Outdoor Living Spaces

Lay a Patio in a Weekend

Laying a patio is one of the easiest and fastest DIY jobs around, and it can be done with tools you probably already have. If you have two to three days and the interest, read on for detailed instructions on how to lay a patio.

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Elegant Contemporary Patio DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Pavers, a practical, hardwearing surface for paths and patios, are available in a wide range of shapes, sizes and materials, including concrete and natural or reconstituted stone. Laying large pavers, while heavy work, is quick and easy; preparing the foundations is the hardest part of this job. All told, laying a patio should take you 2-3 days.

Materials Needed:

  • pegs and string
  • combo square
  • spade
  • hand tamper or plate compactor
  • level
  • graded base, masonry sand
  • rake
  • pavers
  • bricklayer's trowel
  • ready-mix mortar
  • club hammer
  • wood spacers
  • stiff brush
  • pointing tool
  • masking tape

Marking Out the Patio

For a rectangular or square patio, mark out the paved area with pegs set at the height of the finished surface and joined with taut string (image 1). Use a combo square to make sure that the corner angles are 90 degrees.

Skim off turf (for large areas rent a turf cutter); reuse elsewhere in the garden or stack rootside up for a year to make compost. Dig out the soil to a depth of 6 inches plus the thickness of the paving (image 2).

Use a hand tamper or plate compactor to tamp down the area. Set pegs at the height of the finished surface, allowing for the patio to have a slight slope so rain drains away. Check with a level (image 3).

Spread a 4 inch deep layer of graded base over the area, rake level (ensuring you retain the slight slope), then tamp firm with a hand tamper or a plate compactor (image 4).

Laying the Paving Slabs

Top the graded base with a levelled and compacted 2 inch layer of sand. Lay the first line of pavers following the line of the perimeter string, bedding each one on five spaced trowelfuls of ready-mixed mortar (image 1).

Tamp down each paver with the handle of a club hammer (image 2). Maintain even spacing by inserting wood spacers in the joints. Check and keep checking that the pavers are sitting level.

Add the Finishing Touches

Wait about two days before removing the wood spacers. Then, either brush dry ready-mix mortar (or one part cement to three parts masonry sand) into the joints (image 1), or, for a neater, more durable finish, you could use a wet mortar mix.

In dry weather, pre-wet the joints to improve adhesion of the mortar (image 2). For wet mortar, add water to the ready-mix mortar and push it into the cracks between the pavers using a bricklayer's trowel.

Smooth the mortar in place with a pointing tool (image 3). Wet mortar may stain some pavers, but masking tape along the joints will protect them when smoothing. Brush off excess mortar before it sets.

Tip: Always place saucers under flower pots that you place on your patio. Otherwise, water and mud from them may stain pavers. Where this occurs, clean the patio with a pressure washer.

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Excerpted from Garden Design

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

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