Components of the Paver System: A Comprehensive Understanding

components of the ICP System

The Interlocking Concrete Pavement (ICP) system is a multifaceted, intricately designed system that boasts eight vital components. Each serves a distinctive purpose, ensuring the longevity and performance of the pavement. Let’s delve into a detailed examination of each component:

SUBGRADE: The Foundation’s Bedrock

The subgrade is the native, in-place soil on which the pavement stands. Its characteristics heavily influence:

  • Design & Performance: The effectiveness and longevity of the pavement.
  • Construction Aspects: Time and cost are contingent on the subgrade’s quality.
  • Particle Size Influence: Soils can range from coarse-grained sands to silts and clays, which contain the smallest particles. The subgrade’s strength diminishes as particle size shrinks, making clay soils generally the weakest.

Quick Field Tests:

Patty Test

Purpose: To determine the water holding capacity, or plasticity, of the soil.


  1. Take a sample of the soil and mix it with enough water to achieve a putty-like consistency.
  2. Form this wet soil into a patty shape and let it dry thoroughly.
  3. Once dried, try to break the patty using your fingers.


  • If significant effort is required to break the dried patty, it indicates higher plasticity, suggesting the soil has a greater ability to hold water. Such soil is typically less suitable as a foundation for pavements.
  • High dry-strength is characteristic of clay soils. On the other hand, silts and silty sands will break more easily.

Shake Test (Dilatancy Test)

Purpose: To evaluate the soil’s reaction to shaking, helping differentiate between fine sand, silt, and clay.


  1. Mix a tablespoon (15 ml.) of water with a handful of the soil until the mixture is soft but not sticky.
  2. Hold the mixture in a closed palm and shake or jolt it a few times.


  • If water rises to the surface after shaking, it indicates the presence of fine sand.
  • If little to no water comes to the surface, it suggests silt or clay.
  • Squeezing the soil sample between the fingers can offer further differentiation: if the moisture disappears quickly, it’s sandy; if it lingers, it’s silty; and if it doesn’t disappear at all, it’s clay.

Snake Test

Purpose: To evaluate the soil’s clay content.


  1. Moisten a small soil sample until it’s soft but not muddy or excessively sticky.
  2. Roll this sample between your hands, creating a thread or “snake” shape.


  • The longer and more flexible the thread without breaking, the higher the clay content. It signifies that the soil has a higher binding capacity due to the clay.
  • If the soil “snake” is short and breaks easily, it indicates lower clay content and possibly a higher composition of sand or silt.

In field conditions, these tests can provide immediate feedback about the soil’s composition and behavior, enabling engineers and contractors to make informed decisions. However, for detailed construction projects, laboratory tests are recommended for precise soil classification and understanding its engineering properties.

Remember, the subgrade needs compaction to a minimum of 95 percent of Standard Proctor Density before base installation.

GEO TEXTILE: The Separator

Often termed filter cloth or soil separation fabric, its primary role is to keep the subgrade and base distinct, preventing them from blending under continuous traffic load. A Geotextile is indispensable when the subgrade is clayey or prone to prolonged wetness. Check with your Belgard Distributor for the apt Geotextile type.

SUB-BASE: The Supplementary Support

This component is a compacted layer, or layers, of particular material atop the subgrade, enhancing its support, particularly in regions with poor subgrade material or for heavy-duty pavements.

dense graded aggregate perfect for paver base

BASE: The Main Support Layer

The base is a specified material layer designed to buttress the pavement surface. The primary material for ICP bases is a compacted layer of Dense Graded Aggregate (DGA). Refrain from using stone dust or screenings.

Base Thickness Guidelines:

  • Driveways: 8-12 inches (adjustable for clay and silt soils).
  • Patios, Walkways & Pool Decks: 4-6 inches.

EDGE RESTRAINT: The Boundary Guardian

These are specially curated edgings, curbs, or structures that maintain the bedding sand and pavers’ position, ensuring they remain interlocked and don’t spread. Options range from plastic, aluminum, steel, troweled concrete, and treated timbers.


This is a layer of coarse, clean sand, loosely screeded over the base layer to bed the pavers. It helps achieve a smooth pavement surface and initiates vertical interlock between pavers. Always use sand that aligns with ASTM C33 standards and avoid compacting the setting bed prior to setting pavers.


Meeting ASTM C936-96 requirements, these pavers are the quintessential visible elements. They should align with standards on size, compressive strength, resistance to freezing, thawing, and dimensional tolerance. Their thickness dictates their utility; for instance, 2-3/8 inch thick pavers are apt for walkways and patios, while 3-1/8 inch ones suit vehicular traffic zones.

JOINT SAND: The Bonding Agent

Filling the spaces between pavers, this sand is pivotal for vertical interlock. It should be sharp, clean, durable, and well-graded. The same washed concrete sand (ASTM C33) used for the bedding layer is ideal for joints. Periodic refilling might be necessary to maintain the interlock.

Understanding the nitty-gritty of the ICP system is pivotal for quality assurance. Each component, from the foundational subgrade to the unifying joint sand, has a role in ensuring the pavement’s longevity, stability, and aesthetics. With this comprehensive knowledge, you’re better equipped to ensure the durability and beauty of your landscaping projects.