How to Lay a Patio

Perfect for relaxing, dining and entertaining outdoors, a patio will extend your living space into the garden and add value to your home. A patio is a paved area that can be built anywhere, but that often adjoins a building. As well as being an attractive feature, it’s a practical addition that will help you maximise your living space and get more out of your garden.

Laying a patio isn’t too difficult to do yourself if you’re fairly confident at DIY. Be aware that the job will require some heavy lifting and is likely to take at least a full weekend to complete, depending on the size and scope of your project. Often, it can make more sense to hire a local paving specialist to get the job done quicker and to a high standard.

Planning your patio

To ensure that your completed patio looks and functions just how you want it to, it’s important to not skip the planning stage and dive right in. Here’s how to go about the work.

Research designs

With a little bit of thought and creativity you can create a design that’s not only an attractive focal point, but practical for your garden too.

Measure

Begin by deciding where you want your patio and how big it should be. Take appropriate measurements and plan your design by drawing it out on paper.

Calculate

If you’re going to lay the patio yourself, you’ll need to calculate how much ground will need to be dug out. Your patio will be made up of three layers; hardcore, mortar and slabs. You should allow:

  • 75mm for hardcore or MOT type 1.
  • 50mm for mortar.
  • Plus the thickness of your slabs.

When making these calculations, take the following points into account:

  • A patio being laid next to your home’s wall should be 150mm below the damp proof course.
  • A patio by your house should be laid with a slight gradient away from the house to prevent rain from pooling. A gradient of 1:60 (16mm per metre) is recommended.
  • A patio being laid against a lawn should be 10mm below ground level to make mowing easy.

Dry lay slabs

If possible, always dry lay your slabs out on the ground before you start. This can help you to check your design and spot any potential problems before you start on the build.

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Toolkit and materials required

Tools

  • Shovel or spade.
  • Tape measure.
  • Rubber mallet.
  • String and pegs.
  • Spirit level.
  • Pointing trowel.
  • Safety equipment.
  • Set square.
  • Plastic sheets.
  • Mixing tray.

Materials

  • Hardcore or MOT Type 1 Sub-base.
  • Mortar mix made using four parts sharp sand to one-part cement.

Machinery (optional)

Whether or not you choose to use machinery to complete the job is entirely up to you, your budget, and the size of the patio you’re laying. While you don’t have to use machinery, it can improve the quality of the finish and make it easier to complete the job. As you won’t be laying a new patio every week, it can be worth your while to rent machines from a tool hire specialist or DIY store instead. Three machines that you might need are a CAT tool, tamper of wacker plate, and a cement mixer.

Safety advice

As with all DIY, it’s important to take precautions to protect yourself and the people around you whilst you work.

If using heavy machinery, suitable steel toe-capped footwear should always be worn. Gloves, a dust mask and safety goggles should also be worn when handling either wet or dry cement as it can cause burning and irritation to the skin. It’s also a good idea to use a CAT tool before beginning the project to check the area for hidden cables or pipes. Doing this can prevent dangerous and potentially expensive accidents.

Step-by-step guide to laying a patio

Preparing the area

  • Check that there are no hidden cables or pipes using a CAT tool (recommended).
  • Use pegs and string to mark out the area.
  • Use a set square to make sure corners are straight.
  • Mark the edges using a spade before removing the pegs and string.
  • Dig out the area according to your calculations.

Laying your patio

1. Pour on the MOT Type 1 or hardcore and rake it so it’s level.

2. Compact this layer using a tamper or wacker plate (optional).

3. Mix up your mortar using five parts sharp sand to one-part cement. Mix in a tray by hand or use a cement mixer if a large amount is required.

4. Make sure your mixture isn’t too dry or runny by pressing a shovel into the mix – the mortar should hold its shape.

5. Add enough mortar mix to the sub-base to lay the first slab (you should begin laying your slabs in the corner at the highest point of the patio). Dampen the underside of the slab and lay it.

