Laying brand new patio slabs can be tricky, especially if it’s not something you’ve got any previous experience doing! It’s really easy to get the laying process wrong, and this can end up costing you a lot of money, effort, and time. Therefore, it’s really important to make sure you’re using the correct tools and materials, so you can achieve the optimum foundation for your paving slabs.
Now, on that note, one of the questions we often hear at Bridge Street Stone is: how can I lay my paving stones on sand? And to be honest, the simple answer is simply – don’t. It’s perfectly possible to lay your paving slabs on sand, and indeed many people do, but it’s not something we recommend here at Bridge Street Stone. Here’s why.
Why shouldn’t I lay my patio on sand?
Quite simply, a bed of sand and gravel provides a much weaker base than a bed of mortar. That means that after a relatively short amount of time – typically around a year – the paving flags can easily start to crack, which may even force you to have to replace them.
That can be expensive and time-consuming, not to mention an annoying hassle – especially when you’ve worked so hard to get them installed in the first place. Sand and gravel might be initially cheaper, and therefore look quite attractive as a DIY option, but like so many false economies, they’ll end up costing you more in the long run. We’d strongly recommend using mortar instead!
Will I ever need sand for laying my paving slabs?
If you want the best results, then yes, you’ll still probably need sand to lay your paving slabs. Crucially though, it’s not enough on its own – you’ll need to use it as part of a concrete mix (otherwise known as mortar) that will help to secure your paving slabs in place and maximise their lifespan.
For this it’s best to use a sharp sand, which is particularly well-suited for patios and gardens, as it will prevent moles or rats from burrowing underneath your slabs and weakening them. Personally here at Bridge Street Stone, we recommend mixing between 4 and 6 parts sharp sand to 1 part cement, before adding a bit of water.
The basic process goes like this. First, you’ll need to lay your sub-base (normally a type of aggregate, like gravel), to ensure that you have a level, permeable base that any water can drain through. Then, once you’ve made sure the surface is even, pour out your concrete mix. Then, you’re ready to lay the paving slabs themselves.
That’s just a brief summary of the process, of course. If you’d like a more detailed guide, be sure to check out our post on how to install calibrated sandstone paving.
If you just need a couple of pointers though, here are a few of the most important things to bear in mind when you’re laying your patio stones.
Make sure you’re prepared with all the right tools
There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a job before realising you’re missing a vital tool – especially if your mortar has already started setting. So to avoid that scenario, here’s the essentials of what you’ll need to get started:
- Wood framing
- Spirit level
- Screening bars
- Garden roller
- Tape measure
- String line
Don’t forget that as well as the tools you need to hire, you’ll also need decent amounts of material like landscaping fabric, and hardcore materials too, like gravel.
Also, when choosing the best area to lay your paving slabs, you’ll need to have made a couple of key decisions first - like how large you want your area to be, and how well will it drain after a heavy downpour. If you get these fundamental parts right, then your patio will stay looking its best for years to come.
Creating your perimeter
The creation of your perimeter is a vital part of the overall installation process. The trick here is to create a perfectly-measured area of ground to lay your patio on. If you get this right, the whole process moving forward will be much easier. To start with, create a rough perimeter with your string that you can use as a guide for digging. From here, dig out your area, making sure that it’s around 15-18cm in depth.
As a side note - make sure when you’re measuring out your perimeter that you take into account the small gap that you need to keep between your paving slabs (about 10-15mm) when you come to lay them. We’ll explain why a bit further down.
Once you’ve dug your area, lay down your landscaping fabric - this is to help prevent weeds from growing up through your patio.
Bordering and laying
After you’ve dug out your area and laid your fabric, it’s time to set your timber borders. The wooden frame will keep your patio in place and stop it from moving around. Set out your borders following the perimeter of your area - start with the corners and work your way around the edge from there.
This is a key stage - so it’s vital that you check, then double check that you’ve got the measurements of your corners right. Once you know for certain that you have, then you start laying your border.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to lay your slabs. Finally, we come to the actual laying of the paving slabs. Your paving slabs need to be laid firmly, making sure they’re level with the surface around them, while also maintaining a 10-15mm gap between each slab.
That’s the basics covered – remember, if you need a bit more in-depth help, make sure to take a look at our detailed guide.
Or, if you’re still considering your choice of Indian paving slabs, we’ve got no shortage of them right here at Bridge Street Stone. Here, you can explore a diverse range of paving slabs, including Indian Sandstone, which comes in a range of fantastic colours like Kota Black, Kandla Grey, and Golden Leaf. To make an order, give us a call today on 01282 860571, and we’ll be more than happy to help!