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How to Lay Paving Slabs

A patio can be low-maintenance but well-used outdoor space that you can actually lay yourself with a bit of hard work.

How to Lay Paving Slabs

A patio or paved outdoor area can be low-maintenance. It's also a great way to add a functional and sometimes show-stopping area to your garden. Laying it yourself should be easy right, just a few things to stick down? 

Wrong. Be warned, laying a pretty patio is not all that it seems. Like any good addition to your home or garden, it needs planning and preparation. But, with everything from laying the proper sub-base to cutting the paving slabs, we have you covered. So, after reading our guide, you can get on with creating that magical outdoor area!

How to prepare the paving site

Like indoor flooring, laying the perfect patio comes by properly preparing the foundation. The preparation involves digging, measuring, and cutting to create a smooth ground to apply the new slabs on. If you do this ineffectively, you could lead to an uneven finish, so you cannot cheat and skip this step!

  1. Measure the area you wish to pave and mark it with stones or paving flags. Get rid of anything that makes the ground uneven; vegetation, weeds, rubble; all must go. With a shovel, dig the rough top layer of soil off to a depth of around 150-200mm. 
  2. Ensuring your paved area drains well, you must judge the gradient of your base level with your spirit level. You must level it towards a drainage point to allow surface runoff when it rains. 
  3. To ensure the area is smooth, even and prepared, rake or smooth over the topsoil. Use your spirit level to get a good finish. 

How to cut paving slabs

You don't have to be an expert to cut or break paving slabs. However, you do need the right tools and a little practice. 

The most obvious tool for cutting paving slabs is a manual or hydraulic block splitter. You ordinarily use one to precisely cut and trim blocks and stone, granite or concrete paving slabs. They are easy to adjust to the block's size and produce very minimal dust. 

  1. Begin by measuring out the block and the amount you need to cut. Always mark it clearly so it will be easier to see as you cut. 
  2. Secure the block to a masonry saw bench or similar. It should not move at all if it is secured. 
  3. To start, lift the handle of the splitter. Put the slab into the space with your markings at the point where you will cut. 
  4. You can lower the handle, applying the appropriate force. You will need to split the slab or block. 
  5. Your newly cut slab can now be placed carefully into the prepared ground. 

Laying paving slabs 

With the laborious preparation done, you can lay the paving stones. First, carefully place them in the space where you cut and measured them. Then, use our step by step handy guide to apply them effectively. 

  1. Begin by mixing some mortar. We recommend doing this before laying each slab. The mortar is less likely to dry out. 
  2. Place and smooth down the mortar with a trowel into the prepared ground or 'sub-base' to lay the first slab. Be wary of getting mortar onto the paving slabs. It is not easy to remove! Once done, you can carefully slot this into place. 
  3. Next, you must secure the paving slab or stone to the freshly laid mortar. We suggest carefully tapping the paving slab with a rubber mallet, checking the surface is level. 
  4. You will need to judge the gap between the paving stones. You may want to look over the specific product advice to decide. 
  5. To continue, repeat these steps carefully until you have paved the whole area neatly. Allow for 24-48 hours drying time. 
  6. When it has dried, fill the gaps between the newly laid paving slabs with the joining compound. The compound will secure all the slabs together. 

A successful patio

Laying a successful patio is time-consuming hard work. We recommend planning and preparing well, ensuring you have the correct equipment around you. If you have everything you need before you get started, it will make everything much easier.