How to lay a garden path

Updated April 17, 2017

Garden paths are hard-working surfaces. They carry not only foot traffic, but often wheelbarrows, heavily loaded sack trolleys and bicycles, too. They may also be required to permit the regular use of wheelchairs or a stroller. To be effective, a path must be installed correctly. Choose your materials and follow any of these three methods to add a garden path to your landscape that will serve you for years to come.

Garden path basics

Choose materials suited to the surroundings, as well as to the practical requirements placed on them. For example, a concrete path may be inexpensive and hard-wearing, but will be an unforgiving feature leading up to your front door. It may be worth investing in a more attractive surface for such a prominent position.

Consider the path size and use. Always make the path sufficiently wide for its purpose. Ideally, two people should be able to walk along a path, side by side, without any sense of being cramped. If used for wheelchair access, then avoid steep inclines.

Choose gravel for the path. Washed gravel is an attractive and inexpensive paving material. The ideal size of stone is approximately 18-20 mm (3/4 inches) in diameter. This generally presents the least problems in terms of stones being brought into the house by way of shoe grooves.

Choose brick for the path. Brick paths are particularly attractive and, if created using bricks similar to those used for the house, provide a strong yet unobtrusive visual link between the house and garden. They may be laid in a variety of patterns, including straight or angled herringbone, basket weave and stretcher bond.

Choose concrete for the path. Concrete is an enduringly popular choice for paving. It is relatively inexpensive, yet very durable. Concrete is only hard-wearing if it is installed properly, so careful planning is essential before starting to prepare the path.

Brick path

Select bricks that are a matching or complementary style and colour to the brick of your house.

Use string and define the path. Level the path. Consider adding builder's sand to the area. Level out the sandy surface.

Lay the bricks in a pattern. A brick path needs to be laid on an 75 mm (3-inch) thick compacted surface or hard base and then topped with a 50 mm (2-inch) thick layer of sand.

Support the bricks with a permanent edging, such as timber or a row of bricks set on end into concrete.

Set the bricks with fine sand and water well. Make sure that the sand packs down between the bricks.

Repeat until the cracks are packed.

Gravel path

Use string and define the path. Level the path. Consider adding builder's sand to the area.

Prepare a site well for gravel. Edging to contain the gravel is crucial. Bricks set on an edge and set in concrete are popular edgings.

Thoroughly compact the hard surface for the path and top it with a 2-inch deep layer of coarse gravel.

Follow this with a layer of clay binder and spread it to fill in any cracks.

Add a 25-40 mm (1- to 1 1/2-inch) layer of washed gravel on the pathway.

Concrete paving slabs

Choose a style of concrete paving slab. Paving slabs are widely available at home improvement stores. Choose a finish style that fits your garden design for best results.

Laying heavy slabs is simple but hard work. Always wear gloves. If the slabs are heavy, then ask for help and lift with your legs, not your back.

Take care to set out the slabs and lay them properly for best results. Try to use only whole slabs to avoid the need for cutting slabs.

Lay paving slabs on a firm, level base of hard-core topped with sharp sand and tamp them down. A slight, even slope will be needed to allow water to run off the surface.

Add colour or a design by painting the stones with mortar after a couple of days.

Things You'll Need

  • Brick
  • Concrete
  • Gravel
  • String
  • Builder's sand
  • Clay binder
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About the Author

Richard Sweeney is a former educator and now freelance writer living on the Gulf Coast of Florida. He has been writing since 1995 publishing articles in national publications such as "Men's Outlook Journal" and "Travel". Sweeney left the education profession in 2007 but likes to remain knowledgeable about current policies and teaching techniques.