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Patterns of Success  August 11, 2005

Pine Hall Brick Co., Inc.

Pattern changes are used to move a person's eye to a desired feature. Here at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, Adrian Fisher created a maze by cutting in designs or changing colors within the pattern. The pattern creates an image of Theseus slaying the Minotaur.

We preach about base, base, and base. We emphasize establishing interlock. We talk about sand. Excuse me, the right sand; ASTM C33. We reinforce the need for good compaction. And after all this talk, if the lines are straight, the pavement is smooth and the paver color enhances the space, we hope that this job will get us another next door or down the street.

As we grow as an industry, we need to keep raising the bar in order to keep growing. We need to keep the next job from looking like the last one or folks will get tired of patios and go back to decks. One way is to think patterns and color. Sure, 45-degree herringbone with a sailor border looks terrific. The crew is comfortable with laying it. But, considering other options will set your business apart and open up a whole new way to attract potential clients. Let's raise the bar.

Pattern Variation Basics

Most of the time, pattern choice is a factor of how good it looks to the designer's or the owner's eye. Patterns can also help define or change the scale of space. In small areas, breaking up the pavement into smaller sections of pavement with different patterns tends to enlarge the area in the mind's eye. A small courtyard can appear much larger with alternating colors in different patterns of herringbone and basketweave.

Pattern changes can be used to create emphasis by leading the eye to a focal point such as a fountain or piece of sculpture. Englishman Adrian Fisher takes this thought to the extreme in that he creates pavement mazes by cutting in designs or changing colors within the pattern. At the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, FL, Adrian shows Theseus slaying the Minotaur using different clay paver colors in herringbone and running bond patterns. The result is not only visually stunning but invites interactive participation with its human visitors.

The creative use of banding is a time-honored technique dating back to the colonial period. Sailor, soldier and string courses are in abundant use throughout areas like Williamsburg, VA and New Bern, NC. The sailor course is the most common of these and typically used as a perimeter border around segmental pavements. The name "sailor" comes from brick terminology defining each possible laying position. Often confused with a "soldier" course, sailor courses are pavers side by side with their bedside up like sailors standing in a line. A "soldier" course is similar in that the pavers are lying side-by-side but different in that the side of the paver is facing up. A string course features pavers with the bed side up and the pavers lying end to end.

Sailor borders are visually effective because they frame the pavement like a picture frame surrounds a piece of artwork or photograph. They are also functional in that they move smaller cut pieces away from the perimeter edge, strengthening interlock. Also, sailor or string courses are commonly used to separate pattern changes. But, in a creative way, these courses or bands can be used to enhance the beauty of the pavement by creating emphasis. A band emphasizes the curvilinear nature of walkways, visually enlarging the space and can become the focal point for donated engraved pavers. It is this type of imagination that turns a paving job into a work of art.

The Right Pattern for The Right Job

Patterns also provide functionality to segmental pavements. The most common functional use of a pattern is herringbone in vehicular traffic installations. With each paver perpendicular to one another, this pattern allows loads to be transferred and dissipated more effectively than any other pattern. This is particularly true in multi-directional traffic that includes turning vehicles. The problem with other patterns in vehicular applications is that loads get concentrated to isolated courses (or pavers) increasing the likelihood of creep in those areas.

Other functional considerations include minimizing cutting. This is not as much a concern on larger jobs with bigger crews but this can be a factor on smaller jobs where cost to the client is important. In this case, basketweave is ideal in that the pavement can use full pavers throughout given a square or rectangular shape. The chart of common patterns, shows three variations of basketweave, all of which can be used to eliminate cutting. Using running bond or 90 degree herringbone in square areas requires only half cuts which can be achieved by using simpler equipment such as a brick splitter or hammer/chisel.

Changing patterns can be an effective way of designating changing traffic zones or designating changing usage patterns. As an example, the suspension of the detectable warning requirement (truncated domes) by the Access Board created a dilemma among many municipalities about how to handle sidewalk to street transition areas. Many treat these areas with a change of color along with a pattern change. The City of Baltimore uses different colored false-joint 4x4 pavers in handicap ramps while the City of Montezuma, GA used the grooved pavers.

Need Ideas?

The best advice for making your pavement stand out and even be spectacular is to "think out of the box". Of course, this phrase is over used in the "new economy" world, but is perfect to describe the mental process of coming up with new ideas. Let go of the idea that every pavement has to be one pattern with a border band. Sure, there will be a learning curve to become efficient with new laying patterns but once you get the hang of it, you have the opportunity to promote your skills. Why? The best single source of leads for a paving installer is generally word of mouth. So, when a visitor to one of your pavements sees your work, you want them to say "wow" instead of "that's nice." The difference in the two responses is what we call in the business, a phone call.

Now, if you remember back to the beginning of the article, I told you that banding is a time-honored technique dating back to the colonial period. It is. In fact, segmental clay pavements grace some of our most historic institutions and they are still in service after hundreds of years. Laying "paviors" was a craft and the installer was an artist. And the good news is that Peter Joel Harrison wrote a book about it. Brick Pavement and Fence Walls categorizes historic brick pavements and fences from Williamsburg, Virginia to Beverly, Massachusetts. On the pavement side, Harrison illustrates how paving masters crafted various situations like intersecting pathways, borders, and courtyards. Creating a "wow" patio or walkway is only limited by your imagination.

Ted Corvey is Paver Business Director for Pine Hall Brick Co., Inc. He can be contacted at Adrian Fisher is the founder and owner of Adrian Fisher Maze Design in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. He can be contacted at Brick Pavement and Fence-Walls by Peter Joel Harrison is published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York, NY. Copies can be obtained by calling 800-225-5945 or visiting

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