How to lay a patio

Daunting? Yes. Worth it? Definitely! 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 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…. 
  • 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: Measuring
  • In square metres, carefully calculate the area of your patio (if you’re using single slabs, then you can easily divide the 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: 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
  • 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.
Discover our fantastic range of low trade offers follow this link or click here to explore our website.

Back to articles

About the Author

Timothy Gardener

Tim is one of our Product Content specialists and aims to ensure customers have the right equipment to get their job done well. Tim combines his writing, researching and DIY skills to inform customers about the benefits of using HSS kit.


Leave a Reply

Please note. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *