How to lay a patio

Do you dream of relaxing on your patio during the summer months, listening to the birds chirp whilst soaking up some sun? If this isn’t a reality but you’d like to make a start on building your patio then you’ve come to the right place.

Laying a Patio

Make a start on building a place to relax after work and entertain friends, laying a patio may seem like a major project, but it’s one you can take on yourself.

Daunting? Yes. Worth it? Definitely!

When you lay your own patio, you get to design everything, from its shape, size and location to the kinds of feature it will have.

Plan where you want your patio to be and then dig the soil out and lay a frame for the concrete. If you’ve not already got one then hire yourself a concrete mixer by following the link.

Laying a patio may require manual labour, but in reality it’s a straight forward project that can save you money. So put some time away at the weekends, and soon enough you’ll be relaxing on your patio with a book in one hand and a glass of wine in the other! However, your dream patio won’t happen with the click of your fingers, so we’ve provided you with a step-by-step guide to laying a patio so to ensure you get it done the right way.

You Will Need:
  • Hardcore material, building sand, cement, cement mixer (optional)
  • Paving slabs
  • Shovel, rake, wheelbarrow
  • Wooden pegs, hammer, spirit level, plank of wood, wacker plate
  • Rubber mallet
  • Bolster chisel
  • Pointing trowel

Before you start to lay the patio….

  • Draw a detailed plan with precise measurements that are drawn to scale on graph paper. Mark permanent fixtures on the plan including manhole covers, walls, fencing, trees, large plants and the house itself. Ensure you pave around manhole covers as they can affect your patio’s level.
  • Remember that your patio must be at the minimum 150mm below the damp proof course of the house so that rain doesn’t rebound off and hit the wall above.
  • Your patio needs to have a gradual slope positioned away from the house so that water does not collect on the paving. To ensure this doesn’t happen, aim for a drop of 1 in 60, this equates to one centimetre of fall for every 60 centimetres of width. Meaning a 3m wide patio will need 5cm or 50mm of drop.
  • For fettled edge, natural stone or heavily riven slabs allow a 10mm-30mm gap in between each one. For straight edge slabs, leave 10mm-15mm.

Now that your preparations are correct and in place, it’s time to get started…

Step 1: Measure out Patio Area
  • In square metres, carefully calculate the area of your patio (if you’re using single slabs, then you can easily dividethe area of your patio by the area covered by one pack to see how many packs you’ll need to get the job done).
  • Remember to include measurements for gaps between slabs and gradual slopes on your plan.
Step 2: Marking
  • Now it’s time to mark your plan on your patio working area. Outline the area to be paved with building squares, pins and string.
  • To make sure each corner of the patio area is marked 90° square use a large folding square.
  • Mark lines on wooden depth to highlight the maximum depth of digging
    Tip: On your pegs allow for 10cm of hardcore which is your maximum depth and then 2.5cm for Slablayer and the slab depth. The final patio should sit 1cm below the grass.
  • Dig into the grass with a spade to outline the area, you can remove your string once this outline has been done.
Step 3: Patio Basing
  • Drive your pegs at 1m intervals around edge, level with the ground.
  • Attach treated timber to the pegs to form the outline of your patio area.
  • Once again, ensure that the patio area slopes away from your home.
  • Now it’s time to rake a layer of hardcore to a depth of around 50-80mm across the foundation of your patio site.
  • To guarantee a flat surface after applying your hardcore, hire a wacker plate to do the job quickly and efficiently.
  • After setting a foundation of hardcore, apply a level of bedding mortar over the compacted hardcore.
  • If you are planning on making this mortar on your own, hire a concrete mixer and then use a mortar mix of 6 parts sharp sand to 1 part cement.
  • Mix together with just enough water to make it damp and workable, but not overly wet and runny.
Step 4: Laying Patio Slabs
  • Before laying, check with your builder’s square that the string guide lines you have previously set are in their correct shape and are square to your home. If not, adjust the guide lines suitably.
  • Lay your first slab at the corner of your patio building site, carefully checking its alignment with your guideline. The positioning of the first slab is crucial.
  • Lay down your slabs paying close attention to their alignment, remember to allow for a slope away from your home. When you have correctly positioned a slab, tap it with a club hammer to set it into the bedding mortar.
    Tip: Use a block of wood to protect the surface of your slab when setting it into the bedding mortar.
  • Continue this process until all slabs have been correctly laid, and carry out a final check to guarantee correct positioning.
Step 5: Filling in the Gaps
  • The mortar you will be applying prevents your slabs from moving and also stops pesky weeds from growing in the gaps between your slabs.
  • Before filling in the gaps between your slabs, prepare your mortar. Your mortar needs to consist of 4 parts soft building sand to 1 part cement and mix it slowly adding a little water at a time to get a smooth, damp consistency – not wet or sloppy. Again, you can use a concrete mixer to make your mortar.
  • Leave your mortar to dry for at least 24 hours before filling the gaps between them.
  • Use the edge of a trowel to press your mortar into the gaps.
  • Use a semi-stiff brush to wipe off any surplus mortar.
  • With clean water, wash the slabs with a damp sponge to remove all remaining cement.
Step 6: Let your Mortar Dry
  • If you’re laying out your patio in warmer weather, make sure the mortar does not dry too quickly as this may lead to crumbling.
  • If you have laid your patio out in winter, use polythene sheeting to protect the drying mortar from rain or frost.
  • Wait 24 hours after finish your patio before using it.
Step 7: Maintaining the Patio
  • Use a plastic shovel or stiff brush to eliminate snow or ice. Do not use salt as this could damage your patio’s surface.
  • It’s a good idea to check on your slabs every month to check they’re not damaged or out of place.
  • Tip: If you notice stains on the surface use a pressure washer on a low setting. Use it at a good distance away from the slabs at an angle pointing away from the slabs to avoid the risk of damaging the surface.

