Easy How To Lay A Patio Guide
Laying a patio can be done quickly and easily with our step-by-step guide.
Laying a new patio can enhance the visual appeal of your garden as well as create an inviting area for entertaining guests and enjoying leisure activities.
You’ve already found inspiring patio designs and ideas and you can’t wait to create your own patio. You might also want to have a look at our wide range of garden paving slabs to use for your project.
To show you how to lay a patio in the correct way, we’ve shared our expertise below. This is an in-depth and thorough guide for beginners looking to start their first garden project.
Planning your paving
If you haven’t properly planned your patio yet, we recommend reading this article first, which asks you to consider seven key points before getting started.
It’s important to plan how the new paving will be drained before starting work. Will it simply be a matter of allowing surface water to run off at the edges and drain onto the garden, or will it be directed towards a gully or a linear channel?
Wherever the water is to be sent, the paving will need to slope or “fall” in that general direction, and there will need to be an adequate slope or “fall” to prevent water hanging on the surface of the paving for any longer than is absolutely necessary.
It is generally recommended that the fall should be at least 1:60, which is roughly 17mm per metre or three-quarters of an inch per yard.
Tools you will need:
- Shovel or spade
- Cement mixer
- Large trowel for spreading mortar
- Small trowel for pointing
- Rubber mallet
- Ball of string
- Wooden pegs or steel bars/pins
- Spirit level
- Tape measure or rule
- Cut-off saw
Staying safe whilst working
- Wear protective footwear (ideally steel toe-capped boots), gloves and safety goggles and a dust mask when you are mixing up concrete
- Wear ear-plugs if you intend on using a vibrating plate compactor
- Handle wet or dry cement carefully as it can cause irritation and burns. Cover your skin and wash off any cement immediately if it makes contact to the skin
- Lift any patio slabs carefully. If the slab is too heavy ask somebody for help.
- For more information and advice on how to properly lift heavy loads, read this useful guide provided by the NHS
Tips before you start
Before you start laying your patio, it might be a good idea to draw out a simple plan of your home and garden.
This will allow you to identify the areas you would like to be paved.
Once you have made your plan, mark out the areas with string to outline the dimensions of the proposed areas of your patio. Once this has been done, you can then begin your patio project.
If you’re planning on removing any turf from your proposed patio area, make sure that you keep some spare during the process as you may want to fill in any gaps between the new patio and your lawn.
How to lay a patio: step-by-step
Step 1. Measure the area of your intended space and paving slabs
Start by measuring the area that is to be paved and calculating just how much paving will be required.
The area of your intended patio space is usually measured in square feet. To calculate this, simply multiply the length by the width of the proposed patio area.
For example: if your proposed area is 15ft in length and 10ft wide, the measurement of this space is 150 square foot.
To calculate the area of your paver, multiply the length by the width then divide by 144 (this is the number of square inches in a square foot) as you will need to convert this unit into square feet.
For example: if the measurement of your intended patio area is 25 meters squared and your paving slab measures 12 inches x 15 inches, multiply 12 x 15 = 180, then divide this by 144 which is 1.25 sqft.
To calculate how many paving slabs you need for your project, divide your total project area by the total area of your paving slab.
For example: 150 sqft divided by 1.25 sqft = 120 pavers
Minster Tip: we recommend adding 10% to the total amount of pavers you intend to purchase, this will account for any broken slabs and any that need to cut to fit corners etc.
If you need further assistance, Minster Paving can help you with this by recommending materials and suggesting a selection of sizes that can be combined to best cover the area.
Step 2. Choose a layout
Paving stones can be sourced in a huge range of sizes and dimensions.
You could use one size to create your patio, or add visual interest with several sizes.
A favourite of ours here at Minster Paving is the Minster Flagstone paving slabs, which offers a classic finish to patio areas.
Step 3. Provide adequate drainage
You need to ensure that surface water can run off the slabs by directing it towards either the rest of your garden (and away from your property) or a drainage channel.
The patio needs to slope gently in the direction you’d like the water to run. The slope should be roughly 17mm per metre of patio.
Minster Tip: In addition, lay the patio at least 150mm below your home’s damp-proof course.
We’ve created a guide on how much fall a patio should have and how to calculate patio fall step-by-step.
Step 4. Dig down and mark out the area
Remove grass and topsoil from the area to be paved by digging down 150mm. For some working room, add an extra 150-300mm to the area, and then rake the ground.
Next, mark out the patio’s edges by knocking pegs into the ground and fastening string to them at the height you’d like the slabs to sit. Pull the string taut so that you have straight lines to guide your work.
Step 5. Laying a patio base: creating the support layer
The first layer of your patio is the support layer, called the “sub-base”. It consists of a 75-100mm thick layer of hardcore (i.e. crushed concrete or stone).
Spread the hardcore out and level it off so that it slopes down towards your garden or drainage channel.
Minster Tip: Compact it with a vibrating plate compactor until it lies 50-75mm below the level at which you want the finished patio to sit.
Step 6. Add a mortar bed
The next layer is the mortar bed, which is designed to stabilise the slabs.
Make the mortar by mixing four parts of sharp sand with one part cement, then adding water, little by little. The mortar should be damp, not runny.
Spread it out and level it with a trowel. The mortar bed needs to be 30-40mm thick and should enable the slabs, when positioned, to sit 6-10mm high.
Step 7. Position the slabs
Now you’re ready for the final layer, the paving slabs. If your patio meets your property, start by positioning the slabs that’ll be closest to the building.
With a rubber mallet, tap down each slab, using the string to guide you. You might want to place a thick piece of wood beneath the mallet in order to protect the slabs.
Aim to leave an 8-15mm gap between slabs.
Minster Tip: Make sure that you don’t accidentally stand on the slabs while you’re working. Use a long spirit level to check that they slope and create an even surface on which to walk.
Step 8. Secure the slabs
Twenty-four hours after the slab are laid, the mortar bed should have set, and you can fill in the gaps with mortar. This is called “jointing” and prevents the slabs moving.
You can either mix a cement mortar (three parts sand and one part cement, plus a little water) or use a resin mortar such as Joint-It.
Cement mortar should be pushed into the gaps between dry slabs with a trowel, compacted, and then smoothed with a pointing bar. Resin mortar requires wet slabs and should be brushed into the gaps. Give this mortar a further 1-2 days to set.
As with most DIY and construction tasks, learning to lay patio is best achieved by preparing properly. Thorough preparation will help you create a patio or pathway you’ll be proud of be able to enjoy with friends or family for years to come.
Now you know how to lay a patio, see our Patio page for handpicked content and more helpful advice to get you started on your project.
We also have a handful of excellent ‘How to’ guides to help you create the perfect garden. Have a look at our How To page to gain more skills from our garden experts.