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How to Lay a Great Patio By Yourself

A patio can be a wonderful addition to any garden and often becomes the central focus of outdoor family life. It’s a place for everyone to gather for drinks and meals, as well as a relaxing area to lounge in the sun.
How to Lay a Great Patio By Yourself

How to lay a patio

A patio can be a wonderful addition to any garden and often becomes the central focus of outdoor family life. It’s a place for everyone to gather for drinks and meals, as well as a relaxing area to lounge in the sun or play with the kids. And if it’s constructed properly, your patio will last for years. But be warned, cut corners on the build and you might find that repairs and reconstruction work come around quicker than you think. So, build it right in the first place and it will be a pleasure to look at and last a lifetime. Let’s slow down though, before we get digging, there are a few key things to think about: • What will you be doing on the patio? • Is it D.I.Y or are you using a builder (construction methods will be the same)? • What style and design, look and feel do you want? • What surface materials will you use? • What’s the budget (don’t forget to factor in furniture)? First thing’s first, before we get into the design, let’s have a think about what you’ll be using it for.

What’s it all about?

If you start with this question, you won’t be disappointed with the end result. Having a good think about how you’ll be using your patio will pay in the long run, you can even map out the area with cardboard furniture to make sure you can fit everything on.
  • What will you put on it?
There’s a ton of great patio toys around these days from your standard tables and BBQ’s to corner furniture, patio heaters and even pizza ovens.
  • Make sure you have plenty of room. If you’ve got the space, a good rule of thumb is to build it 1.5 times as big as you think you wanted it in the first place.Consider things like; if you are eating, how big will the table be and make sure to leave room around it to pull out the chairs.

D.I.Y patio or get the builders in?

It’s a great question and there’s no right or wrong answer. For some, there’s nothing worse than going out to work all day and then coming home and having to start building. Projects like this always take twice as long as we think, so you could find yourself using up a few valuable weekends, not to mention a bad-back carrying all those heavy slabs. For others, there’s nothing more satisfying than a self-build project that looks great. Whatever route you choose, here at Forward we can supply all the materials and deliver them right to the site area. We’ve even made a handy quick-guide below for all the D.I.Yers out there). Top tip – before you appoint a builder or a landscaper, ask for local references and go and see an installation. You’ll find people who are happy with their professionally laid patio are only too keen to have you round for a viewing

If you build it, they will come

Before we can get the family around and enjoy the patio, it’s time to do the hard work. So, here’s our handy guide on building a patio from scratch. Just before we break ground though, here’s our top tip - - have a skip delivered on day one! There’s nothing worse than a cluttered site, not only is it inefficient when builders are moving things out of their own way, but it can be depressing seeing all that garden waste piling up for days on end until the project is done. Get the rubbish removed as it’s produced, and you’ll find the build goes a lot more smoothly. Ok, let’s get started.

Tools you’ll need for building a patio

• Shovels and spades We’re using the plural here because it will pay to get some of your mates round to help. It’s tough work. If your patio area is huge, consider getting a man with a digger in. It’s not as expensive as you think and it will save a lot of time (and your back). • Tape measure Get a good one and a long one. It will be more accurate. • Rubber mallet Vital for hammering the slabs level without damaging them. • String and wooden pegs With all the technology in the world these days, you’d think they’d have invented something better than this by now. But no. It’s still the best method for lining up edges and maintaining levels. • Spirit level Invaluable and impossible to build a patio without one. Whatever happens, your patio must be flat (with a slight drainage fall depending on where it is). In addition, you’ll need: A rake, pointing trowel, hammer and chisel, safety equipment, set square, plastic sheets, mixing tray and a wheelbarrow. Depending on the size of the project you might even want to hire a cement mixer. We also recommend you hire a wacker-plate to compact the sub-base once.

Materials you’ll need for building a patio

• Hardcore or MOT for the sub-base Get this delivered and make sure your wheelbarrow wheel is pumped up. • Mortar mix made using four-parts sharp sand to one-part cement If you’re mixing by hand get a mixing tray, it saves a great deal of mess. • Pointing mix Specialist pointing mix is available or you can use the mortar mix you’ve made. • Paving slabs Careful, these are very heavy indeed and can be awkward too. Get a pal round to help you lift them.

Our step-by-step guide to laying your patio

First of all, check there are no underground cables or pipes you could accidentally chop in to. You can hire a CAT tool for this to be on the safe side.

Step 1 - prepare the area

·         Measure the area you want for the patio and use the wooden pegs and string to mark the area out.

·         Use a set square to make sure corners are straight, or measure from the house if your patio is attached to it.

·         Go along the entire edges with your spade so you have a straight edge cut around the entire patio. Then remove the pegs and string.

·         Dig out the entire area according to your required depth. This will depend on which topside materials you are using, slabs are often thinner than block paving. 

Step 2  - install the sub-base

·        Tip the sub-base material into the excavated area Your sub-base should be around 4 inches or 100mm thick. Don’t cut corners here, a solid base will ensure your patio stays where you laid it.

·         Rake it flat Rake the sub-base around so that it’s level and even. Don’t forget, you’re looking for a consistent depth of around 4 inches or 100mm.

·         Check the depth and level Using a wooden peg and your spirit level, check everything is even. A good tip is to put the spirit level on a long flat piece of wood so it will span the area better. Now tread it all in.

·         Compact the area using the wacker-plate Go over the are at least twice. If there are any dips, throw on some more MOT and wacker it down again. Finally, make sure it’s all level or sloping down for good drainage.

Step 3  - lay the patio

·         Get mixing Better still, get your mate to do it. Mix up the mortar to 4 parts sand and 1 part water. Make sure it’s not too wet (or the slabs will sink) and not too dry (or you can’t adjust them). If you press a trowel in the mortar it should hold its shape.

·        Start at the highest corner Now add the mortar on the ground. Some folk just add 5 dabs (one in each corner and one in the middle), some folk mortar the whole area. It’s up to you. A good tip here is to wet the underside of the slab for easier manoeuvring.

·         Level it up and line it up Use the level from end to end of the slab and corner to corner. Also, use the string line across the whole area so you stay on track from the start. An inch out here can be 6 inches out at the other end.

·        Tap it down Even if it’s bang on, use the rubber mallet to tap the slab all over, this will help the mortar stick to the underside. If the paving isn’t level, use the mallet more vigorously to hammer it down where needed.

·         Keep going Repeat until the whole area is done.

·         Cover it up Use your plastic sheet to cover it and leave it for 24 hours, more if you can and don’t walk on it yet.

·         Point it up Use your pointing compound or your mortar to fill in the gaps, this is called pointing and you’ll be using the trowel. Try not to get too much on the slabs as it can stain. Then brush away any excess with a soft broom.

Step 4  - Install your furniture and enjoy

You’ve earned a beer here and the admiration of all those around you. 

Time to fire up the barbie and burn the sausages whilst you relax in an armchair and enjoy those long and lively family nights.

Well done you!

Of course, it goes without saying, if all that sounds like far too much work and you’d just like to come home and find a perfect patio, you can find a local tradesman and we can deliver all the materials right to your door.

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