We hope the above helps with your patio laying project, but what about a Flagstone patio?

Flagstone Patio Installation

A flagstone patio is the perfect place to sit back and relax on a summer day, host a barbecue or even sit around a fire pit on a fall evening. Patios add some extra living space and transform a garden from a normal yard to something more functional and beautiful.

Take just one weekend to install a flagstone patio in your garden and you will suddenly have the perfect outdoor retreat. The below will walk you through each step, so you can make sure your finished patio is safe and looks great.

Stake out the Area

First, decide where you want the patio to be and measure out the space. Use wood stakes to mark the area and then tie it off with twine. This allows you to see where the patio will be in relation to other things and will make it easier to prepare the area.

Take things like trees, garden beds and your home into consideration as you stake out the patio space. If you are building a patio directly next to your house, install it at a slight angle that slopes away from the house to prevent water damage to your foundation.

Purchase the Right Stone

Now, measure the space carefully and write down the precise measurements so you know how much stone to buy. You’ll have a few different colour options when it comes to buying flagstone, so choose one that complements your home.
Flagstone comes in odd shapes and a variety of sizes, so give yourself some leeway when you decide how much to buy. It’s smart to buy a little more flagstone than you think you will need to account for having to cut stone and accidental breaks.

Some homeowners like to keep a few extra stones in the garage or shed so they can easily replace broken stones with matching pieces later.

Prepare the Ground

Now you need to prepare the ground. This is one of the most important steps because the way you prepare the ground will determine what the finished product looks like. If you don’t prepare it properly, your patio could be uneven or the stones could start to drift apart from each other over time.

Clear Rocks and Pull Weeds

First, remove rocks, plants or weeds out of the area. The ground needs to be perfectly empty before you can start installing the patio. Use a skip to hold all the debris and make removing it easier.

Once the area is clear, use a shovel and rake to smooth and level the area. If you need to, add more soil to reduce
slopes. In most case, you will want the patio to be perfectly level. If the patio is next to your home or another building, gently slope it away from the structure to avoid water damage to the foundation.

Dampen and then Smooth the Ground

Now, use your hose or even a watering can to dampen the ground. This makes it easier to work with and will allow the stones to sink and settle into the soil just slightly. Use a tamper to flatten the area so the soil isn’t loose.

Lay Landscape Fabric

Adding landscape fabric to the ground before you lay the flagstones will help prevent weeds from sprouting up between the stones. Lay the fabric down and use stakes or weights to hold it down past the edge of the patio to keep it in place while you work.

Finally, move garden accessories or tools away from the perimeter of the patio so you will have plenty of room to work. It’s a good idea to set the stone soon after you prepare the area so it stays neat and level.

Set the Stone

Now, start in one corner of the patio and start laying the stone. Lay the stone down and then use a rubber mallet to push it into the ground just slightly. As you work, use a level to make sure each stone that you lay is perfectly level. Even though the ground is level, shifting soil could cause the stones to be crooked.

Kneel on the stones as you work and piece together the patio by using flagstones that fit together. Leave as little space between each stone as you can.

Of course, your stones aren’t all going to fit together perfectly. When this happens, you will need to cut them to fit. Lay the stone down and then use chalk to mark where it needs to be cut.

While wearing safety glasses and gloves, use a chisel and hammer to cut the stone. Only cut away small portions at a time to prevent cracking the entire stone. If you are making a long cut, use the chisel to perforate the chalk line and then go back and break away the excess.

And finally, as stated earlier in the ‘Laying a Patio’ section, apply step 5 and follow the detail on how you fill the gaps. And that’s it!

Good luck with you patio project and do let us know how you found our instructions, we’d love to hear your feeback.

And now that you have your new patio laid, check out these tips for enhancing your patio with some great features.

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Lauren King

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