurance. But NO insurance claims are up to the policy holder as to whether or not the ins company will cover a claim. In the event something is damaged, we file a claim, and the insurance company takes it from there. As a business owner, there is no way I can promise anyone that all claims will be honored.

So, what I'm gettin at is - yes, watch your back. But at the same time tread lightly - as you will scare the living daylights out of a contractor. They'll still price your work....but they will PAD the heck out of the estimate, that $5,000.00 re-do will be marked up to a $7,000.00 re-do.

Again, the biggest thing is for you to make sure they are licensed in the state of MD. If you use an unlicensed contractor - the state of Maryland will not do anything for you. If you do use a licensed contractor and they do you wrong - the state of MD will back you 100%.

We do serve all of MD.

But "right away" :) Ummm...do you want it done right or do you want it done right now? :)


DVS Hardscaper
06-07-2010, 07:49 PM
Also, in all reality a detailed contractor will already have everything in writing on their proposal. The detail that they yput into a proposal will say volumes about them. Our proposal is usually 3 pages in length. 2 of those pages get very detailed in terms of exactly what we're proposing to do.

yet, I've seen other proposals that say "build patio - $5000.00 - 1/3 down - balance when done" And thats it!


06-07-2010, 08:59 PM
That is exactly what my estimate said, about 10 words and how much it cost. I have learned so much. When you say the state of MD. will back you 100%, it is not 100% guaranteed, even if he is licensed. This has been ongoing for quite some time, and I am still writing letters, taking pictures, answering letters from the DLLR, etc. It is a long and tedious course, but if it will help one other person from having to deal with this same contractor, I would stay up for days filling out forms just to report him. I did go to him first just to be fair, and then when he couldn't or WOULDN'T see anything wrong with the patio, that is when the big guns came out. I don't know how this guy sleeps at night! I just want my patio done right, but it doesn't have to be done in one day. I am a fair person and that is all I wanted in return, a good job for the money I paid. Some people just have no conscience! Thanks again, guys. Anne

06-07-2010, 11:14 PM
so you have his license number and nobody from the state tried to help?

06-08-2010, 12:18 AM
It gets confusing. When he wrote the contract, he used someone else's number on the contract. He showed up to give me the written estimate, brought the men workers to my home in a company truck every day, handled every aspect of the patio contract from ordering the pavers to even saying "my company", and he was even telling his workers what to do, and how he wanted it done, and then collected the money. When the patio sunk in, he said the company he "worked for" closed down and that he was just a salesman for the company. He has since started another company with a family member and named it so strikingly similar to the other company that other people have thought the first company just moved. He is now doing work under that company name and number, and the state is doing everything they can to figure this out. Also, just as there are for Social Security Disability cases waiting to be heard in court, complaints through the DLLR are backlogged just as bad. In the meantime, I am out thousands of dollars, can't use the patio or stairs, and this guy is still doing work under that company name and his own license number (or maybe somebody elses - who knows), and even advertises that this company has been in business for 25 years!!! He plays with words and wording. The state immediately got involved and have helped tremendously, but there just aren't enough investigators and lawyers to do the paperwork, to oversee the hearings and then to take it to trial. Oh, I am assured that I will get some satisfaction, it is just the turn around time that kills a homeowner when they have paid thousands for something and then the work wasn't done correctly. Does this happen often when a bad contractor does horrible work, and then he shuts down the company, renames it, and does work under someone else's license number? I just didn't do my homework -- one day he will have to answer for this, and I will be there with a smirk on my face when they take his license, hopefully, if they haven't already. The DLLR immediately intervened, it is just the waiting period for a hearing date or mediation date, and in the meantime I can't have people over to use my pool.

4 seasons lawn&land
06-13-2010, 04:52 PM
If your ever going to have it fixed, just do it. Even if he does get brought to justice youll never see a nickle.

06-14-2010, 02:41 PM
To: 4 seasons lawn&land

I am glad I am an optimist. The pessimist is half-licked before he starts. The optimist has won half the battle, the most important half that applies to himself, when he begins his approach to a subject with the proper mental attitude. The optimist may not understand, or if he understands he may not agree with, prevailing ideas; but he believes, yes, knows, that in the long run and in due course there will prevail whatever is right and best. Thomas A. Buckner

DVS Hardscaper
06-14-2010, 08:39 PM
Yeah, payin ta-do a patio twice is quite a prevail :)

I was at a supplier today and one of the guys there was telling me about another contractor who did sub-par work. The client sued the unlicensed contractor and won. The client is a business owner and made it clear that he sued solely out of principle. The judge threw the book at the contractor for not being licensed. And the supplier said.....the sub-par contractor has started buyin materials again. So I guess he didnt miss a beat......


4 seasons lawn&land
06-14-2010, 08:53 PM
To: 4 seasons lawn&land

I am glad I am an optimist. The pessimist is half-licked before he starts. The optimist has won half the battle, the most important half that applies to himself, when he begins his approach to a subject with the proper mental attitude. The optimist may not understand, or if he understands he may not agree with, prevailing ideas; but he believes, yes, knows, that in the long run and in due course there will prevail whatever is right and best. Thomas A. Buckner

Ok then, another option. Have it redone and when you win you can pocket the money. At least you will be able to use your living space and not stare at a mess outside your door. And then if you dont get your money back it wasnt a year or whatever wasted with leaving the first job there.

Imsure you can win. Its just getting the money that is rare.

06-15-2010, 03:13 AM
I agree with the other guy -- it is the principle of the whole matter. The guy who did my patio brags that he has never had a complaint FILED AGAINST HIM, never had any marks on his license, and never had to go to court. I want to be his first. With the way my patio looks, I can't be the first one who had a problem with his work, but it appears that I am the first who stood up for may be the first to file a complaint. I may be the first to take my complaint to fruition. Thank God for the Maryland DLLR. They did get involved right away, have talked to the contractor, have written HIM letters, and have gotten involved and made their presence and involvement known to the contractor. Now he does[U] have a complaint on file which shows on his license if someone were to take the time to look at his record before they hire him.

It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character.
Dale Turner

Glenn Lawn Care
06-16-2010, 04:32 PM
it looks to me that the class 5 under the sand (if there is any) was not compacted causing it to sink.

06-16-2010, 05:26 PM
What is Class 5? I don't think he compacted anything. Thanks for your "diagnosis".

Glenn Lawn Care
06-21-2010, 06:02 PM
class 5 is a gravel. like a gravel road. its underneath the sand and it needs to be compact with motorized tamper!

06-21-2010, 10:50 PM
They never used a motorized tamper of any kind. I questioned this myself. There were a lot of steps that were missed from what I have found out. Thanks for your input.

06-22-2010, 07:00 PM
Class 5 isn't used around here, we use Item 4, I'm assuming its basically the same thing, up to 3/4 inch gravel with smaller aggregate and stone dust mixed in? In any case, any paver installation needs a compacted base, usually 6'' deep of a gravel base material. Hand tamping will never compact it the same way that a vibrating compactor (motorized) will.

06-22-2010, 07:10 PM
One other issue I see is the amount of weeds growing up from the seams. On the close up of the pavers it looks is if the joints are barely filled in. Polymetric sand should have been used to fill in the space in between pavers, sealing the gaps and controling the weed growth. This sand is swept into the gaps and then wet down, it hardens when wet, similar to concrete.

06-22-2010, 10:20 PM
Oh believe me, we have put polymeric sand in as well as the sand that the guy put in at the installation of the patio, but it kept disappearing -- not washing out, falling down into the ground or sinking somewhere. The amount of weeds is not the way it usually is -- if we don't pull them up every week as well as using sprays, we could call this a "wooded lot". The guy pinched pennies everywhere and cut corners so he could put more money in his pocket. You all have been so helpful. The idiot who did my patio doesn't hold a candle to you all. Thanks again.


06-23-2010, 08:22 AM
I am in Hampstead. I would be interested in rebuilding the patio.

06-23-2010, 08:37 AM
To neversatisfied: give me your contact info. and I will be glad to have you come over and give me an estimate. You are licensed right?:laugh:

06-24-2010, 10:10 AM
Creative Hardscapes

Josh Upman

06-30-2010, 10:30 AM
Anne - Give me a call and I will come out and look at it for you.


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