Tools needed for job:
Measure the area. Measure the length and width and multiply them to get the square footage of the area. The square footage will be needed to determine how much base materials and pavers you will need. 4-6% more pavers than your measured square footage to account for cuts, breakage, or mistakes. Mark off the measured area with marking paint. Order the materials in a time that is sufficient that you think your excavation will be finished so that you don't have a lot of downtime.
Step 2:Excavate the area
First think about whether or not you have an area to put the soil that you are about to remove. The area will have to be a relatively flat area. I usually excavate 3-6" past where I want the border of pavers to be. Excavate the area down about 6-10 inches deep depending on the thickness of the pavers to be used. Generally 8" works pretty well for most pavers. If it's a large area it may make sense for you to rent a skid steer or some type of equipment to remove the soil. 8" doesn't sound like a lot but its a pretty large amount if you're doing anything larger than 120 sq ft. Once you think you're close set some stakes near the corners and run lines at ground level. Measure at various spots to see that you are close to 8" (it does not have to be exact at this point).
Step 3: Lay the base
There is some controversy on this one. Many people including myself sometimes use what's called crusher run or stone pack for the bottom layer and stone dust on the top. By ICPI standards 3/4 crushed stone should be used on the bottom and washed concrete sand on the top layer of the base.
My opinion is that as long as the property seems to have normal soil (not clay) and normal drainage then the stone pack and stone dust seems easier and more solid. I have used this method on almost every patio and walkway I've done and never had a problem.
I'll tell you how to do it both ways:
Whether you're going to use stone pack or crushed stone the bottom layer is done essentially the same way. Lay out about 2" or a little over and compact it. Lay out another 2" or so and compact that (you may need to lightly spray the materials down each time with water if they are very dry before compacting). At this point I like to check my slope with a line level and I also lay a tight line from a couple of corners and move the other end with my hand as it is wrapped around my finger. If I hold it just above the grade I can see if there are any low or high spots as i move the string across. I'll sometimes add a little material in low areas and compact again.
Step 4: Setting the bed (sand or stone dust)
For the second layer it works out a little differently for stonedust vs sand. With the stonedust you can lay down the screed pipe and screed out the stonedust which ends up to be about an inch and then compact it. I usually compact the stonedust and then check for unlevel areas or small dips with the line. I adjust these areas with more stonedust and then compact again. Once it is compacted it is extremely hard and you can walk on it if you need to. With the sand you essentially do the same thing but you need to be careful not to disrupt the sand after you screed an area. You also need to be more careful when laying the pavers so that as you place them int the sand you don't place it unevenly or push them into place as it can get too much sand in the gaps and cause improper spacing. There is much less of these problems with the stonedust.
Step 5: Laying the pavers
I try and start away from the point where the most cuts seem to be. For example if you're working towards a house the house usually has all the irregular cuts. Like if they have back steps or a chimney or anything irregular. I usually lay a paver edge and a line to work off of. Lay from right to left a row or two at a time and then left to right a row or two and alternate in this fashion all the way down. When I get to the edges where a cut will be needed I usually place a paver in place which sticks out past the edge of where the patio will be. When you reach the house or wherever the last row is, you may need to leave pavers out since none will fit and you will have to make individual cuts for these areas.
Step 6: Making cuts
Cut off all pavers that stick out outside of the patio's edge. Then measure and individually cut all of the left over irregular cuts.
Step 7: Install any edges or backfill
I usually install paver edging after everything is laid and cut. I then backfill up to the edge with loam if there is going to be lawn or beds outside of the edge.
Step 8: Compact and sweep in polymeric sand
Compact the pavers starting from the middle and working out. You may use regular sand or stonedust to sweep into the joints but I highly recommend polymeric sand. Sweep in the polymeric sand and compact. Keep repeating this until there is no more settling of the polymeric sand. Anything in a corner or close to a house etc can be hand tamped or hit in with a mallet. Once you have no more settling I would lightly go over the patio with a blower on idle to get the polymeric sand dust all off the top of the pavers. Then mist the pavers with water so that the polymeric sand will set.
You are now done! (unless you are putting on a sealer)