Build a Welcoming Walkway

Heavy construction details and weather-resistant pavers are keys to a long-lasting path.

Don’t you hate having to traipse across someone’s lawn to get to the front door? You scan the area for a walkway, and when you don’t find one, your heart races. Will the homeowners be annoyed that you’re treading on their grass? And what about the dirt (or worse) that you might wind up tracking into their home?

This scenario makes the benefits of a hard-surface walkway obvious. If you don’t have a reserved route to your entryway (or if you’d like to replace a cracked and boring sidewalk), consider creating a welcoming walkway that will not only lead visitors to your front door but also add an aesthetic element to your landscape. Read on for a few guidelines that will help set you on the right path.

A well-designed walkway should create a welcoming experience for users while leading them to your front door.

Plan your path
Because a walkway to your front door is used by all visitors and viewed by all passersby, its design should be functional yet flattering. It must be built to endure heavy foot traffic and withstand the elements, and it should keep users’ feet clean on rainy days and be easy to clear after a snowfall.

A walkway factors into a home’s curb appeal, so a good design should complement the house’s architecture, says Becca Bastyr, Club member and landscape designer from Shakopee, Minnesota. Creating a flattering design involves selecting an appropriate location, shape and combination of materials.

Start by considering the location and shape. Would you like the walkway to be as efficient as possible (a straight shot from your driveway to the front door), or do you want a more visually interesting approach, such as a winding trail that forks from both your driveway and the sidewalk?

The location and size should feel natural and welcome people to your front door. A walkway should be at least 4 ft. wide to accommodate one person at a time or about 5 ft. wide if you’d like two people to fit side-by-side — though Bastyr adds that the size of your path largely depends on the size of your home; its important that the two elements work together for aesthetic results.

With a location and shape in mind, you can select materials that complement your home’s style. (For help with this step, see “Pro Picks,” in PDF below). Once you’ve worked out the design details, you can start putting your plan in action.

Layers of compactable gravel and coarse sand along with sturdy paver edging will help ensure proper water drainage and longevity for your path.

Course(s) of action
For a walkway to effectively shed water away from your home and endure years of wear, Bastyr says, it’s necessary to incorporate heavy-construction details (layers of compactable gravel, coarse sand and tight-fitting surface pieces) into your design. But whether you choose brick pavers (as we did for this article) or other materials, the building process is virtually universal.

Use a small-scale sketch of your path as a guide for marking the layout on your lawn.

First, mark the location and shape of the path on your lawn using a rope or spray paint (photo, above). Next, excavate within the marks to a depth that is equal to the thickness of your pavers plus layers of compactable gravel and coarse sand. Level the dirt; then spread 4 to 6 in. of compactable gravel along the bottom. Build a slight slope into this layer so water sheds away from the home’s foundation. Tamp the gravel using a hand compactor (or rent a power compactor).

Once that layer is tightly compacted, install paver edging on top of the gravel along the sides of the trench. Top the gravel with 1 to 2 in. of coarse sand; then tamp and level the sand, following your established slope (photo, below). Next, lay the bricks in the pattern of your choice; they should be close together but not touching. (For a few pattern ideas, see “Brick Tricks,” in PDF below.)

A level piece of scrap wood cut to fit just inside your paver edging works well for grading the course-sand layer.

After all of the bricks are in place, fill the joints with sand using a large push broom (photo, below). Spray the surface with water to wet and settle the sand; then repeat this step until the joints are completely filled.

Fill the spaces between your pavers with sand for added stability and a finished look.

To add a welcoming touch, Bastyr recommends accenting the sides of the walkway with plants, which can help to soften and add dimension to your path. More ambitious curb-appeal seekers may want to complete the transformation with an arbor or a decorative fence.