6. Use a rubber mallet to firm down the slab.

7. Double-check that the slab is laid level and straight. This is very important as this first slab will guide the rest.

8. Lay the rest of your slabs, leaving a consistent gap in between them, and regularly checking that they’re level and straight.

9. Cover with plastic sheeting and leave it to dry for at least 24 hours. Don’t walk on the patio during this time.

10. Fill the gaps between the slabs with mortar mix using a trowel (this is called pointing).

11. Brush away any excess mortar from the slabs using a broom before it sets.

 

How to lay a patio on grass

To build a patio on grass, the grass should be removed first, either manually with a spade or a grass cutter. After removing it, put some aside for filling in any gaps after the patio has been laid.

How to lay patio on sand

If you want to lay a patio without cement, you could lay slabs on a base of sand instead. This isn’t recommended though as the slabs are likely to loosen, sink and move around over time. You’ll also find that slabs bedded on sand will quickly become overgrown with weeds.

How to lay a patio on concrete

It’s easy to turn a drab, concreted area into something more attractive and paved. If you already have a concrete base to work with you’ll simply need to apply your mortar and slabs directly onto the concrete after adding a cement-based primer to the back of the slabs. Be sure to sweep and clean your concrete base before starting, to ensure a smooth and even finish.

Patio design ideas

Your patio design should be in harmony with both your garden and your home to tie the two living spaces together. Whether you’re looking for a simple design or something more artistic, there are plenty of different styles of slab and arrangements to choose from to help you create something personal that reflects your own taste.

Square

If you’re looking for a straightforward design then simple, square slabs could be all you need to create an attractive, practical and affordable patio. If you’re planning on laying the patio yourself then using identical square slabs will make your job easier.

Brick

Brick is a durable material to build your patio from and can really complement your home’s exterior.  Keep your design simple or branch out from the norm by creating a pattern using different coloured bricks.

Mosaic

If you’re feeling artistic you can use a variety of slabs or stones to create a mosaic pattern. Some careful planning will be needed to get the design just right, but the overall effect can be  striking and unique, making it well worth spending the extra time on the design.

Natural stone

Arrange natural stone slabs of different shapes and sizes randomly to create an eye-catching crazy paving style patio. From limestone and slate to bluestone and quartzite, natural stone paving comes in an array of beautiful colours and textures, making each slab distinctive. Natural stone patios blend in beautifully with the garden’s natural surroundings.

Round

In the right space, a rounded patio can create a striking centrepiece in your garden. Combine with a mosaic pattern for something eye-catching.

Mixed

Can’t decide between two different styles? Combine different types of slabs into your design. Try creating a pattern around square slabs using smaller bricks or border your main patio with slabs of a different colour or style.

Top tips for caring for your patio

One of the biggest benefits of a patio is how little maintenance it needs and how hard-wearing it is. If you want to keep yours  looking brand new for longer though, these top tips will help you to maintain its condition.

  • Apply a sealant to prevent the colour from fading and to stop water seeping in.
  • Regular brushing and washing can prevent staining from leaves, dirt and debris.
  • Regularly check the condition of the pointing surrounding your patio slabs and refresh it when necessary to keep your slabs secure and to ward off the weeds.
  • If you’re going to be using a pressure washer to spring clean your slabs, it’s best to use it on a low pressure setting to prevent damage.

 

How much does it cost to lay a patio (per m2)?

The price of laying a patio can vary greatly depending on the size of the project and the quality of the materials used. Using natural stone will bump up the price, as will any intricate patterns or mosaics.

Here’s a rough guide to costs per m²:

Size of patio Cost (low) Cost (high)
Up to 10m² £500 £1,000
10m² to 20m² £800 £1,500
20m² plus £1,100 £2,400

 

Get quotes from local tradespeople

Looking for professional help to create your new outdoor living space?  Post your job on Rated People to receive up to three quotes from local paving specialists near you.

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