How to Lay Paving Slabs on a Patio

Learn how to lay paving slabs to create a patioHow do you lay paving for a patio? Well if you want to lay paving slabs for a patio or even for your shed or wheelie bins to sit on, please read our easy-to-follow guide below. The guides below will show you how to lay paving slabs for a patio.

What you will need to lay paving slabs on a patio

  • Paving slabs. Your choice of paving slabs
  • Shovel or spade for removing soil or sub-base
  • Wheel barrow or buckets for transporting removed soil
  • Spirit level. Helps you get the correct levels
  • String line. Squaring up measure (to help give right angles)
  • Trowel. For spreading, laying and pointing mortar
  • Rubber mallet or hammer with wooden handle
  • Cement Mixer. You can mix by hand but time-consuming
  • Sand & cement
  • Weed control Fabric (not always required but recommended)
  • Hardcore stone base (not always required)
  • Compactor plate. (if using hardcore stone base)


∗ Important note

Before you begin it is important to remember that under new government guidelines you may need planning permission to create a new patio from paving slabs. The law says that any area around your home that creates a new paving area that is installed over a garden, lawn, gravel or soil area must not allow water to drain away into existing drains. You don’t need planning permission if the paving is laid so it is permeable. That is, the water that drains from the surface must flow through the paving into the ground below or run away off the surface of your paving into garden border or soil area to soak away.

You can read our article with links to the government guidelines on laying paving slabs and whether you need planning permission here


How to lay paving slabs on a patio

There are various ways you can lay paving slabs. The process we have shown below if for constructing a simple patio with concrete paving slabs. The process all depends on what traffic & weight the paving slabs will carry once finished. If you are laying paving slabs for a car to drive on you will need a different process than the one shown below. Constructing a paved area for a driveway for vehicles will involve a deeper excavation than the guide we have shown below.

1. Mark out the patio area to be laid with paving slabs

 Dig out the soil that is to have the patio paving slabs laidFirst mark out the area that you are going to lay paving slabs on. Next dig out the area to the required depth.

This could be up to a depth of 200mm (8 inches) below the finished level. As a quick guide just add the depth of your paving to the 75mm (3 inch) depth of mortar we recommend you should lay your patio paving on.

But remember that once the paving slabs have been laid, the finished surface level will need to be least 150mm depth below any damp proof course. This will stop damp penetration if laying against a building.

When digging out the area you are going to lay the patio on, remember that you need to allow for any water to fall away from any buildings the paving slabs are laid against.

2. Lay stone hardcore base and weed control fabric

You don’t always need to lay a stone base when constructing a patio from paving slabs! It all depends on how solid the sub-soil level. A solid surface will not need hardcore stone base whilst soft wet soil will need a stone base to help give you a solid foundation to lay your paving slabs on.

It’s a good idea to lay weed control fabric, especially under the MOT base-stone to stop weeds growing up through the paving. The ground fabric also gives your paving extra support for the base layer to sit on especially if the soil is soft. If you are laying a stone base stone first then level around and then compact. If the stone-base is deep then you will need to compact with a roller or compactor plate.

3. Start to lay the paving slabs from a corner

 Laying paving slabs Always start to lay the paving slabs at a straight-edged corner. It is sometimes advisable to dry lay the flags first to check the paving pattern and design is correct before you bed the slabs on cement.

It is not always necessary but it can be helpful if you first set up a string line to height you want to lay the paving at. This can also help you lay the paving in a straight line or at right angles especially if you are laying patio slabs against a house or building.

Lay the slabs on a cement mix of 4/5 parts sharp sand to 1 part cement. Try to avoid spot bedding the paving slabs, as the flag will not be sufficiently supported.

4. Level with a spirit level

Tap down paving slabs gently with a rubber mallet Once the paving slabs are in place, each slab can be leveled by tapping them down gently, either with a rubber mallet or by using the wooden end of a hammer. Continually check the levels and falls of the paving slabs during the laying process.

Place a spirit level across the top surface profile of a number of flags at a time. Check to see if the fall is correct and that water will run off the paving. Using a string line will help with longer laying lengths and help keep the paving slabs in a straight line.

You may find that you have to cut a few of the paving slabs. Especially if you are laying your paving slabs in a random pattern or against a building with drains or downspout. You could always buy a cheap electric or petrol stone saws or you could hire one for a small cost. Another option would be to put gravel in the areas where a cut paving slab should go if you don’t have the means to cut the paving slabs.

Once you have finished laying all the paving slabs on your patio it is important that you do not walk on the paving slabs until the cement they are laid upon has set hard. If you do have to walk on them make sure you walk in the centre of the slab and NOT the edges of the slabs. This will help distribute your weight evenly.

5. Point gaps and joints

Point any joints between the paving slabs with cementOnce you have finished laying the paving slabs it is important that you point all the joints of the paving with mortar to make the paved area watertight and strong.

Before you point the joints of your paving you should allow the cement we laid the slabs on to set hard. This may take a day or two depending on weather conditions.

You don’t always need to let your paving set hard but if you have to walk on your paving to point the joints or push mortar into the joints of your paving to point, the chances are you are going to disturb the level at which you laid your slabs. This increases the chance of having an uneven surface to your patio.

Take care not to spill the cement on the surface of the slabs to avoid staining the paving slabs. If you do spill any cement on the surface of the slabs wipe clean immediately with a clean cloth.

6. Allow at least 2 days before walking or using the patio

  Finished paving slabs laid on a patio.Once the work has been completed you should allow the paving slabs and pointing to dry for at least 48 hours before walking on the slabs. Allow your patio to set hard before furnishing with patio furniture or garden planters.This will allow the mortar to strengthen sufficiently. Finish by sweeping off the area and checking the area for any faults in the paving.

That’s It! You now have a beautiful patio laid with paving slabs

Sit back and admire.

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