How to Set Pavers in a Mortar Bed


Prepare the patio surface for mortar by thoroughly cleaning the concrete with a commercial concrete cleaner and/ or a pressure washer. Make sure the surface is completely free of dirt, grease, oil, and waxy residue. Note: Follow manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and safety.

Dry-lay the border pavers along the edge of the patio slab. Gap the pavers to simulate the mortar joints using spacers cut from plywood equal to the joint thickness (% or V" is typical). Adjust the pavers as needed to create a pleasing layout with the fewest cuts possible. Install isolation board along the foundation wall if the paving abuts the house; this prevents the mortar from bonding with the foundation.

Cut Paver

Mist the concrete with water to prevent premature drying of the mortar bed and then mix a batch of mortar as directed by the manufacturer.

Begin laying the border pavers by spreading a 1/2M-thick layer of mortar for three or four pavers along one edge of the patio using a mason’s trowel. Lay the first few pavers, buttering the leading edge of each with enough mortar to create the desired joint thickness. Press or tap each paver in place to slightly compress the mortar bed.


Remove excess mortar from the tops and sides of the pavers. Use a level to make sure the pavers are even across the tops and check the mortar joints for uniform thickness. Tool the joints with a jointer as you go. Repeat the process to lay the remaining border pavers. Allow to dry as directed by the manufacturer.

Variation: To cover the edges of a raised slab, build wood forms similar to concrete forms (see pages 40 to 41). Set a gap between the forms and slab equal to the paver thickness plus /2". Install the edge pavers vertically or horizontally, as desired.







Spread and then screed mortar for the field pavers. Trowel on a V2"-thick layer of mortar inside the border, covering only about 3 or 4 sq. ft. to allow for working time before the mortar sets. Screed the mortar to a uniform V" thickness using a notched board set atop the border pavers (set the interior end on a lumber spacer, as needed).

Begin laying the field pavers (without buttering them). Use the plywood spacers to set the gaps for mortar joints. Cut end pavers as needed. Keep the courses straight by setting the pavers along a string line referenced from the border pavers.

As you work, check the heights of the pavers with a level or a straight 2 x 4 to make sure all units are level with one another. If a paver is too high, press it down or tap it with a rubber mallet; if too low, lift it out, butter it’s bottom with mortar, and reset it. Repeat steps 6 through 8 to complete the paver installation, and then let the mortar bed dry.

Fill the paver joints with fresh mortar using a mortar bag to keep the paver faces clean. Within each working section, fill the long joints between courses first, and then do the short joints between the paver ends. Overfill the joints slightly.


Tool the joints with a jointing tool—again, complete the long joints first, and then fill the next section. As the mortar begins to set (turns from glossy wet to flat gray) in each tooled section, scrape off excess mortar with a pointing trowel, being careful not to smear mortar onto the paver faces.

Let the mortar joints dry for a few hours (or as directed by the manufacturer) and then scrub the paver faces with a wet burlap rag to remove any excess mortar and residue. Cover the surface with plastic for 48 hours. Remove the plastic, and let the surface cure undisturbed for one week before using the patio.



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