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Laying a patio
A patio gives you a whole new area of outdoor living space for the summer - and makes your garden look and feel bigger at any time of year. And you don't have to be an expert to build one. Check out our shop for a wide range of paving slabs that can be used in dozens of creative combinations - plus all the tools and materials you need to do a professional job first time.
Essentials: * Spade and maybe a pickaxe for excavating the base * Tamper or garden roller * Spirit level * Board for mixing sand and cement and plastic sheeting to protect against spills * Club hammer * Spacers: pieces of scrap wood about 10mm thick to set a regular gap between slabs * Hardcore and sharp sand for the base and bedding * Builder's trowel * A measure (a bucket or and old pan) for sand, cement and water * String and pegs (250mm long) * Board for levelling * Bolster chisel * Sand and cement for mortar * Stone cutting equipment and angle grinders * Protective goggles - to use when cutting slabs * Protective boots or shoes and strong gloves should be worn when moving slabs
Patio slabs are easy to use, but they are heavy - so the more planning you do the better.

Draw a plan of your new patio in as much detail as you can. Measure and mark things like doorsteps, drainpipes, soakaways, places where you'll want to have plants or shrubs. Then draw out where your slabs will go.

If you have a small garden, emphasise the sense of space by choosing a simple pattern, with light coloured slabs. Too much detail and texture can make it seem crowded. Below are some effects that can be created using different shaped slabs.

Try to arrange it so that you cut as few slabs as possible. It will look best if any odd-sized pieces are positioned in inconspicuous places.

Don't forget to check for pipes and cables when digging.
Work sequence
1. The sub-base. If you have a good firm base for your patio already, such as an old backyard, check that it's sound and reasonably level. Otherwise you will need to make a sub-base of well-packed hardcore (crushed stone or quarry waste - not builder's rubble).
2. Roughly mark out the ground. Decide how high you want the patio surface to be. If it adjoins your house, it should be at least 150mm lower than the damp-proof course.
3. Your patio needs a slight slope so that rainwater will drain off (away from the house, if your patio adjoins it). You need a fall of about 20mm for every metre. Use a string line to establish the line of the slope, and drive the
4. Next plant 2 pegs just wide of each corner. Put drawing pins or nails into the tops of the pegs and stretch string between them to define the patio edges. Check that the corners are square.
5. If you're laying the patio on soil, dig out the entire area to about 165mm below where the patio surface will be, then fill in with sub-base material to a depth of approximately 75mm, level it with the edge of a board, and tamp it down well. For a big area, use a roller or a mechanical compactor.
6. Lay 50mm of sharp sand over the sub-base and pack it down. Over a wide area, it's best to lay the sand between temporary battens a section at a time, and screed it out with a board. Remove the battens as you finish each section and fill up any gaps. Finally check that everything is to the correct level.